This is a simple tutorial on using SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing to create your own inspired replica from the upcoming movie Warcraft. You’ll see various tricks and techniques I use on a day-to-day basis to create all kinds of replicas. Our focus will be concentrated on preparing the model for print and the printing process. With some guidelines in place, you can get started on creating your own replica prop!
The axe was modeled using basic SOLIDWORKS features and surfaces. One dimension determined the height, and the rest of the shapes were created to a rough scale to make it look proportional. There is no right or wrong size. Rather than focusing too much on the actual scale and dimensions, remember this is an inspired replica – make it what you want it to be! Unless you’re adding existing manufactured attachments with the intention of an accurate replica, there’s need to stress over this part, have some fun!
Once the model was complete, several bodies existed in SOLIDWORKS. With all 3D printing, models must be one single body to print due to the slicing software. If there are any intersecting bodies, the software will treat those intersections as negative space, and no material will be laid in the space. The walls will fail to join, and the part will fall apart. 🙁
Now that you have one solid body, you’ll need to save the model as an .stl (this is the file format 3D printing slicing softwares understand). Our goal with this step is to get an idea of the print scale. If you’re new to 3D printing, this is a really great habit to get into as it will help you get an idea of scaling when it comes to splitting up the model for final printing and assembly. Once you get used to your printer and making models to print, you’ll find yourself doing this less and less.
While you can scale down the entire model in the slicing software, this won’t necessarily make a good, printable model. Support material scars the surface and destroys your beautiful details. What is support material? You can’t print on nothing, and as the layers build, support material gives you the surfaces needed to print your actual model on. The image below shows the threshold for support for most 3D printers – to print a 3D model successfully, you need a kind of scaffolding underneath the model where otherwise blank space exists. The slicing software calculates support material for you, but best practice is to build your SOLIDWORKS models to have the least amount of support material possible (even no support!).
With this in mind, head back into SOLIDWORKS to scale and split the model into smaller, more manageable parts. This a critical step to get a successful print, the first time. Cutting your model into smaller parts that can print flat on the printer bed with the least amount of support material possible ensures that you’re working with your printer, saving you precious printing time and keeping your model looking its best. To create the splits, I sketch an open line over the model where I want to cut the model. Then, I create a surface intersecting the model and use the split feature, making sure to uncheck the ‘consume cut bodies’ options in the PropertyManager. Once the cut it made, you can hide you cutting surface.
Using this method, you can scale your replica to any size you wish. The larger your model, the more pieces you will need. On my larger props, I like to run a channel around 5.5mm in diameter through the core of the model. If I were to scale my axe up, I would run that channel through the handle. This allows you to reinforce the model with an M5 threaded rod during assembly. With a metal core, the prop will last longer and be strong enough to take to conventions for your next cosplay.
Once you are happy with your scaling and your cuts, you can use the ‘delete/keep body’ feature. Select all the bodies except one. Then save the part as a new name. Then edit the ‘delete/keep’ and leave a different body unselected. Then save this part as a different name. Do this for each part until each body has their own part file. You can then go ahead and save each part as an .stl, and import them into your slicing software to ensure they will all fit.
Once you’ve got everything in your slicing software, orientate each part so they print flat on the bed and select your desired settings. This process will vary depending on which slicing software you are using.
I print in PLA; this is the most commonly used material other than ABS. ABS can be difficult to print with, and only certain machines print in ABS. PLA is perfectly good our purposes. Start your print. What happens if one of your parts fails? Print failures can happen when the part lifts off the bed or isn’t aligned. The printer can get clogged; you might run out of material, or maybe your power gets knocked out temporarily. It actually happened to me while printing the axe! In my case, the model lifted and fell over. This was a four and a half hour print with 20 minutes left. 🙁 Instead of relaunching, I measured the height of the failed part, went into SOLIDWORKS, cut the part at my measurement, saved to .stl the remainder of the part that needed to be printed and sent it to the printer. From there, I glued them together, saving myself four hours.
Once your parts are printed, it’s time to clean them up and glue them all together. To clean off any support material, I use pliers to break off large chunks, and a knife to cut off any additional pieces. I also use the knife to clear up any excess material on the surfaces that should be smooth. When it comes to gluing, super glue does just fine with these props, especially for the size I’m working on. With larger replicas, an epoxy resin will be better as it crystallizes a lot harder than super glue.
Finishing and painting the replica comes down to the individual in terms of the desired final look of the model. You can use a spray filler to make the surface smooth and with a lot of sanding you can get a really good finish, but you will lose your intricate details. You can also take the time to fill up any gaps to make it seamless. This is all up to you. For this project, I chose not to. Rather than intimidate those new to the technology and processes, I want to show you what a good looking replica you can make with a minimum amount of work. When it comes to paint, any type of paint can be used on the plastic. I mainly use Acrylic as its water based and easier to clean. I used a technique of dry brushing to highlight the details and lightly color the areas needed. In some cases, you can even use the printing layers as part of the replica details.
That’s a wrap. Once your model is painted, show off your awesome replica! Whether it’s for a cosplay or for display, you now have the basics to create your own replica prop at any size or shape you want using SOLIDWORKS and 3D Printing!
Thanks for reading! Prefer the video walk through? Check out a complete time-lapse of the build here. Feel free to share your replicas in the comments below!
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