TheLaserGirls (Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford) are on a mission to push the boundaries of 3D printing technology. They have turned their love of fantasy, sci-fi, and cosplay into incredible 3D printed costumes and accessories. By sharing their projects, they hope to educate and inspire others.
Following our Lightning as Cloud 3D Printed Cosplay Project, we were exhausted but itching to jump back on the making train. We decided to take on an ambitious new costume project only three months before I-CON, in March. We chose two of our favorite characters from science fiction media: Ripley from the first Alien movie and Re-L Mayer from the anime Ergo Proxy.
Sarah Makes Re-L Mayer’s Choker, Pendant, and Shotgun
Re-L’s look may be minimal, but I always found it striking and iconic. The main challenge was not the complexity of the accessories, but realizing them in a clean and nearly perfect way that embodies Re-L’s streamlined aesthetic.
The bezel that held the lapis stone in Re-L’s choker was made in SolidWorks, with the final printed on our desktop 3D printer in black ABS. From modeling to prototyping, I completed the entire piece in one productive day with no additional outlays.
For Re-L’s pendant, I imported a vector drawing into SolidWorks, where I gave it thickness and added in details. I 3D printed several prototypes in the same ABS as the bezel before ordering a brass print from Shapeways.
The final print was a pleasant surprise, as it beautifully captured minute details I thought would be easily lost, especially the XII carved into the back.
I had very little reference material for Re-L’s shotgun, so it took about a month of trial and error. After two failed attempts at modeling the gun, I went back to the drawing board and created a to-scale blueprint using vector drawings I made in Illustrator. Then I played with the overall shape and style of its profile.
Once I was happy with the blueprint, I then imported my vector drawings into SolidWorks, made them 3D, and figured out how all the parts would fit together. The power of 3D printing lies in being able to create unique items, so 3D printing barrels would be redundant and costly and I decided to use 1″ diameter wooden dowels for the barrels. Then I built the other pieces around the dimensions of the dowels.
The body, handle, grips, and cap were printed on an SLA printer at the LaGuardia Studio at my alma mater, NYU. I love this material for props due to its high resolution and durable, smooth finish that makes post-production sanding, painting, and weathering a breeze. SLA prints also have a nice heft to them, which I find gives my pieces more lifelike appeal. If you don’t have access to an SLA printer, Shapeways Frosted Ultra Detail 3D prints use a similar material and are likewise great for cosplay.
At that point, the shotgun looked flat. To give it more contrast and drama, I painted it with both black and purple spray paint, then finished it with a high-gloss topcoat for extra protection. I used sewing notions and rubber plumbing rings left over from other projects to complete the shotgun.
Dhemerae Makes a Flamethrower and a Watch for Ripley
Ripley’s costume posed a surprising challenge because of the strong community around Alien and its depth of knowledge. I had a hard time trying to incorporate all of the nuances that Alien fans had painstakingly outlined. Contributors to the Replica Prop Forum had already done all the hard work in collecting amazing reference images, and I got a good picture of how the original film pieces had been made. This helped me figure out how to adapt those techniques for my workflow at a lower budget.
I developed 90 percent of Ripley’s flamethrower in SolidWorks and printed it in ABS plastic on a Fortus 450 MC (also at LaGuardia Studio), a large FDM printer that can produce stellar high-resolution prints. And the support material is dissolvable, so there was no sanding needed prior to priming. The ABS pieces looked fantastic fresh out the printer and all the parts fit together perfectly, making for an easy build. As an alternative to ABS, we recommend Shapeways PLA!
For the back cylinder and the hoses, I altered, primed, and painted plumbing supplies. I had a really hard time finding canisters with rounded bottoms in the right size. Then I found two vintage Super Soaker refill canisters, and those worked out wonderfully for the gas canisters.
The most difficult part of this project was also the smallest: the watch. In Alien, Ripley’s watch was made from 2 Casio F-100 watches fused together. Since F-100s are a rare collectors’ item, I got two Casio F-91W watches and used SolidWorks to design a case that could fit the guts.
I printed the watchcase with all its buttons, the orange backing, and the clear display cover in color on a Stratasys J750, which prints in full-color plastic. It took about five iterations before I arrived at a design that captured the look of Ripley’s watch and could fit the parts from the Casio F-91Ws. Though a bit rushed and imperfect, I was nonetheless thrilled. I’d like to go back to the watch, flesh it out, and share my 3D models so anyone could print them and build one.
Ready for Action as Ripley and Re-L
When you finally put on the complete look for the first time, you feel like you can take over the world! We met several artists and cosplayers at I-CON who were really into 3D printing and the lore of our characters.
Building costumes in three months was a great trial for TheLaserGirls, and it really tested our abilities to design pieces outside our wheelhouses. We love choosing projects that will challenge us in a new way, for it not only tests us but encourages and inspires us to push the boundaries of 3D printing.
Have you used 3D printing for costume design? We’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below for a chance to be featured in Shapeways Magazine.