3d sculpting question that might be incredibly dumb.


Master Member
Alright, fair warning, this might be a very dumb question. The kind of question when someone goes "Oh there's no such thing as a dumb question!" you can go "Oh, wait, no, let me tell you about this one time..."

I was wondering about getting a 3d print of a bust done. I do not have said bust done, it just exists in my mind.

What I was wondering though, is if it is possible to sculpt said bust in a 3d program, and then carve it into sections to get it printed out over time?

For a mental visual aid, pretend I am talking about a Christopher Reeve Superman bust, life size. Could I finish the sculpt, and then hollow it out, and carve pieces off like front right side of head, left ear, etc (providing keys to help when reassembling), and have it be something I can glue together at a later date?

Obviously I'd be printing the whole shebang out of the same material.

Is this something that's possible, and if so, is it crazy hard to do or just kinda "Meh, no biggie"? I've seen prop guns and armor suits and whatnot that are printed in pieces (or stages, maybe?), so I thought maybe something like this wouldn't be too weird for a bust.

I was thinking about this today when I was trying to work out a sculpt idea and had some issues with the overall size of stuff you can print in certain materials. Seemed like it would be possible, but "is possible" and "is possible, and affordable, and easily done" are 2 completely different things.

If anyone knows, feel free to share the info :)

Yes you can, you could sculpt it in zbrush, mudbox or even sculprtris.

And then use a boolean modifier on it. you can cut, add or even hollow out pieces with that. Even Blender has a boolean operant.
Ya, I run www.wethebuilders.com a crowdsourced 3d printing platform where people all over the world print out a piece of the sculpture, mail it in, and I glue it back together. It's a ton of work but pretty awesome when it's done. We're doing Edgar Allan Poe right now. Doing it yourself takes forever. The site has about 200 members and always grows. Each bust that I've done is about 750 hours or so of printing, which would be like 6 months nonstop or something like that. We're doing 3' tall sculptures. Help out! Sign up! check out the timelapse on my blog^^
That's how almost all large 3D printed pieces are printed. Most printers are about 8" cubed, so you have to chop things to fit into that volume.
Yay! I'm not as big an idiot as I thought!

I don't have a 3d printer, this would be all shapeways or some other online 3d printing company.

Still, opens up a few project ideas for me :)

Thanks guys and gals!
Be sure you keep the shape/orientation of the object in mind when you're slicing it as well. You may be able to fit something inside of the printer's volume, but you also don't want to go over it's maximum overhang (which is generally 45 degrees). I can show you an example if that isn't clear.
Feel free to share examples, cause I'm pretty sure there's people who read the thread who have the same dumb questions I do, but lack the courage to stand up and announce they are that dumb :lol


Sure thing. Let's take this Ultron drone head I'm working on printing. I'm printing it in about 9 parts and here's how I did the face.

example 2.png

While this model could theoretically fit inside of my printer's volume, I don't want to print it as-is because there is some severe overhangs in the bottom of the mouth. You could print with supports, but I try to avoid printing with them whenever possible - especially if I would be supporting from 2 points on the model (as opposed to supporting from the print bed).

example 1.png

The first cut I made was along the inside of the mouth. I want to cut anywhere there is an overhang greater than 45 degrees, and the upper part of the mouth is within that. I chopped the face from the rest of the head where I did with the orientation of the mouth overhangs in mind.

example 3.png

You repeat the same idea for the lower part of the mouth. The middle section will print flat along the original cut like the upper part of the face, but we need to cut the jaw so that the lower lip is under our 45 degree angle.

So now my object is 3 prints instead of 1, but I know that all 3 will have the best results and won't have ugly or misshapen overhangs.

All you are doing is rotating the model to find a good orientation, and slicing the model along that plane. Here I'm using Netfabb because it's quick and easy and I don't need to make any super complex cuts. You can use pretty much any modeling suite, and for something complex I might chop up the model while I'm building it.
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I use Netfabb (free) to cut up models to fit them inside my printer.
Most things do fit in one go as I have a printer with a VERY large build volume compared to other 3D printers.
(I have a Leapfrog Creatr HS) I can fit a 1:1 scale human sized head in one go on my printbed.

I mostly cut pieces up to get them printed better and afterwards glue them together and do some
filling and sanding and painting afterwards.
Here are some prints I did in one go 1:1 scale:

Robocop printed.JPG Ironman print.JPG IMG_5293.JPG

Netfabb is free to download.
It's going to be cost prohibitive if you use an online service. You should look into getting your orn machine. A fist-sized hollow object from shapeways will be about $50. a bust will be over a grand, and at that point, just buy a machine. The online service will come out looking nicer, but you can fill sand and paint a desktop printed part for just as nice results.
I'm thinking about getting a printer but I'm having trouble with parsing the logic in my head of "Buy this 500$ machine that you don't know how to use to print models from the internet" against "print online and have em send it to you", even though I know it'll be cheaper in the long run.

Maybe if I end up printing enough of this stuff it'll work out to pay for itself someday, I dunno.

Nice to know that there's an option for me doing it though :)

Well really, 3D printing is not going away. So if you get one, it's not like you won't ever have a use for it after this one project. You'll start to FIND things you can 3D print. Not even just prop/cosplay stuff - a friend of mine had the knob on his car's AC break, so we printed him a new one. I printed a scrub pad holder for the kitchen sink.

You might also be able to find cheaper alternatives to Shapeways. There are a handful of sites where you can send your models to individuals who own printers and pay them to print your things.
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