Mass Effect - Turian Phaeston Assault Rifle


Well-Known Member
It's been a while! Excited to finally get started on a new cosplay.

For my next one I plan on doing Nyreen Kandros, the female Turian from Mass Effect 3. I've done the pre-production phase to make sure she'll work on a human body but haven't progressed much past that. I decided I should start with the rifle she'll be using, the Turian Phaeston assault rifle. I will be 3D modeling and then 3D printing it.


To begin, I found the game model to use as reference. I ended up finding it as part of a pack for Garry's Mod, which required unpacking and converting it to a file type usable by my 3D modeling program, Maya. This takes several steps involving quite a few different programs:
  • Download the Garry's Mod pack on the Steam Workshop
  • Drag the .gma file onto gmad.exe in the Garry's Mod bin folder
  • Use Crowbar Decompiler to unpack the .mdl
  • Import the appropriate .smd into Blender using the Blender Source Tools plugin
  • Export as .fbx or .obj
  • Import to Maya (model conversion done)
  • (For textures) Use VTFEdit to open the .vtf material file
  • Export as .tga
  • Load the .tga onto a material in Maya
  • (If anyone has any questions about this process I'd be happy to help)

Once I got the model in Maya I could begin analyzing its shape and texture to determine how I would need to model my own version. While I had the original model, it is not very useful for the end product. A lot of the detail you see on the model is actually faked via textures, so I would need to effectively start my own model from scratch, using the original as reference. Even a lot of the beveled edges aren't actually modeled in. I had to try to interpret what exactly the original artist was intending the shapes to be. This blurry bright line here - is it a beveled edge or a scratch? What do I do with this shape that doesn't make any sense when you look at it with the context of the texture painted on top? Things like that.

Below is the model in Maya. You'll note that in the first two images at the beginning of the post, it's really hard to make out a lot of the details. Once I had the model in Maya I could increase the viewport's gamma to really bring out all of those details. Note how few details are actually modeled into the mesh itself.

The original model was not scaled to the proper size, so I had to figure out how big it's supposed to be. I wasn't sure how to go about this. After some sleuthing, I found this article talking about a 1:1 rifle prop you can actually buy. It included the exact measurements.

However, it was not the Phaeston, but the M8 Avenger. But even so, that was all I needed! A point of reference. I just had to unpack and convert the M8 avenger game model as well and scale that to the accurate size in Maya, then scale the Phaeston the same percentage. The resulting measurement for the Phaeston is 35.5 inches, or nearly 3 feet (90.17cm). She's a big one!

And here's what I ended up with! This is my completely scratch made model. You'll note that there's some faceting going on, particularly on the round barrel parts. This is because this is the low poly version which will later be smoothed before 3D printing.

My 3D printer bed is approximately 9"x9"x8", which means it won't be printable in a small number of pieces, let alone the entire thing all at once. I wish.

I've spent a long time tearing the model apart into printable pieces (28 of them!) which involves making decisions about where to divide the model so it will fit on the printer bed and print well, making it watertight, and making it physically possible to reassemble the printed pieces together for the final product. I also need to make sure it will be strong enough when all the pieces are put together, so in addition to being smart about how I divide it, I will also soon be adding in mortise and tenon shapes to the 3D model itself. It's not usually a good idea to rely solely on glue to attach something together. If you instead have mechanical connections (like mortise and tenon) it will be much, much stronger.

In approximately the middle of the rifle there's a small hole above the trigger. This hole will need to house a set of LEDs. To accommodate that, I had to make sure to hollow out the piece that hole is a part of so I will be able to insert the LEDs and battery. I'll also need to engineer a way for the gun to come apart for access to that area, while making sure it does not weaken the structural integrity of the whole rifle.

Here are the 28 pieces and their likely orientation for printing:
Talaaya did you ever finish this? Would love to see the final model!
I kinda forgot I started this thread, whoopsie lol. I had put it on hold for a bit due to life circumstances but I got back into it recently and I've now done all the prep work and slicing setup for printing it.

Here's how it ended up being divided. As I mentioned previously, I made it have mortise and tenon connections so it would be stronger than just glue. (I've learned the lesson of the importance of mechanical connections the hard way...)

The colors represent the assembly order, in order of the rainbow. So red, orange, yellow, lime, green, etc. Not seen in this first image is green, which is on the opposite side of the cyan piece.

It's in fewer pieces now because previously I was dividing it for an Ultimaker 2, but recently I got an Ultimaker S5 which is much larger!


I did a lot of working and reworking the parts so they would print in the most efficient way, with minimal support structures, to try to reduce the amount of print time. As it stands, it's still colossal, sitting at nearly 18 solid days of print time! 12 prints, 20 pieces. I don't think I can reduce it any further without reducing the print quality, and I'd rather not do that since it just means more sanding and fixing issues later.

The piece with the longest print time is the larger of the two black pieces - 3 days, 3 hours, 29 minutes. Woof. Though the fact that I'm even able to print a piece that takes that long is only possible because I have the S5, so I can print some pretty huge pieces now. And it doesn't even take up the entire area of the printer bed! The bed is 330mm x 240mm x 300mm (13in x 9.5in x 11.8in). I think I could print an entire helmet if I wanted to!

My solution for being able to open up the gun to access the interior to put in LEDs and change batteries was to make the butt of the rifle come off. It has 3 mortise and tenons that slot into each other and a chicago screw to hold it in place (screw seen below highlighted in green). This chicago screw connection worries me a little though because I think it might be a bit thin there and I'm not sure how strong it will be. There isn't really anywhere else I can easily add a screw like that though so I guess I'll just print it and see how it goes. It can be hard to get a sense of scale in digital software even if you have measurements so I'll start with printing the purple piece that the chicago screw is in first.

I'll also be using a new filament I haven't used before. My new printer has dual nozzles so I can print the support material with a different type. I have some PVA I'm excited to try, which is water soluble. Should be interesting to see if it scars the print less and see how easy it is to dissolve off the print. Though I've heard it can be a pain to print with, especially if the room is humid.
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