Star Wars Variant Play Arts Kai Stormtrooper by Square Enix (and me)

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I've had this awesome figure from Square Enix sitting on my desk since it's release and thought it would be ideal as my first RPF-worthy project.

e97e8ec093ed1b69f2e4d1fffaa2431c.jpg


I'll try and document everything on my journey to making this a full-scale reality as others may be in the same boat as me and might find some things useful or will be able to avoid my mistakes. Apologies to the pros here, but you gotta start somewhere....

...and so it begins!


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Upon deciding to start the project I began googling for resources and came upon the EVA foam building wizardry of one Mr.Bill Doran of Punished Props (who I coincidentally just met at Star Wars Celebration 2017 in Orlando - thanks to Bill and Britt for obliging a photo with my kids!!).

http://punishedprops.com/

Bill was the first in my six degrees of Kevin Bacon, so mad props (no pun intended) to you Bill!


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After poring over a number of Bill's YouTube videos (https://www.youtube.com/user/punishedprops) I jumped into Pepakura, the program that unfolds 3D objects into printable files that can be cut, folded and glued into real life 3D objects.

http://www.tamasoft.co.jp/pepakura-en/

I downloaded the software then started googling for files, thinking "surely someone must have made one of these already, right?, this toys been out for a while..."

As luck would have it I found an excellent rendition on DeviantArt by Armando Elefante, aka Cosplus3D almost immediately.

https://www.facebook.com/cosplus3d

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I picked up some heavier weight paper card stock (will post the weight when I'm back at my desk) for printing and watched a few YouTube videos on helmet sizing to scale the helmet to my rather large melon.

I found several good YouTube scaling videos, but often the simplest solution proves the best...which was this one:

https://youtu.be/yYVql1TvUIE



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From there I proceeded to cut out all the shapes and diligently fold the peaks and valleys appropriately...

I used red and blue ball point pens to score the peaks and valleys and keep them "organized" appropriately.

Using these:
https://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-12x1...92830489&sr=8-13&keywords=fiskars+cutting+mat


https://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-Soft...92830591&sr=8-3&keywords=fiskars+exacto+knife

https://www.amazon.com/Westcott-Sta...F8&qid=1492830637&sr=8-3&keywords=Metal+ruler

For the gluing I opted for typical Elmers White Glue as it's easy to work with and is very forgiving. You would have at least a full minute to reposition tabs if need be. I made a few mistakes incorrectly joining pieces with tabs on the outside versus the inside (see the top of the helmet?), but the whole thing went together surprisingly well...albeit with over 3,000 different tabs or so, it took a LOOOOOONG time.

I was pretty amazed how tight the tolerances were and how curves in 3D space get so well replicated when you start attaching the pieces together.

I found that my stash of neodymium ball bearing magnets (from a now discontinued child's toy) were indispensable in keeping various hard to reach tabs together while the glue dried (though I wish they were the flat kind, like these https://www.amazon.com/50x10mm-Neod...31244&sr=8-22&keywords=Neodymium+magnet+discs).
I also used plenty of clothes pins that were reversed for better precision, like so:
8391109d2cf053db69e441c168d47d82.jpg

...and a selection of mini-Irwin clamps I had in the shop: https://www.amazon.com/IRWIN-QUICK-...831551&sr=1-1&keywords=Irwin+quick+grip+hobby


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And this was my result. I think it turned out quite well for my first try.
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The mouth required some fairly tiny folds that I intended to reprint, after originally butchering them, though I didn't save the measurements I had input when originally scaling the helmet and the back up copy that i had also printed was ruined by my kids errant juice spill (these were printed on my 15-yr old inkjet printer that when touched by water/juice bleed immediately).

Needless to say, the helmet was actually a bit too big (I should have had my wife helping to measure), and the whole Pepakura process proved far too maddening, given the huge number of small folds and gluing involved... (ZAP might have been a better glue choice, but I also prefer to keep a few layers of skin on my fingers...) so then I turned back to the source for some inspiration/guidance. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BkNzDBmp_7g

...and that led me to the wonderful world of 3D printing!



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Soon after looking into the 3D printing process I started thinking, "wow, this feels like cheating!", no stinky Barge glue, EVA foaming/Dremeling or this Sintra/Worbla-ing I had read so much about in advance....of course I say this having yet to begin the sanding/post-printing process - and I sense a great deal of laughter from those of you with experience in these matters ;o)


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On to 3D printing research!

My 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th degrees of Kevin Bacon took me to the YouTube work of:
The 3D Printing Nerd, Joel Telling:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_7aK9PpYTqt08ERh1MewlQ
Uncle Jessy:
https://www.youtube.com/user/xboxfitnesstest
Thomas Sanladerer:
https://www.youtube.com/user/ThomasSanladerer
and my new favourite Aussie - sorry Ozzy Man Reviews, I still love your work https://www.youtube.com/user/ozzymanreviews -
Angus Deveson at Makers Muse:
http://www.makersmuse.com/


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For my 3D printer search I turned to Google and watched a pile of YouTube reviews, but quickly settled on Make Magazine's Top 3D Printer for 2017 The Prusa i3 Mk2 by Josef Prusa http://www.prusa3d.com/

Coincidentally in watching these reviews I came across Bob Clagett at I Make Stuff and his wicked Shoretrooper build https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCmJen4Fm-Q (thanks Bob!! Invaluable and inspirational stuff)

I hastily ordered the Prusa printer as a kit, which was going to take 7-8 weeks for delivery from Prague, due to high demand and its recent awards/glowing reviews. Lots of time to learn all about what I had just jumped headfirst into!


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I thought just making this full suit of armor and the helmet would be justification enough to warrant the printer purchase, but I also started looking into the wealth of available 3D printable product out there:
https://www.thingiverse.com/
https://pinshape.com/
https://www.myminifactory.com/
https://www.cgtrader.com/

CG trader is a pay site, but they have some beautiful Star Wars weapons and helmets. There was a recent sale and I picked up a few good files to be seen in future posts. I also loaded up on free stuff to make my daughter Jyn Erso's blaster http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2000666, Chewie's bowcaster, Han's DL-44, an E-11 blaster, a K2S0 bust, etc...

As an aside, I'm planning to turn the intro of this Rogue One VFX reel shot of Jedha City https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kK8TWYJFwnA into a 3D printable to show off a small Star Destroyer model. Was going to try jamming a pile of screenshots into Autocad's Remake https://remake.autodesk.com/about, which I discovered along the way; more on that later, but if anyone succeeds in doing this before me, help a brother out!! (Is John Knoll on the site? And in a sharing mood? - PS thanks for the selfie at SWCelebration too!)


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During my wait for the printer to arrive I watched an endless array of 3D printing software videos, slicing programs tutorials, etc., downloaded all the free ones and tried them all out. I also randomly went back to my original Pepakura source's site on DeviantArt (Cosplus3D http://cosplus3d.deviantart.com) and found that he had an STL or OBJ file of the trooper helmet for download too! Joy!!

In the end, the bees knees ended up being:
Meshmixer http://www.meshmixer.com/, which is free
Simplify3D https://www.simplify3d.com/, which isn't, but is so robust and easy to use, and Fusion360
http://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/students-teachers-educators I'm on the free trial and will use their F1 helmet Demo in future to teach myself some skills https://academy.autodesk.com/curriculum/f1-schools-helmet-design, as per Britt Doran's suggestion https://youtu.be/QasgWETceyU (Thank-you!!)


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Next up was the armor search, which was also made considerably easier by Do3D who had a set with a helmet.
27eb9ba903333c58310c94f22d8d3dfd.jpg

http://do3d.com/
Now their helmet file was missing quite a lot of detail, but I didn't care as I already had a great file. After I ordered it I noticed that they had updated some of the pics on their site which seemingly corrected some of the deficiencies. I asked and they said they would send me the new files.. that was 9 weeks ago now, so who knows.. I also noticed that they're missing the thumb guards. I'll email them about it now and see what they say.


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When they sent the model they recommended using meshmixer's analysis tool to correct any issues. The problem with this was that there were multiple issues and using meshmixer's auto-repair function eliminated a number of details and complete parts disappeared (a few were non-manifold, like the bicep guards).

I scaled the armor to my height, converted to mm (which my printer operates in) and separated all the shells and exported them to work on individually. To combat the numerous problems I encountered with intersecting shells and zero-thickness walls post-slicing to fit on my printer bed I ran all the exported bits through netfabb's online repair tool; which worked like a charm.
https://service.netfabb.com/login.php

I also experimented with meshmixer's make solid/make hollow, extrude and minimum thickness settings to do the same corrections (the previously linked Makers Muse has tutorials which cover these, thanks again Angus!)

Now that I had all the parts separated and corrected I needed to check their virtual fit for accuracy.
First I tried Autocad's Remake (the new version of 123D Catch)http://www.autodesk.com/education/free-software/remake having the wife take several rounds of photos around myself to create an accurate 3D model. We weren't using a tripod or anything and it likely showed in the result, with shrivelled appendages and tumor-like blobs poking out of my head. I clearly also had too many clothes on, so I tried again....and it wasn't any better.

I then turned to Makehuman's product (http://www.makehuman.org/) as per the ultra helpful posts from TKCC71 (http://www.therpf.com/member.php?u=148751). His IronMan Mk 46 build on here is epic!

After inputting my measurements into the program, tweaking the depiction of myself and importing it into meshmixer alongside the scaled Do3D armor, I was able to size the individual pieces appropriately. Pretty much only the waist portion needed to be elongated to fit better (or so it seems prior to printing).


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Next up was filament choices. I didn't really find too many tips on what printing filaments to use. Everyone seems to use PLA, but the descriptions of PC (polycarbonate) seemed to suggest it as the best choice... the Prusa comes with a heated bed , so I'm hoping it will work well. In the meantime I know it shipped with PLA so I thought I'd try it out first. On TKCC71's build thread he had switched to PETG and was fibreglassing the inside of his pieces for strength, which i may also do, though I'll figure that out once I have some parts in front of me (I've subsequently printed in PLA and think it's great, we'll see if the love lasts...)

In one of that same Punished Props video with Bindi Small's she uses Ninjaflex to make flexible shoes, I thought that could be ideal and notice they now have a semi-flex version that may be even better. I ordered up a roll of white https://filaments.ca/search?q=semiflex+snow and also grabbed some 2kg rolls of house-brand PLA in white https://filaments.ca/collections/1-...ted chunks) Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
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3D Printer arrives!

Oh boy was I pumped. the Prusa kit has great instructions (which are much better when using the online version, to see picture details http://manual.prusa3d.com/#_ga=1.231392409.708504448.1486188846) and I set off building it alongside Thomas Sanladerer's recorded live-stream build video https://youtu.be/sNYyEEukImg

It took me 10 hours to get fully operational. I had an issue with a bearing that scored its guide rod; though this turned out to be due to not properly seating each rod end in its holder. This didn't stop the printer from printing some beautiful test prints though, due to the auto-mesh bed levelling features that countered the skew I introduced.

d2041b5e23dc98ba2a7d3a891431a65d.jpg
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This tip on extruding from Pat at UrbanExile also helped to quickly improve upon my original test print: my first filament roll extruded 6% too little, my second roll 8% too little.
https://youtu.be/htc89vbxg3Q



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And so began some 24-hr a day printing to use up my Prusa supplied silver PLA roll.
6ea423d24e354e1fd6f5dd6fd63e93f1.jpg

I did have a few prints fail making some small Rasberry PI camera holders which I first attributed to the lack of raft on these relatively small parts, but after printing successfully with a raft and not being able to remove said raft, I'll chalk it up to something else; because I'll never use a raft again...

These prints turned out great (small but easily correctable issue on Jyn Erso's blaster - linked earlier - that was caused by using too few supports)
cce5e9356469cb139c3d700317cf1ef1.jpg

600139257acd15f7d65b6f4bde086773.jpg

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2130560
These will still be post-processed with XTC-3D (https://www.smooth-on.com/product-line/xtc-3d/), primer/filler, sand paper and paint, but at this stage I'm so impressed with how well this printer works. On to the Stormtrooper bits!


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First off a thin slice of the helmet in two spots (upper and lower) to make sure it will fit, thanks to Uncle Jessy for this tip https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mlvJZw-UV4c

18a8f67084e60ca45bc99a498983e5e9.jpg
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Ooh, got an email back from Do3D, they've updated the armor and have a new version to send tomorrow. Might have to rescale, re-netfabb and reslice. All very easy once you've done it a few times.

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While I waited for "tomorrow" to be sent the revised armor files I started printing the helmet. I made it quite thick and sliced it into 21 pieces to minimize the supports required (not all parts shown)
72fc9b3bbc3efc6373faed80585e5ccf.jpg

In hindsight this left me with a pile of seams and given some minimal warpage and somewhat impatient gluing I think it would be much easier to reprint in fewer pieces in an attempt to preserve more details (namely the intentional seam lines that are a large part of the helmets look). The helmet as printed took almost exactly one 2kg roll, inclusive of supports.
c0f5c66b09dd01f619fcf64b40cc92fb.jpg

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Also upon completion I noticed I'd printed one wrong file (that's why there's a big gap on the top right side), as I tried slicing it a number of different ways and didn't save the one piece correctly.
After some slicing last night the main top bucket just fits perfectly on the Prusa print bed so it's go time (37hr print).
To be altered on subsequent prints will be my supports. I will be selecting alternating angles in Simplify3D to make them stronger. On multiple prints the supports themselves failed but the prints still worked out (no failed prints by the way when doing the helmet). I've also ordered some Colorfabb PLA/PHA for the next attempt. It's supposed to be slightly more flexible which I'm hoping will help with the tolerances/very slight warpage that made clean glueing attempts a bit tricky the first go-round.


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P.S. After another 3-5 back and forth emails with Do3D the new files arrived 11 days later. They were much cleaner/higher poly and don't require any of the prior netfabb repairs (CORRECTION: they all still need repairing in netfabb) Kudos to them for providing the support in the first place! I'm pleased. The updated helmet has the additional greeblies on the back but the general shape, with a torus forming the bottom rim, the "breathers" and the mouth still aren't as accurate as the Cosplus version (though the Cosplus version lacks the vents below the eyes), I'll post a comparison shot this evening. The armor itself? Looks great (but still missing the thumb guards that are on the figure).


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