Modeling a character for 3D printing

3D Printing & Imaging Craft & Design
Modeling a character for 3D printing


I’m excited to be trying out the Shapeways 3D printing service. I asked my friend (and esteemed MAKE Editor-in-Chief) Mark Frauenfelder if he’d mind me using one of his wonderful character designs, a cute little fellow called Red Critter. He gave his blessing and I was off.


I built the polygonal model using Autodesk Maya (you could use just about any 3D package, that’s just the one I’m most familiar with). Mark and I went through a couple of revisions to preserve the cookie-cutter appeal of the original. I can tell you from experience that it is rarely simple to realize a 2D character in 3D. This first model was built from as few polygons as possible, which makes revisions easier. I also built him fairly neutral, so I could add a “pose” later.


Since the Shapeways model cost is based on how much raw material you use, I decided to hollow out part of the model, as you can see in the xray view.


Once we were happy with the model, I added a few twist and bend deformations to “pose” him. I also increased the model resolution to around 15,000 quadrangulated polygons so that it would look smooth.


Next, I exported the mesh with the Collada plugin to a format that Shapeways will accept. I uploaded the mesh, chose a material type called “white, strong, & flexible”, and placed my order.


Now, all I have to do is wait for the package — they say it’ll be here in a few days. I’ll post photos once they arrive.

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John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He builds project for Adafruit Industries. You can find him at and twitter/IG @johnedgarpark

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