Custom Toys and Action Figures by Blayne

Monday, September 23, 2013

3D models and Action Figures

While searching for Terminator 3D models online, I came across a motherload of extracted Video Game character objects/models. Since (with some time/effort) it's possible to print parts of these out in 3D - this is a goldmine for games that have no official figures (Fallout 3, Telltales's Walking Dead, L4D, Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, etc.).

For the Fallout 'NCR Ranger' helmet, I didn't use this site, but instead extracted the files directly from the game / an existing 'papercraft' model converted to .obj + rebuilt sections of the model myself using the existing structure for shape reference. However, for some games - I have absolutely no idea how to use the tools for extraction. It's that 1st step that's the most confusing. It's nice that there's an online resource where people have already taken care of that.

It's not a quick or  easy process to go from a video game model to a printable (closed surface) shape that's the correct size - but it can result in some super-accurate figures/models that wouldn't exist otherwise.

Importing and repair/patch/remodeling the original .obj / .dae files using 
Google Sketchup 8 (with plugins) is the first step. The finished model is exported from Sketchup into .stl format (using a plugin). Meshlab is then used to export that .stl files exported earlier from Google Sketchup) as .stil again. This is necessary, as Meshlab's .stl format is much cleaner and reads better in Netfab. The 2nd generation .stl file is then opened in Netfab to fix, re-do, and export the .stl for final printing. Things like scaling, and making sure the model is moved/set to 0,0,0 after rotating/resizing are steps that aren't that obvious, but are necessary for proper printing without a host of errors. A pair of digital-readout calipers (I sourced mine from eBay) are very useful in making sure your parts match the scale you'll be printing for. I used the measured dimensions of a figures head (from temple to temple), and distance from shoulder to elbow, etc. vs. measuring the same distances on the target figure scale I'm working with. Using a NECA ALIENS marine figure as the general reference point, I ensured all items printed would look appropriate if I was using those as base figures.

It's 3D printing has a long, frustrating process with a steep learning curve (particular when working with non-water tight source models, or creating your own from scratch). However, the potential benefits to the toy hobbyist are immense.