It may have seemed impossible only a couple of years ago – due to high costs of hardware and materials – but life-size 3D printing is now something that consumers can do. It’s not easy, it takes time and dedication. But a growing community of enthusiasts has been creating some amazing projects and there is a dedicated Facebook community – aptly named Life-size 3D print – that tracks them all. We asked the community’s founder, Jeff Vaesken, to highlight some of the most impressive projects so far and they did not disappoint.
“Life Size 3D Print was born from a common passion, the ability to create whatever we dreamt of, Vaesken told 3DPMN. “This is why we aim to display all the biggest prints, from all around the world, as well as unite people within one group, one community of people sharing the same hobby: to dream big and dream together.”
The concept of “Life-size” can refer to a number of things, including both enormous print, as well as a fictional wearable helmet, or gauntlet. In other words, anything that is printed at a 1:1 scale. And it is not easy. Each print, can take hundreds, even thousands of hours of work and it’s not just about the printing.
“It all starts with printing the whole piece, but then you also have to factor in the post-treatment: assembling all the pieces, filling any gap and sanding the whole thing, to finally paint it, which can all double the amount of time each print takes,” Vaesken explains.
Here are a few examples of Life-size prints that caught LS3DP’s eye, for the quality of the printing, polishing, and originality.
The first are two different Life-size Iron Man MK VII projects: one by Pietro Del Fiandra, which was made using three different printers, and is motorized using Arduino. Laurent Vaterkowski also produced a similar piece.
The second print highlighted by LS3DP is a fantastic C3PO from Star Wars, by Aurelien Volle. This print took 1,145 hours to be completed but the results are amazing.
Another fascinating work is Dobby, by Fred Williams: Harry Potter’s best house elf brought to life in amazing details.
The next project mentioned is this life-size bust of the Joker, by Alex Cruz, as found on zsculptors.com. Mr. Cruz has a passion for evil clowns as he also recently created another bust: Pennywise from the movie It.
“There would not be enough time to mention all those gorgeous prints posted on the Life-size 3D Print community, and the awe I feel every time I see a new one, just as a kid watching a new episode of his favorite anime,” Vaesken says. “Thanks to all the members for sharing their work, and bringing dreams to life.”
The final project is still ongoing, and it is what Mr. Vaesken currently working on. It is a Game of Thrones scene of Daenerys and her dragon, modeled by Sanix and available at Malix 3D Design. He is printing it at 720% size of the original model, which will bring it to 1:1 scale. This means that the final work will be as tall as 2.5 meters, with an overall width of 3.8 meters, all resting on a 1.95-meter support. “I have started this project in February 2019, and I have 3 printers, running 24/7, Vaesken tells 3DPMN. “I have already run through 60 Kg of PLA.”
Vaesken says he started with small figures and then continued to print bigger and bigger. Recently, he confirms, the price of printers has been decreasing to the point where more people can get involved. “Especially the printers from China are now very competitive in terms of value for the money.
“For large format machines and for Life-size, I recommend the Creality CR10S 5 which has a 500 x 500 x 500 mm tray for a price between 700 and 800 euro,” Vaesken says. “Alternatively, the Creality S4 has a 400 x 400 x 400 build volume for a price of 550 euro. I personally use 2 Cr10S of 300 x 300 x400, along with one Cr10S 4 and one Alphawise U 20. A little piece info to clarify: the larger the printer, the harder it is to adjust.”
Filament has also become very reasonable in price with an average of 18 euro per kilogram for PLA which is relatively accessible to enthusiasts. That said, Life-size 3D printing is not for every purse. The starting budget is important because you also must consider the painting necessary to actually finish the prints, as well as costs associated with lots of glue. Indeed making a life-size print includes assembling a number of pieces and glues for PLA can be very expensive.
Although it has been improving somewhat, the speed of the machines remains a pain point. It is necessary to use nozzles measuring 0.6 to 0.8 mm to reduce the time of printing. “Accelerating the print speed will ruin the quality of the parts, thus it is better to lower the speed and increase the size of the nozzle,” Vaesken tells us. The biggest challenges, however, remain in the assembly and post-treatment, which are very heavy, especially sanding and finishing.”
This, however, is not stopping the dream of the LS3DP community of going bigger and bigger. The only question is how big can it really go?