Jan 25, 2015 | By Simon

While 3D printing has been used for everything from rapid prototyping for product design and development to creating prosthetic arms and even medical tools that can be replaced, sometimes it’s fun to just have fun with the additive manufacturing process for no purpose other than to do something such as...create a Warhammer 40K Space Marine costume.

Or at least....that is what graphic artist Gary Sterley decided to do back in March of 2013.

The Orlando, Florida-based designer has been working in both print and digital media for over seven years, but in his spare time enjoys creating custom costumes and props with the goal of “making ideas a reality and making them look as good as possible.”

For his Warhammer 40k Space Marine Costume, which was his second costume build, Sterley decided to use both foam and 3D printing to bring his larger-than-life costume to reality.

The seven-foot tall costume build, which he explains in full-detail on an Instructables page, includes an articulating Power Fist that Sterley is quick to admit was the hardest part of the entire build... particularly because of the intensive 3D modeling and 3D printing process for which he had very little background going into the build.  

“Designing everything in 3D was a huge hurdle,” said Sterley.  “I am not a 3D modeler. I have been trying to teach myself the software though, and this is the largest and most complicated thing I have ever designed.”

Despite the Power Fist being the largest and most complicated thing that Sterley has ever designed, he has documented his process in great detail through a series of YouTube videos and an Instructables page for anybody who might be interested in creating their own Power Fist design.  

Starting with inspiration rooted in a previous Power Fist design by fellow costume designer Henrik Pilerud, Sterley decided to take things a step further and create articulating finger joints whereas Pilerud had not in his all-foam design.  

Since his wife had recently bought hims a Solidoodle2 3D printer for Christmas, Sterley decided that 3D modeling and printing plastic joints for each of the Power Fist fingers was what he wanted to accomplish in his own design.  

To being the design process, Sterley started by ironing out some mental kinks through the use of 2D sketching in his notebook...with the goal of transforming his sketches into a 3D model that the Solidoodle could both understand and product. “My experience with my printer thus far had taught me that those two concepts are not mutually exclusive in the world of 3D printing,” Sterley added.

With no previous background in 3D modeling (he had previously only downloaded existing designs off of MakerBot’s Thingiverse to use with his 3D printer), Sterley decided that Google’s Sketchup was the most efficient and reasonable 3D modeler to produce his articulating fingers.  After numerous part iterations and hours of modeling, he was finally able to produce what he thought was a solid design.

The final design, which consisted of three parts per finger, used each subsequent part to snap inside of the next and terminate at the fingertip with no need for additional hardware.  Along the spine of each finger, Sperley incorporated an elastic band into the design that would allow for him to control the movement of each of the Power Fist fingers using his own individual fingers.  Ultimately, when Sterley moved his fingers, the movement would translate to the Power Fist’s fingers.  

After a test run of the first finger design iteration, Sterley determined that the joints were too heavy for the elastic band to move.  To correct the issue, he ended up breaking the three-segment fingers into four segments and printed each finger flat...which would then be folded up to create a three-dimensional finger shape that was more lightweight.      

After determining that this design direction was the most efficient in terms of weight, Sterley began the entire 3D print production cycle for all of the Power Fist fingers... which took him over two days of non-stop printing.

Finally, he took the finished prints - which were done in ABS plastic - and used acetone to bond all of the panels together.  He then ran the elastic bands and pull strings through the interior spines of the Power Fist fingers to complete the final finger assembly.     

As for the rest of the Power Fist design, Sterley resorted to the same foam that the rest of his costume was made out of since there were no articulating joints...which were then finished with a series of finishing touches before finally being painted to match the colors of his existing Space Marine costume.

“While this was only one piece in a larger project, it was by far the most complicated, and time consuming thing I have built to date,” adds Sterley.


“That said, it was a great learning experience and I'm super happy with how it turned out. I'm still no expert in 3D, but I am working on it, and building on my experience. I'll definitely be printing more projects in the future. Never stop learning.”

You can check out the more detailed build process over on Sterley’s Power Fist Instructables page.  He is also selling the STL files for the fingers on his Etsy page.  

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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