Oct 7, 2015 | By Kira

We all know the trope: boys play with action figures; girls dress-up their Barbies. Even as we grow up, these expectations follow us: men are scientists and engineers, while women are homemakers who like to shop. But what if there was a toy that let young girls (and boys) combine superheroes with custom-made outfits; that educated them about real-life women of power and that let them design and build the toys from scratch? Tired of the stereotype that making is for men, pioneering designer, technologist and entrepreneur Mary Huang has created a line of custom 3D printed female action figures and a step-by-step guide to make them yourself.

“I felt these are the toys that I would have wanted as a kid,” Huang told 3ders.org. “They’re action figures because they are superheroes and action-themed, but they also have clothing and shoes because that’s more fun.” The figures include new heroine Maker Girl, who sports the official Maker Faire ‘M’ logo, has a 3D printed utility belt with detachable tools she can actually hold, and was designed in honor of this year’s event. 

“For some reason ‘maker movement’ tends to refer to more engineering things like electronics, but to me it has always meant breaking down the barrier between engineering and art. It’s all just making stuff,” said Huang. “You actually have a lot of women at Maker Faire, far more than at other tech events.”

For Maker Girl, Huang designed and 3D printed her head, boots, arm braces and belt. The head was designed in Blender (“it works quite well for things like faces, since it’s a mesh modeler [and] it’s free, so anyone can give it a try,” she said), then sanded, hand-painted and varnished it for a smooth finish. As for the accessories, she 3D printed them in red and yellow PLA, she recommends FLEX PLA if possible, using an Ultimaker 2 3D printer. The boots and accessories are then outfitted with magnets, so that Maker Girl can hold them and stand up on her own.

The underrepresentation of women is not only an issue within the maker movement, however, but across all corporations and high-ranking fields. To make the dolls both fun and educational, Huang decided to design three that are based on real-life women who run some of the most well-konwn companies in the world: Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo; Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo; and Ursula Burns, Charman and CEO of Xerox.

“There are more female CEOs in the Fortune 500 than ever before, although the percentage is still low,” Huang told us (the dismal number is 4.8%, to be exact). “I was making the superhero designs, and then I figured why not make ones of real women of power? So I chose three female CEOs of giant companies. Inc. and Forbes do articles on the most powerful women in America every year, but kids don’t read those publications. Toys are another way to tell a story.”

To make the figures, Huang relied on her extensive background in 3D modeling and printing as well as high-end fashion design—she did, after all, co-found 3D printed fashion brand Continuum. The base bodies are sourced from manufactured toys that can be found online, such as the Liv doll or Divergent Barbie, which already come with jointed limbs, and Huang designed and sewed the outfits, such as Maker Girl’s blue spandex costume with hand-cut ‘M’ logo, herself. “I designed and made all the outfits except for the houndstooth jacket. (That’s a vintage Mattel find.) For the superhero suits, I made the graphics and got the fabric professionally inkjet printed.” She recommends using a service like Spoonflower or Fabric on Demand.

Though she admits that significant drawing and painting skills are required, particularly for the custom 3D printed heads, she included the 3D models and made her instructions as easy to follow as possible. “It’s actually a bit complicated, so it might be nice to have kits or something to make it easier for people. But after you make one, it gets a lot easier, and it’s a fun thing to learn how to make your own toys,” she said. In the future, she hopes to produce an entire product line of buyable toys, but anyone who’s interested for now can contact her directly at toylab.co.

Next up, she plans to include new superheroes and even more powerful real-life women to the line from the fields of science and engineering. “There are some super awesome female startup founders, as well as more historical people like Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin,” Huang told 3Ders.org. Of course, she isn’t planning on leaving men completely out of the picture. “I will probably make a Maker Guy to go with Maker Girl. Maybe Elon Musk and Johnny Ives figures would be fun. But there are a lot of awesome women on the bucket list first.”

The 3D printed female [super]hero figures are a great way to encourage young girls and boys to join the maker community, and to learn about how real-life women are making a difference in the world. Being the positive, inspirational, and talented maker she is, we’d love to see an action figure of Mary Huang herself someday.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive