Sep 28, 2016 | By Alec

3D printing has proven itself as a fantastic custom toy-making solution over and over again, but many beginning users and toy-expert children have expressed disappointment over the final results. In fact, most of us will have worked on projects that do not always live up to aesthetic expectations due to visible layers or poor paint jobs. However, systematic post-print processing and a careful paintjob can turn 3D printed toys into unparalleled and unique works of art – as visual artist Paul Braddock has just proved with the truly inspiring Eddie the steampunk robot. Through careful planning and meticulous airbrushing, he has created an absolutely spectacular robotic toy, complete with movable limbs. The twelve-year old me would kill to have one of these.

After growing up on a diet of Star Wars and 1980s Sci-Fi, Paul has been working as an VFX artist for about 15 years now, especially in the fields of conceptual sculpting and digital design. He loves all things mechanical – from old cars and motorcycles to futuristic robots. As the Australian artist revealed, 3D printing is rapidly changing the field in which he works. “As a Digital artist, 3D printing has given my work and art a whole new chapter, really. I've never sculpted traditionally, so it's an incredibly rewarding thing to have your pixel based art, become a physical object. 3D printing has a number of uses in VFX, from concepting, to live action set pieces, and stand in reference for digital assets and characters,” Paul says.

Fortunately Paul, who lives by the ocean in Sydney, has enough time to work on his craft at home. Among others, he has 3D printed some very cool sculptures of fantastical creatures for several colleagues, which are well worth checking out on his website here. He has become something of an expert on the aesthetic finishing of 3D prints. Just last year, he shared a tutorial on creating an aged, metal look using a cold casting technique.

And yet Eddie the Robot easily takes the cake, as you can see for yourself above and below. While the model itself is inspiring in its own right, the paint job transforms Eddie into the main character of a Hollywood blockbuster. If you slapped a Star Wars logo on a photo and called this the new BB-8, people would believe you. It would also be a hugely popular toy.

But Eddie won’t be starring in a film or in a video game franchise just yet. In fact, it was designed as a personal gift for his sister-in-law. “Cassie is a robot lover, she has a bit of a collection, so leading up to Christmas last year, I thought I could make her something unique and personal. Cassie is the one who actually named him ‘Eddie’,” Paul says.

This was a gargantuan project. Design alone took about two weeks, during which Paul heavily relied on a combination of Maya and Zbrush. “I blocked out a very rough sculpt in ZBrush, then modelled the parts cleanly in Maya, and then back to ZBrush for detailing and prep for 3D printing,” he says.

The model was subsequently 3D printed on his FSL3D Pegasus touch SLA 3D printer, which explains the robot’s very high quality. Paul especially likes this 3D printer for its huge build volume (which SLA 3D printing isn’t exactly known for) and its reliability. “It can be tricky to dial in, but when it's setup correctly, it'll print reliably nonstop for days on end,” he says. Paul also used a combination of several left-over resins: some water washable FSL and some FSL oxide red, topped off with the locally-made Monocure3D.

Nonetheless, the 3D printing process was not without its pitfalls. “I ran out of resin overnight on one large part, after about 15 hours of printing, I simply forgot to top it up before going to bed. A few other parts were brittle, and I carelessly broke them, so they also had to be re-printed,” he admitted. One of the body’s biggest pieces mistakenly featured a hollowed out shell with very thin walls. “This, combined with some debris in my vat caused a blind spot for the laser, resulting a weak, delaminated area inside the part,” Paul revealed. Ultimately, he solved the problem by reprinting a section of the body.

But the real work only began after 3D printing, though SLA prints are typically much easier to clean than PLA or ABS alternatives. The parts themselves were assembled with magnets, resulting in an Eddie that can be positioned in several ways. The paint job, which heavily relied on airbrushing, was very time-consuming as well. Paul was aiming to create a very weathered look, of a robot that has been covered in many layers of paint that have weathered worn off over the years, and did extensive research to achieve the best result.

Ultimately, he settled for a system that began with priming, wet-sanding and more priming. “The ‘metal’ layer is Alclad chrome, and it requires a glossy base coat underneath. In the end, I found it best to use a black primer, and clear coat that, then use the Alclad,” he says. “After I had the Metal layer done, I applied a liquid latex to the edges and high points of each part. Each part was then sprayed with the yellow paint color, and once this was dry, the latex was peeled off to reveal the metal under it, giving the impression of a chipped and worn metal object.” This was followed by several ‘rusty’ layers made with different shades of rust-colored paint, applied using a combination of airbrushing, stippling and washes.

The results speak for themselves. Though Eddie is intended as a one-off project, we see no reason why this spectacular steampunk robot couldn’t be a marketing hit in its own right.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Maggo wrote at 8/28/2018 3:11:55 PM:

thats one amazing sculpt. probably best ive ever seen yet, (i love functional elements on the ol' droids.) and i was into zbrush for a while.

Orlando wrote at 11/6/2017 3:35:28 AM:

OMG I LOVE IT Can I get the specs to make one for my daughters?

Bruce wrote at 6/4/2017 1:43:16 AM:

Can I buy the download ?

MechaBits wrote at 9/28/2016 10:38:19 PM:

Cool Mechabot

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