Perfectly printed props – Comicon shows off 3D printing

When the AZTB team was given the awesome opportunity to discover all things geek chic and tech trendy at Phoenix’s Comicon, we had zero idea of what to expect and had a blast doing it. Elaborate costumes and intricate props weren’t the only thing that Comicon visitors geeked out on; virtual reality video games, robotics, and 3D printing also had a widespread presence within the convention.
We had the chance to sit down for a 3D printing panel and learn some new things about the maker community and what it has to offer. The panel had a focus on props.
Comicon 3D print-2Comicon was crowded with thousands of enthusiasts holding giant swords or life-like guns that were obviously fake but looked exceptionally real; that’s the whole point of printing props. The expert panel exhibited their favorite 3D printing software, materials, and other tips and tricks for a perfectly printed prop.
The highly structured guns pictured above were printed and assembled as separate pieces. This method of 3D printing ensures a stable prop that will last for a long period of time. One of the experts disclosed that he utilized the 3D printing software, SketchUp, to print the separate pieces for his complex gun. Other popular 3D printing software systems are Autodesk and SolidWorks.
The 3D printing industry has been the go-to market for the Do It Yourself (DIY) community for some time now and with all of the new advancements in materials, customizing your newest 3D-printed project is easier than ever. The usual materials are PLA and ABS filaments that resemble plastic. The former filament is a corn-based material that has options for translucent plastics and is said to be stronger than the latter, but will shatter if dropped on the floor. ABS filament, the latter, is what LEGO’s are made of and do not break if accidentally dropped. Newer 3D printing materials include wood, nylon, and glow in the dark plastics.
But with all of these software programs and materials at a maker’s disposal, there too has to be a universal process to accurately produce a 3D-printed prop. Constructing complex props requires a variety of materials such as a 3D printer, a measuring scale, a calculator, a workspace dedicated to making, saws, blades, wood filler, acetone, sand paper, bondo, and paint. A mixture of these items can guarantee an efficiently constructed object. The experts also hinted at taking notes and documenting the building process. Having a camera and notepad in the workspace to jot down and capture the building process is the best way for a maker to remember and replicate if needed.
PhxConlogo3D printing in the comfort of your own home is possible, but may end up taking a huge chunk of cash from your already depleting bank account. So, why not head out to a local printing shop with a membership in hand to start conceptualizing and creating? Places around the Valley that offer fully functional machines and materials are TechShop and Gangplank in Chandler, Local Motors Labs, and online websites such as and Another way of locating a local 3D printer is through an online portal called, which allows an individual to search by their zip code for a locally owned and privately operated 3D printer in which the owner essentially rents out their services and materials.
The endless possibilities with 3D printing have turned this hobby into a full-fledged maker community with an abundance of new tools, materials, and software to imagine and create the perfect 3D-printed prop.
For AZTB’s past coverage of the 3D printing industry click here