3D Printing Doctor Who
 
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3D PRINTING DOCTOR WHO

F.A.Q.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get over on Facebook.
I'll keep adding to them as you keep asking.


Technical questions:

Usage questions:

Design questions:


Technical questions:

Help! How do I print this crazy thing?!?

Okay... This isn't a how-to site for 3D printing, but I'll go over the basics.

First, download the zip file containing the STL files you want to print off the Templates page.

Next, you will need to open the STL files in a slicer program to convert them into GCODE that your printer can use. I (and most other people) use CURA, which is completely free and probably came with your printer, though there are other programs out there that have a few additional bells and whistles. The first time you use CURA, you'll need to set global settings that are particular to your printer (like the build area size, resolution, etc.) and then after that, you can adjust per-print settings, (like build plate temperature, what fill percentage to use, do I want to print a support structure around it, and whether to use a Brim or Raft to make it stick to the build plate easier.) These are the typical CURA settings I use for most of my prints:



Once finished, you should be able to save the GCODE files onto a SD card that the printer reads (or send directly to the printer via USB if your printer supports that). I prefer using a SD card, so my PC doesn't have to be on while I'm printing.

After that, the process differs depending on what brand of printer you have, but on mine, I pop the SD card into the printer and power it on, hit "warm-up" and "PLA", wait a minute for it to reach starting temperature, pick off any stray bits of filament that have leaked out, hit "print", choose my gcode model from the list, wait for it to almost reach target temperature (target for PLA is 220) then spray a couple of quick spurts of hairspray on the platform, let it do the first initial outline for the raft (the solid bit that goes under your print job), quickly pick off any blobby or stringy bits that might interfere with printing, then the hard part.... waiting 2-24 hours for it to finish the job.

I'm thinking of buying a 3D printer. Money is no object. What do you recommend for the best possible print?

If you have the money, and a cool dark place to store poisonous chemicals away from small children and animals who may be temped to ingest them, then you may want to skip filament entirely, and dive straight into SLA resin printer instead. Resin printers print in insanely high detail (even better than the actual officially licensed figures are printed) without any of the warping, layer lines, or other problems associated with filament printing. They're also nigh indestructable, and if you're printing something transparent (like the time rotor or Rutan) anything you print in resin is going to be as clear as glass, instead of just semi-opaque.

The downside is that they're still quite costly to own and operate, require the handling and disposal of toxic chemicals, and have comparatively tiny build areas. I badly want a Peopoli Moai printer, which has the biggest SLA build area I've seen at 5" x 5" x 7" but it costs a whopping $1300, and that doesn't even include a free bottle of resin. I've seen some quality prints come off the Anycubic Photon, which is a more reasonable $520, but comes with a significantly smaller 4.53" x 2.56" x 6.1" build area, which isn't big enough for a lot of my figures. Hopefully this will change in the coming years, as cost goes down, and printing area goes up.

The resin itself costs about $60 to $100 per liter, though I don't know how many print jobs you can get out of each one. Some brands will let you add colors directly to the resin, which is pretty cool and may save you a bit of money if you don't want to have to buy different colors individually. As I mentioned before, the resin is toxic if ingested and not good if you get it on your skin. Always wear gloves and probably a resperator when you handle it. You'll also need a small tub or form washer filled with Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) to rinse any remaining liquid resin off your figure before you start handling it, at which point, both the remaining resin and resin-infused IPA need to be disposed of in a responsible manner.

I'm thinking of buying a 3D printer. Money is totally an object. What do you recommend for a hobbyist on a budget?


All my designs are printed using a Monoprice Maker Select Plus, which is a standard definition mid-ranged 3D printer that retails for $399 (or cheaper if you buy open box) or a Monoprice Maker Ultimate, which is a HD printer that retails for $699 (or cheaper if you buy open box). Both are effectively rebranded Wanhao printers, and nearly identical to the Cocoon Touch printer that's for sale in Australia. If you see a printer that physically looks like either of mine, it's probably just a slightly rebranded version of the same thing.

Both models come mostly preassembled, and have a 7.9 x 7.9 x 7.1 build area. I highly recommend getting a printer with at least this size build area or larger, as mini printers are usually 5 x 5 x 5 and slightly too small to be of use printing figures.

The HD Maker Ultimate can print at 20 microns (0.02 mm) resolution, which has proved to be essential for a couple of my more finely detailed figures (Like the 12th Doctor's guitar) but has some pretty major design defects, including a clunky interface and a deeply stupid filament-loading system that means the filament breaks off inside the machine and I have to partially disassemble it every time I swap colors.

If I had to choose again, I'd probably go with the Creality CR10S,
Not only can it print at the same detail as my Maker Ultimate and costs about $100 less, it also comes with an absolutely massive 12"x12"x16" build area, big enough to print console rooms and a Whomobile (if I ever make one), and a filament sensor that will pause the print job if it detects that filament is no longer flowing (which would be a really nice feature to have if you're printing something big and not sure how much you have left on the roll.)

While I don't have room for a 3rd machine, if anything ever happens to one of the one's I've got now, this is probably what I'd go for.

The Standard resolution Maker Select Plus prints at 100 microns (0.10 mm), which is sufficient for most figures, and is damn near indestructible. Other than some initial problems during setup (I bought the open-box version, which was missing the SD card with CURA, and the previous user had badly clogged the nozzle) I've never had a problem with it.

 

What brands of filament do you use/recommend?

The answer to this question can change with the wind, unfortunately.
Inland used to be my go-to brand for chear reliable filament, but they changed their formular in early 2018, and their new stuff is hot garbage. The same thing happened to Tianse in late 2018. Both worked great, right up until the point where they didn't. Unfortunately, there's not really any quality control on this stuff, and it's almost all produced overseas in China, so good luck finding somebody to complain to.

I currently like using Paramount filament for my standard PLA filament needs since it's not too expensive, the company is operated out of the US, they have a rich color selection, and they tell you the exact Pantone color it's supposed to match (ex: British Racing Car Green 3435c) so you always know what you're getting and can be reasonably certain that if you have to reorder several months later, the roll you receive will be the exact same color as what you bought before, even if it came from a different batch.

They also make some of the more exotic filaments like PETG and Flex PLA, which I'll try out the next time I have a figure that requires it.

 

How do I edit one of your designs to make changes/customizations?

The easiest way is to go to https://www.tinkercad.com/users/j5XjLLtvHOp-troyryanwood, or follow the Rough link off of the Templates page, and click on the big blue "Tinker This" button. This will allow you to take a copy of my design and edit to your heart's content within TinkerCAD. Otherwise, you can always download the STL files, and edit them offline using any number of CAD programs. As long as you can find software that works with STL and/or OBJ files, you should be able to edit any of my designs.


Usage questions:

Is it okay if I print figures for my friend, brother, cousin, cat, dog, etc.?

Absolutely, as long as you are giving the figure as a present and not directly receiving money for the sale of the item. Do use common sense when deciding who you are going to gift them to though. If you give your cousin a bunch of figures based on these designs, but she immediately turns around and throws them up on eBay because she's not a Whovian or only likes the new series, that will attract my attention just as assuredly as if you'd sold them yourself.

What about raffle prizes, charity auctions, etc.?

That's a bit more of a grey area. I don't strictly have a problem with it, but it mainly depends on how many figures, and how the money is being collected. (Don't post figures on eBay or anywhere else public and then say, "Oh, I it's cool, I'm going to donate the proceeds to charity." since I have no way of verifying that this is true, and neither does the BBC.)
If you aren't sure, please message me on Facebook. And remember, if you auction something off or give it to a stranger, they may not be aware of my rules about no selling for profit.

Can I use your designs to create custom figures of my own? (ex: a Battle TARDIS or Zarbi Supreme!)

Absolutely, as long as you are not going to turn around and immediately sell that figure to someone else. Again, there are grey areas about how much a design has to change before it becomes something completely different, but basically... if I can see that you've just taken my Zarbi design and stuck bits on it... yeah, that's still going to get you in trouble.

Can I use your models in my fan film, missing episode reconstruction, comic book, youtube video, puppet show, etc.?

Of course! It would be nice if you added a credit or footnote linking back to me and the project, but feel free to use these figures or the 3D models themselves in any creative way you see fit.

I run a home printing business, and somebody wants me to print a figure for them. Can I do it and still charge them?

Yes. I realize that not everyone has a 3D printer of their own and that some of them will use 3Dhubs.com or other methods to contact local printing services where figures can be printed-to-order for a fee. That is fine under the following conditions:

  • It's not a job lot intended for resale. (If somebody asks you to print 25 Quarks, you can bet they are planning on selling them on to somebody, and while I can't stop you from doing so, know that it will probably spell the death of this project if word gets out.)

  • You aren't printing the figures yourself and then encouraging people to buy them. (That's just selling, even if you print-to-order other stuff)

  • You aren't printing the figures yourself and then displaying them on your website/facebook page/shop window/craft booth etc. letting people know that you will print them the same item in exchange for money.

  • You don't post the figure or designs on a "print to order" website (like Shapeways) or otherwise advertise in any way that you are a printer of Doctor Who figures based on these designs.

Note that some of my designs, like the TARDIS Consoles, Wirrn, and Servo Robot are based off of 3D models that the original designers have for sale on TurboSquid, Shapeways, and possibly a few other places. They designed them, so they can do anything they want with them. My versions have changed enough in the process of formatting them for 3D printing that I can usually tell them apart, so if you want to sell bootleg figures based off the other guys' meshes, that's between you and the BBC's lawyers, but don't use my 3D printing designs and then act surprised if I catch you and let everyone know that you were the person who caused this project to stop sharing templates.

 

Why do you care if I sell figures based off your designs? It's a free country, I can do what I want.

I understand from friends in the "biz" that the BBC is aware of my project. I do not want to antagonize them. Copyright law is a tricky thing, and while selling originally created props/models/artwork may be technically legal, I'd rather not get into a fight with an organization I greatly admire, or take money away from Character Options, who must not be making a ton off of the Doctor Who license, because they've massively scaled back their figure release schedule over the last several years.

Selling bootleg Doctor Who figures will probably get *YOU* in trouble with the Beeb before they set their sights on me, but still... they'll know exactly where the design came from just as much as I will. The best way to avoid that and keep this a fun friendly project that everyone can enjoy is to just relax and have fun with the figures yourself, show them off to your friends, and be glad that (for now) you have a means of getting new action figures based off 20+ year old episodes of a TV show, that you'd never get commercially.

 

Design questions:

What is your design process?

When setting out to make a figure, I begin by trying to track down as many high quality photos as I can, from as many angles as I can. My first stop is usually the Doctor Who Photo Research facebook group, since they've got lots of amazing images taken behind the scenes, for publicity, or at exhibitions like Longleat. I also usually watch the episode on DVD, or for missing episodes, either the Loose Cannon reconstruction or Telesnaps, depending on what's available.

Other than picking up the finer details of the costume itself, I'm also looking for specific information. I want to see how the monster moves, so I can plan my points of articulation. If it's a robot or creature that lights up, Is that something I can replicate by adding UniBlock light brick or if it's big enough, GoBrix for motorization.

For black and white serials, actual color reference photos (not just colorized) are an amazing reference when I can get them. Remarkably, a number of classic series monsters were quite literally paraded around England in the 60's, so I'm frequently amazed at what turns up in photo archives.

I always try to find at least one shot where the monster is standing level with The Doctor, for sizing purposes. Since I have 5" scale action figures for all the classic Doctors, and I know each of the actors' heights, I can extrapolate how tall the monster should be based on how much taller/shorter they are. For episodes where this isn't possible (for example, I couldn't find a single good shot in The Web Planet of the 1st Doctor standing upright next to a Larvae Gun) I'll try to base my measurements off of other actors or stationary objects, and then best guess from there. (For the Larvae Gun, there was a good shot of Ian holding one vertically. William Russel is 6'0" and so is Colin Baker, so even though we don't have an Ian figure, I could use the 6th Doctor figure as a reference to make sure my test printing came out the correct size.)

Once I have reference photos, unless the figure is a blocky robot with nice straight edges, I usually head over to Thingiverse or TurboSquid to look for free (and free-to-use) templates with the textures and/or basic body shapes I need to build from. Case in point, the Yeti figure is made almost entirely from this rat, cut down and layered multiple times.

Then comes actually building the figure. I can't really explain what I do in too much detail, but mainly it involves building a rough solid "statue" without articulation and then sticking bits on it, and rearranging them until they look right. Obviously it's more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.

Articulation is the bane of my existence, but once I get one figure with a particular style of articulation down (ex: the elbow or shoulder joints on the Yeti) I try to make a set of Left/Right Positive/Negative molds that can then be used to on subsequent figures to give them the same style of movement. As every figure is a little different, these molds often have to be resized, leading to an annoying game of "try it and see." where I have to print the figure out and then shave a mm off here, or build this part of the figure up with some extra fur, so that the different pieces can by forced together without snapping, and then move freely, but not so freely that they flop about. This is the least fun part of the process, and why when I show off a brand new figure design, it usually stays in the Rough state for several weeks, while I agonizingly make changes and print and reprint again and again.

How do you pick what figure to make next?

I do what I want... But there's usually a method to my madness.
I have my to-do list, but I also like to be challenged and push the envelope as much as possible.
Often, when working on one figure, I'll find a cool template or technique that I can apply towards the next design. When building the Dalek Transmat, I thought "wouldn't it be cool if I could incorporate a bunch of fiberoptics, like the original prop?" That didn't happen, but while searching for small light sources, I stumbled across UniBlock light bricks, which were so cool, I incorporated them into my next 5 designs. When looking for stone textures for the Ogri, I found the rat that finally gave me a fur texture I could use for the Yeti, and (I thought) the Taran Wood Beast, though that one was eventually made out of a bits of a Dwarf's beard and ponytail instead.) And if I just bought a special type of filament (like transparent PETG) or already have the machine loaded with a particular color, I may go looking for another figure that can make use of the same resource.

How many times do you have to print a prototype until it comes out right?

It depends. Once in a blue moon, I get real lucky, and it's only once. The Ogri came out perfect on the first try, but I think that's the only time that's ever happened.
Usually it's somewhere between 3 to 6. The more complicated the design, the more chances there are for things to go wrong. And then there are the designs from hell, like the Taran Wood Beast, that should have been an over-and-done-with April Fools joke, but that stretched on forever because I just couldn't get the arms and legs to slot together without snapping. The big scale figures and vehicles, like the War Machine and Dalek Time Machine are the worst though, since they take weeks to print, and one minor mistake can ruin the entire design.

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