|My name is Troy Ryan Wood, and I have been a Whovian since 1983, when I caught my first glimpse of The Five Doctors during a early-evening showing of the 20th Anniversary special on our local KVIE Sacramento PBS affiliate. (I'm afraid my parents had to spend so much time answering questions about the Doctor, his friends, and enemies, than they hardly got to watch the episode itself.) Though it was really sneaking out past my bedtime to watch a repeat of The Green Death from behind my own tented fingers, and the terrifying nightmares about giant venom-dripping maggots that inevitably followed, which made me the life-long super-fan I am today.
In the mid 80's, I had my Target novelizations, a well-worn VHS copy of The Five Doctors, and dog-eared editions of The Doctor Who Technical Manual and Peter Haining's Celebration guide to see my fandom through. There wasn't much else available in rural California. My mother obligingly made me 4th, 5th, and 7th Doctor costumes for Halloween (I was the only person with any idea who I was supposed to be), my father's socket wrench became an impromptu sonic screwdriver, and I was forced to defeat Daleks that looked an awful lot like overturned trash cans with a laundry basket and old cullender on top. On the plus side, I did live right next to a quarry, so at least I had that going for realism.
As they say, bigger boys get bigger toys, and my childhood love of Doctor Who hasn't waned in the passing years. In addition to creating my own Doctor Who figures, I have worked on the telesnap reconstructions of missing episodes, built life-sized interactive Ood, Auton, and Cyberman displays that get trotted out for Halloween and the annual Doctor Who Day event at our local library, and I'm currently in the process of building my very own full-sized Pertwee-era Dalek!
Lacking any proper Doctor Who toys of my own growing up, I had to make do with my imagination and whatever I could cobble together from Lego and bits of cardboard (The image below is a version I came up with in 2014. 7 year-old me's TARDIS was a lot squarer and rainbow colored, and the different Doctors were just the Black, Blue, Yellow, and Red spacemen... until I discovered Sharpie pens and started my first wave of "customizations.")
In 1989, as the 7th Doctor and Ace strode off into the sunset, and the classic era of Doctor Who died a quiet lingering death, Dapol released the first batch of figures I had access to in the United States. Of course, teenage me snatched them up like hot cakes, but I was always disappointed by how rubbish they looked compared to other action figures of the time. For their big 7th Doctor playset, they couldn't even be bothered to count how many sides the TARDIS console had.
"We deserve better than this," I thought.
Then, in the 2000's, came the golden era of Doctor Who toys. First with the magnificent Product Enterprise talking Daleks, Cybermen, and 4th Doctor/K9, and then hot on the heels of the new series, Character Options released their' 5" scale line of toys, which I've been an avid collector of ever since.
The 3D Printing Doctor Who project officially started in 2017 when I was attempting to build the interior workings of a spring-loaded Auton hand (as one so often does), and learned from a fellow Doctor Who fan that our local library had a free 3D printer that I could use in conjunction with TinkerCAD to design my own printable models out of simple geometric shapes. As I wan't having much luck trying to carve the stupid thing out of wood, I decided to give it a shot.
In the process of building the hand, I also set about creating my first two figures, Alpha Centauri and a Quark, which came together remarkably easily. Prototyping was another matter. I was getting rather tired of running out to the library every weekend in the hopes that their printer was available, and reasoned that since I wasn't spending as much on Doctor Who figures anymore (Character Options hadn't released anything new in the 5" range since the 11th Doctor came out), if I bought my own printer and could make at least 10 more figures, it would be more or less equal to what I'd pay if I'd bought them from Character Options, with the added benefit of being able to pick and choose which figures I wanted myself.
I decided to invest in my first home printer, a Monoprice Maker Select Plus, which is a standard 100 micron resolution mid-ranged 3D printer that retails for about $399 or $279 depending on whether you buy open box or not.
My first few creations were pretty simple, but after getting more familiar with the TinkerCAD tools available and learning that I could import shapes and textures snipped from other models (for example, the Yeti figure is made almost entirely out this rat I found over at TurboSquid), I was quickly able to up my game and begin producing vastly improved models with natual organic looking textures and a far more professional range of articulated movement.
In early 2018, I began adding light brick and GoBrix compatibility to some of my designs, allowing me to create figures that could light up and/or be driven around by remote control!
And after auctioning off a few less-than-perfect prototype models (the only time I ever sell off my creations) I was able to raise enough money to partially pay for a second higher-resolution 20 micron Maker Ultimate printer that has allowed me to print smaller more detailed models (like the 12th Doctor's guitar), that would self-detruct on a standard definition machine.
By 2019, interest in my pet project has exploded, and I'm now working with several other talented artists who have begun adding their own 3D printable Doctor Who models to the mix. At this point, the project really has become a colaborative effort, so I've created a whole new Guest Templates section of the site devoted to showing off the extraordinary work of others.
As 3D printing technology improves and becomes more readily accessible to home consumers, the quality of what I can produce is only going to get better. I'm currently hitting a hard limit when it comes to the amount of detail it's possible to squeeze out of standard filament printing, but there's a whole new generation of home-use resin printers just hitting the market that have build volumes comparable to filament printers, with drastically improved resolution, durability, and precision. Right now, you can expect to pay $1300 for one of these beauties, but given time, the prices should come down to more reasonable levels.
3D scanning and Photogrammetry (the scanning of physical objects and creating meshes automatically from a patchwork of still images) are two other areas that are slowly improving with time. What once took an entire room of highly specialized equipment, can now be done with an Xbox One Kinect Sensor and the right kind of software.
Possibly by the time I finish all the figures on my lengthy to-do list, both areas will have improved to the point where I can start working on figures with human faces, and after that, who knows? Maybe the day will come where I simply have to show my computer an old black and white episode of Doctor Who, and it will effortlessly render a gorgeous Koquillion mask with no clean-up or worrying about polygons on my part.