Make Me a Model
September 2, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Where can I send someone a design of a 3D object and have them put it together for me?

There's a mask/helmet that I'm designing that I want to create. I could make it myself out of cardboard or thick poster board and a hot glue gun, but the results probably wouldn't be that great and I don't have time to construct it on my own. So preferably I'd like to outsource the work to someone else. I'm not sure how cheap something like this would cost; my design isn't very elaborate so I think it should be relatively simple to assemble. Are there any companies that do this sort of thing? I'm located in Philadelphia if there are any local/nearby businesses that do this sort of thing.
posted by god particle to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Shapeways? They do 3D printing. link to Shapeways
posted by annathea at 9:30 AM on September 2, 2009

What material do you want your prototype made out of? if it's aluminum or teflon and your master design was created with Autocad, any machine shop with a numerically-controlled mill can do it for you -- but it won't be cheap.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:36 AM on September 2, 2009

I think this depends greatly on what you want the mask to be made out of and what your budget is. Wood? Machined plastic? Molded plastic? 3D printed plastic? Metal? There are online machine and fabrication shops that can take a design you make in a 3D modeling program and make it real using the above techniques. Prices can go very high for things like that. For example, a friend and I made the case for this thing in a 3D modeling program and had it 3D printed. It was very expensive, on the order of $200 or more. We used the rather fragile printed prototype to make silicone molds and then used the molds to cast plastic resin to make what you see in the picture.

As for things around Philadelphia, a friend in the area mentioned Hive 76, a Hacker/Maker/DiY group. Send them your question and see who they can put you in contact with or what advice they can dispense.
posted by zsazsa at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2009

depending on the material, and if you only want one of them, I bet a local artist would do it for you
posted by Think_Long at 9:38 AM on September 2, 2009

Response by poster: I plan to use it as a mask (wearing it over my head) so I don't want it made out of anything too heavy - something like thick poster board would be perfect. I'd like to go as cheap as possible...the design itself is very simple, it's almost just two rectangular prisms attached together with a little variation around the edges.
posted by god particle at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2009

Response by poster: I should also note that I plan on drawing my own designs on it when it's finished.
posted by god particle at 10:03 AM on September 2, 2009

A few services exist that will laser-cut shapes out of flat sheets and post the results to you. You'd have to do the last assembly steps yourself, but at least you can have the parts accurately cut in a range of different materials.

I'm currently looking at Ponoko for a project I'm working on. They offer a few ways for you to send them plans, from CAD software to "draw on a napkin and email them a photo", and a load of different materials - coloured card, plastics, etc.

There's also a service through which you can request designs. I presume this means you describe the design to someone, they submit the plans to ponoko, assemble it then post you the result. I've never looked into this, but I expect all the postage makes it a pretty slow process.
posted by metaBugs at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

It the shape is such that it can be made from posterboard, cut folded and taped, then I'm sure you could find someone on Etsy to do it quite cheaply. If it's a more complex form that would require great precision, or a mold or 3D printing, then expect to spend much more. Zsaxsa'a "very expensive" $200 is actually very cheap for this sort of work.
posted by jon1270 at 12:21 PM on September 2, 2009

If you're thinking of making a helmet made out of hot melt glue and card, most types of 3D printing I know of will be quite a way out of your price range.

I would suggest you look into the cosplay community in your area; there are people who are enthusiastic about making and wearing costumes; low-cost techniques are popular; and there are people more than happy to take on commissions. I don't know much about this in my country, let alone in yours, but somewhere like this might be a good place to start looking - for example, here's someone who says they make masks.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:00 PM on September 2, 2009

How about making it yourself (or getting a crafty person from Etsy to make it) out of papier-mâché? Create the mould with cardboard then use paper pulp over the top to get a better finish.
posted by Kerasia at 3:27 PM on September 2, 2009

There are a lot of people in the Society for Creative Anachronism who make armor, including helmets, who might be willing to help you.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:47 PM on September 2, 2009

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