How 3D Printing Minimises Cost and Maximises Custom Ability in Cosplay

Cosplay is a growing trend in the world over. According to The Week magazine, attendance at the San Diego Comic Con has grown as much as 2/3 over the past 15 years, with more growth in other sectors like Dragon Con. And, while the above article tends to shine a negative light on the Cosplay community, there have been specialists who have claimed that the activity has positive effects, such as in Malaysia’s Daily Express’s article Cosplay is a healthy art that states that “It takes a lot of courage to wear one of those costumes and show it to the world.” If you are a member of the cosplay community, you know the time, resources, and commitment that it takes to pull off the perfect representation. Acquiring particular parts for an outfit can be difficult, especially when it comes to the weapons and props of the outfit. This is where 3D Printing may be useful.

Not everything in Fantasy is available in reality

Perhaps one of the more difficult challenges for the cosplay community is to find props and weapons which do not exist in reality. And, while the practice of making these props and weapons is part of the fun and the challenge of the costume, one may find that the use of a CAD Modelling and a 3D Desktop Printing can accomplish superb results. Think of this. If you need to make a sword from the World of Warcraft, you will not be able to go to your local mega-superstore and order one. Neither will a pawn shop or weapons dealership have a Orcish War Sword. Yet, you could go online (if you are not familiar with 3ds Max, Maya, or other CAD programs for 3D Printing and Design) and find the sword. Using your Desktop 3D Printer you can print the sword, whether in pieces to be assembled, or as one part, and then paint, polish, and tweak it to meet your costume’s needs. Additionally, these prints can be catered to towards your exact form should you have a hand-held 3D Scanner to capture the body part which will have the printed part upon it.


This World of Warcraft replica was modeled by Serge Scherbakov. Once saved in SLT or DWG format, it could easily be 3D Printed wither as the helm and sword as separate parts or as one piece.

Make it last

In addition to the unavailability of certain objects, and the need to make those objects creatively, is the durability of many of the “makeshift” props and weapons for the costume. If cardboard and styrofoam is used then the Cosplay participant is limited to a one time use. However, if the person uses a hand held 3D Scanner to fit the part for their body, and then uses a Desktop 3D printer to make the prop, the additive process, and the materials from which the models are constructed, will yield something substantially more durable. When coupled with the ability to layer the 3D models, or to print out sections and assemble them post print, not only is a durable creative prop is created, but the ability to have a versatile use for that 3D Print is present as well.


The parts in the picture above can be used either collectively as a suit of armor, or the weapon can be used independently, as can the knee covers and other pieces. Image acquired from

Avid Cosplay costume designers may wish to look at the various materials which are available for 3D Printing. The technology is not limited to polymers and plastics, but has the ability to make metal prints, wooden prints, and such. Granted, you may need to outsource your model to someone with a Commercial Metal 3D Printer, but the option is there. Glass printing is available through companies such as Shapeways but the most popular option is the Personal 3D Printers such as the ones from FormLabs, MakerBot and Dremel. These average around $1,000.00 to $4,000.00 for the machines, not taking into account the cost of materials.

Thinking outside of the box

Apart from all of the variables with creativity and Cosplay props and weapons, the ability to create and to make improvements upon the design concepts is exciting. With the 3D Printer, and some modeling experience, you can turn your thoughts of how they could improve (for example) Iron Man’s suit into a reality. Cosplay, is primarily designed to be an escape from reality, to be an immersion into the creative world of the superhero, comic book character, sci-fi, and fantasy world. Why would you not wish to take your own creativity and merge it with the capabilities of technology to create what is in your mind?

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