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3D Printing Period Props

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by Chris Rigby, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. Chris Rigby

    Chris Rigby Member

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    For our upcoming of production of Crazy for You, a certain musical number requires around 10 period-accurate 30s dial-phones. Due to the rarity of these phones, as well as the huge price tag attached to such an order, we were considering designing the phones and 3D printing them.
    I was wondering if anybody has had any experience 3D printing props or tips they would like to share. We would love to hear any thoughts about it before we give the go ahead for the plan.
     
  2. Amiers

    Amiers Well-Known Member

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    Try to get the best pictures and or render of what you want. I would also make the phone and the receiver separate and have them print in a standard phone jack so you can have a fo cord in there as well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
  3. Colin

    Colin Active Member

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    If you can get yourself a single example of the real thing (one is affordable enough, and pretty essential for most prop stocks) then you can use a 3D scanner to create the source file and save a bunch of CAD time. Might have to sacrifice the receiver-to-earpiece cord if still intact, in order to scan the two pieces separately. My experience is very limited, but this technology is popping up all over, including on the campus where I work. There's even this all-in-one solution coming out soon, which we are supposedly getting a fleet of.
     
    sk8rsdad likes this.
  4. SHCP

    SHCP Active Member

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    Before you 3D print these things, you may still want to look into other ways to make them. Casting, vacuforming etc. 3D printing is very cool right now, but there are a lot of techniques that work just fine to make props like phones. My experience with 3D printing is that you have to make a lot of little pieces, and it is still pretty time intensive.
     
  5. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Have you priced vintage replica telephones, A quick google search found some which may be suitable in the $50 range.
     
  6. Colin

    Colin Active Member

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    Yes, replicas are available, and yes there are other ways to fabricate. When I did Crazy For You the quantity of phones needed made both original and replica phones cost prohibitive, but if you can afford the replicas then go for it of course.

    Whether to fabricate in some 'analog' way or by 3D printing is another question of resources and also personal preference. I would default to more traditional methods if feasible, but that doesn't mean they would necessarily be cheaper or quicker or better quality.

    With 3D printers starting at just a few hundred dollars, it could even be sensible for a company to buy one if they have or can afford a computer and software to go with (and many do for CAD and such). In the OP's situation of needing a prop perhaps fairly quickly and without a steep learning curve, it would be useful to first price some of the many 3D printing services available online and in many localities, and then also look into academic resources. 3D scanning/printing, laser cutting and the like are very popular at colleges and even some high schools now. These are often purchased with grant money, and (speaking from personal experience here) the stewards of those grants are veerrrry interested in putting the equipment to good use in order to, for instance, secure the next year of a conditional multi-year grant. If you ask, you are likely to find them happy to help you do your project for cost of materials if that. If not, then casting could be a totally viable and fun alternative.
     
  7. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    Check around also for a local hackerspace or makerspace, which tend to have pretty impressive machining equipment, both additive and subtractive, and people who know how to drive it.
     
  8. kicknargel

    kicknargel Well-Known Member

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    I'd be curious to hear about the cost of materials for printing something like a phone.
     
  9. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    When we did this in high school we made them from wood, wire and plastic cups. Painted black and from fifty feet away in the dark they looked great.

    Of course now I work on the opposite end and we would just go buy 30 reproduction phones.
     
  10. Chris Rigby

    Chris Rigby Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions and tips! One of the reasons we are pursing 3D printing is because our school already owns several 3D printers, and would be more than happy to accomadate such a project. At the moment, the only hold-up is finishing some pricing and making sure it is really what we want to do. In the case that printing is cost prohibitive, we will probably just go the old fashioned way and make them by hand.
     
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  11. Fountain Of Euph

    Fountain Of Euph Active Member

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    3D printing also has takes a significant amount of time to print. Your looking at maybe a week of printing at least. If you have acess to a printer and CAD, good props painters and you have the time, go for it. Otherwise it may be best to just print the handset and build the basses out of more traditional methods.
     
  12. BrianF

    BrianF Member

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    Responding to this post because I've just finished doing this exact project with my Printer. Using my Lulzbot Mini (which I personally own), I made Eight candlestick phones for Crazy for You.

    Not including initial cost of the printer ($1200), and my personal time to design and print, the cost in Materials was a little over $80. Specifically 3x 1Kg spools of PLA filament, plus some scraps I had laying around. At the time of production, our Props Master was unable to find enough phones for cheaper than $25 each, so comparatively 3D printing was half the cost.

    Everything was printed between .18mm and .25mm Layer Height at 1.5mm thick depending on the piece.

    Total time for the Project was about 20 Days from start to finish. This is including 3 Days of downtime for maintenance on the printer, design changes, unexpected power outages (Printer and PC were not on a UPS) and waiting for additional filament to arrive. I also did not do any prints at night since our apartment is small and the sound kept my Wife up at night ( I also did not feel comfortable moving the Printer to the theater Mid-project).

    Time was the biggest cost obviously, but there are a lot of ways I learned to cut that down.
    -Design parts to use as little filament as possible (also saves on cost)
    -Avoid using infill as much as possible
    -Print at night ( I was unable to do this for this project, but I have done it before. I essentially lost 100+ hours in print time because I did not run the printer overnight.)
    -Print at lower layer heights (I could have gone as high as .28mm for every part, effectively cutting print time down by 1/3, but wanted something that would look nice closer up as well)
    -There is now an upgrade available for my printer which promises to cut print time between 1/3 to 1/2.

    We decided to do this project partly as a proof of concept, as we were curious what we could realistically accomplish with a 3D printer.

    Takeaways
    + You can make the exact prop your looking for, with smart design and planning you can even produce objects larger than the printer build area. (final phones were about 1/2 taller than the printers build height)
    + Cheap (each phone was about $8 a pop)
    + Can print complex objects that would be difficult for other machining tools.
    + Can quickly implement design changes.
    + Time efficient on man hours (I would spend about 10 Minutes each morning setting up the days prints, then head to work, Prints would often finish within an hour of me getting home.)

    - Initial investment is expensive upfront.
    - Mass production of parts takes a long time (Had we someone on our staff skilled in mold making, I would have simply made a single Phone, then cast the other 7)
    - Learning Curve (As with any new machine, it takes time to properly learn how to use it.)
    - Cheaper/Faster methods, depending on the prop. (Just because you CAN print it, doesn't mean it makes sense to)
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  13. Joshua Warner

    Joshua Warner New Member

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  14. StradivariusBone

    StradivariusBone Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    That's my thought. I'm a newb to 3D printing, but I just had one done at my library for a Raspberry Pi case (an SNES looking one for my retropie) and it cost me $15. Granted that is probably more than just the cost of the filament, but it's pretty tiny and it took 8 hours for the machine to print it.
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Unless the audience is REALLY close, I seriously doubt it's worth the trouble. Some 3/4" plywood, 3/4" dowel, metal bracket, a couple of odd sized plastic cups, and some tie line. Paint them up nice. You can nock those out in an afternoon and the audience will never know the difference.
     
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