The week of October 26, 2014

The 3D-printed future of Halloween

By Mike Wehner

You know that super awesome Halloween costume idea you’ve had for the past five years but still haven’t had the time to put together? The one that would take weeks of design, fabrication, and a ridiculous amount of skill? Whether you want to be Iron Man or Samus Aran, creating a jaw-dropping costume can seem nearly impossible, but this year could be the year that you make it happen—and without all the moulding, casting, and pouring that normally goes into such projects.

Welcome to the magical world of 3D-printing.

3D printers come in all shapes and sizes, from bread-box-sized units to machines large enough to crush a man, but they all do the same thing: conjure solid objects out of thin air. Well, thin air and some plastic. The resulting items are typically rough and far from finished, but they provide the foundation for a costume revolution that is just beginning to take shape.

Take Neomek for example. The company specializes in 3D-printing solutions for businesses, but it couldn’t resist the temptation to engage in a little Halloween mischief by turning Vice President Jim Clark’s son into a disturbingly realistic version of Dr. Finkelstein from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

“I have always been a fan of Tim Burton movies,” Clark said. “When we decided to create a costume, Nightmare Before Christmas was the first idea. We also knew we wanted to use both 3D scanning and 3D printing for the costume. Dr. Finkelstein was a perfect fit. We designed the head and ‘beak’ prosthetics directly from the 3D scan data. The glasses were even designed directly from the 3D scan.”

When the Halloween-themed flick debuted in 1993, the options for recreating the unsettling doctor were slim. Crafting the facial features out of plaster or attempting to pour a mould in the shape of Finkelstein’s oversized head was about as good as you could get. Now, a quick scan, some tweaks with 3D-modeling software, and a click of the Print button produces high-quality costume bits that can transform any kid into a movie character with startling accuracy.

Clark said Neomek doesn’t have any immediate plans to focus on Halloween costumes at the moment, but that isn’t stopping him from using 3D printers for his own costume projects.

“My son is going to be Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead,” he said. “We will be printing some zombie ears for his necklace.” He added, “I strongly suspect the use of 3D printing for Halloween costumes will become quite popular over the next few years.”

I know what you’re thinking. Neomek is a 3D-printing company, so it makes sense that it can create awesome Halloween gear, but what about the rest of us? If redditor Talaaya’s Samus Aran costume is any indication, the results can be downright stunning. In case you’re confused: No, this isn’t actually Samus—this is just a really amazing costume.


Photo via Talaaya/Imgur

With the help of 3D-printing guru Matt Serle, everything from the mask to the arm cannon of everyone’s favorite intergalactic bounty hunter was recreated by Talaaya with a level of detail that can only be described as obsessive. It’s a level of accuracy and customization that only a 3D printer can offer. Hundreds of hours were spent between 3D design, sanding, and painting, but I think you’ll agree that the resulting outfit is absolutely worth it.

But the amazing final products are really only half the story. The beauty of 3D printing is that now that Talaaya’s gorgeous creation is done, she’s made the files used to print the pieces available for download for absolutely no cost. It’s a remarkably generous gesture, and it will make replicating the costume a whole lot easier.

At sites like Instructables and Thingiverse, even novice 3D printer owners can create a countless number of creepy costumes. And we’re not just talking about generic ghosts and ghouls here—you can count on perfectly replicated Iron Man helmets, Predator masks, and even Hellboy’s signature sawed-off horns.

Talented 3D printer owners aren’t stopping at costumes, either. There is a seemingly endless number of creepy decorative items you can download and print. Want to add the Grim Reaper to your desk? Done. How about horrific, bloody lamp on your coffee table? No problem. Need something Halloween-themed for youngsters with a sweet tooth? You can print that, too.


Photo via samohtep/Instructables

3D printing might be the future of custom costumes, but it won’t be without cost. Even smaller, home versions of 3D printers from manufacturers like MakerBot will cost you north of $1,000, and many times that if you want something capable of printing larger objects. That’s to say nothing of the materials, which can cost hundreds on their own for a costume-sized project.

Thankfully, consumer-serving companies like UPS are getting in on the personal-printing game by allowing customers to provide their own 3D plans and have them printed at a local UPS Store. This streamlines the process a good bit and makes 3D-printing available to virtually everyone, even if they can’t afford to drop a few thousand dollars on their own printer.

Traditional Halloween shops will never go out of style, but 3D-printing is a fantastic—if expensive—solution to custom costumes that were never possible before. As the costs of the technology dips, this will become even more apparent, and some day soon you might wonder how anyone enjoyed their Halloween parties before 3D printers.


Photos via Neomek | Remix by Jason Reed