Community Spotlight: Jim Rodda Zheng3 Postmortem for Faire Play Barbie Armor Project #3DThursday #3DPrinting

Parade head

Describe the specific project we will explore in detail. Describe what you were making in your own terms.

Faire Play is 3D printed medieval armor that’s compatible with the Barbie Fashionistas line of dolls.

How this project relate to who you are and what you do as a designer, maker, etc.?

As a nerdy medievalist, I’ve logged countless hours playing Dungeons and Dragons and wolfing Ye Olde Turkey Legs at Renaissance faires, so designing a set of armor was a natural place to go. Juxtaposing a traditionally passive toy like Barbie with an action-oriented set of armor appealed to my unorthodox tendencies. I want to encourage little girls to play with toys that break traditional gender roles, but at the same time respect Barbie’s character in the design. The armor had to be beautiful enough for the Queen of Fashion to wear, which was an opportunity to add gratuituous detail.

What did you make? What were your original goals with the project?

The final project encompassed three suits of armor: the Athena Makeover Kit, the Faire Play Field Plate, and the Faire Play Parade Armor.

Doll with bow

What Went Right?

What were your favorite results from the project?

The parade armor helmet turned out beautifully. As soon as I can get an FDM printer than can handle it I’ll be printing a full-sized one for myself to wear around the house.

How have others responded to the design – in person or online?

The response to Faire Play has been overwhelmingly positive. The finished project was picked up by the mainstream press for a bit, which was really quite surprising.

Just bow and quiver

New techniques that worked out.

Barbie’s breastplate has something like 400 individual rivets, plus whaleboning and other decorative flourishes. Placing all those details by hand would have taken forever, so some new software tools were required. Maintaing manifold meshes through the process of booleaning everything together was a little tricky, so breaking the model up into many, many separate shells before joining proved to be a helpful technique.

Good resources/references that made your life easier.

About 20 years ago I was a member of the Society For Creative Anachronism– we used to suit up in full armor and bash each other with wooden swords on weekends. I’ve still got a couple of suits of armor in the basement, and they were instrumental in helping me figure out how the 3D printed armor should articulate and move.

Parade shield

What Went Wrong?

Did you run out of time to built out an element you had hope to create?

The elbow joints on the armor bother me a great deal. I wish I’d had more time to create more reliable connections between the upper and lower arm pieces.

Have those who have encountered it in person or online overlooked elements you feel are crucial?

My favorite responses were from the hardcore medevial armor buffs who did not overlook *any* historical inaccuracies in the design. I’ll take refuge in the idea that Barbie’s unique anatomy required many design compromises that wouldn’t be practical in a real suit of armor.

Sword and shield

What are a few tiny details that you wish you could have explored differently?

Hobbyist 3D printing isn’t quite where I’d like it to be with regards to resolution, so many of the fine details in the armor can get lost on an FDM printer. They exist in the mesh though, so the armor’s future-proofed for a couple of years at least.

Did a design technique or fabrication method not work out as intended?

The tiny printed carabiners that hold the armor together at certain points didn’t work out as well as planned. They exist specifically so the armor can lay claim to being entirely 3D printed, but this is a case where short lengths of wire do the job a lot better.


Were you forced to find a workaround? (Even if the workaround turned out great!)

Workarounds are almost a given in a project like this, given the limitiations of FDM printing. A lot of parts have to be oriented in unintuitive ways for printing, and that leads to a lot of mental gymnastics during the design process. Barbie’s boots are a particularly egregious hack; they clamshell together in a way that no boot in history ever has.


Where Will This Project Lead You?

Is there a detail, technique, or fabrication method you used here that you plan to use (or extend) in the future?

As the resolution of hobbyist 3D printers increases more people will be able to take advantage of the details offered by software like zBrush. That seems like a good road to start heading down as a designer.

What new opportunities do you wish to explore next, based on experiences with this design?

The success of the Faire Play Kickstarter suggests that there’s a market for designs that help Makers reinterpret legacy designs and breathe new life into old toys. I’d like to do something similar to Faire Play, but bigger in scale, for my next Kickstarter.


What is the best thing that has come out of this design for you as a designer?

Jeri Ryan noticed me.

What will you probably never do the same as this design?

I will never print another 2mm carabiner as long as I live.

Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

Sparky photobomb

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