German costume company Lightning Cosplay has utilized Zortrax desktop 3D printers to create a range of video game-inspired costumes, including outfits influenced by the upcoming open-world RPG Cyberpunk 2077.
The two-person enterprise based in the city of Mönchengladbach, makes tailor-made outfits for customers which allow them to impersonate their favorite characters from books, games or movies. Adopting 3D printing has allowed them to create such detailed replicas, that they have also been commissioned to create costumes for renowned game producers such as Bethesda, THQ Nordic and CD Projekt.
Lightning Cosplay’s 3D printed costumes
The cosplay company’s dynamic duo Ralf Zimmermann and Laura Jansen began designing costumes inspired by fantasy characters in 2012. Back then it was just Laura’s hobby, and she created the outfits in her spare time for friends, family and fellow comic book fans at conventions. Soon the precision of her ensembles drew attention from video game companies that were looking for companies to make costumes or props for promotional events, thus turning her hobby into a full-time job.
“Most of our projects are created on commission of game producers who want to “revive” their virtual heroes during promotional events,” said Zimmermann, who runs Lightning Cosplay with Jansen, his business partner. Before the team started using 3D printers to create these outfits, they cut the costume elements from foam, or formed them from thermoplastic materials. While this proved to be successful in fulfilling the company’s initial orders, the duo quickly realized that they would need to scale their production methods, in order to meet the company’s increasing customer demand.
“Sometimes we still use such solutions,” added Zimmermann. “However, if amateur creation of artifacts and costumes becomes treated as a business, you will need to use the right equipment. With tight deadlines and demanding customers, an accurate and precise printer, such as the Zortrax Inkspire, improves the design process greatly and allows us to achieve better results.”
How Zortrax 3D printing has accelerated production
Lightning Cosplay’s projects typically start with artworks and in-game screenshots featuring the character whose costume is to be made. These references are fed into the Blender open-source modeling software, yielding a 3D model of the costume, which is then divided into smaller pieces, ready to be fabricated using both LPD and UV LCD 3D printers.
According to Zimmermann, the costume elements are produced using default settings, because a manual set up for each piece would be too time-consuming. “I use default settings because I don’t want to think too much about these kinds of things. That’s one of the reasons we chose Zortrax machines”, explained Zimmermann. “Printers like the Inkspire are entirely plug and play and will surely save you a lot of time and stress.”
Initially the team used a Zortrax M200 3D printer to create their props and costumes, but as the business grew, this was supplemented with a resin Zortrax Inkspire 3D system. The upgraded device allowed the duo to produce more accurate elements, with a final height of less than 2 cm, and a precision of 0.025 mm for each layer height. These small and sophisticated pieces could not be produced with knives or standard extrusion-based machines, and allowed the team to add tiny elements to improve their costumes. “The lowest you can get with the layer height on an FFF 3D printer is 0.09 mm, so using the Inkspire really makes a huge difference, especially in printing small pieces”, said Zimmermann.
Using the Inkspire 3D printer has also allowed the pair to start producing figurines, accessories and clothing items inspired by video games and extended their cooperation with retail customers. “Because this printer is inherently more precise than all extrusion-based machines, it opened up so many new possibilities”, said Zimmermann. “We started to try new things like printing collections of small figurines for various video games. The precision of the Inkspire enables us to achieve a sufficient level of detail, even in such small models”.
Offering their merchandise online has proved to be an essential form of revenue for the company during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the events where the company usually presents its costumes have been canceled, and orders for many new costumes have been postponed or suspended. Thanks to the business couple’s ingenuity, and the flexibility provided by Zortrax’s desktop 3D printers, the company is finding new ways to adapt and thrive.
Zortrax in the 3D printing industry
Polish 3D printer manufacturer Zortrax’s systems have been used in a wide variety of applications in recent years.
In July 2017 for instance, Zortrax helped to refine the design of the Photon educational robot by 3D printing 25 prototype versions of the bot using its M200 3D printer. The robot, which raised $52,829 via kickstarter, is designed to encourage children to learn programming and engage in robotics.
Additionally, the company prototyped numerous 3D printed parts for the Polish electric motorbike brand Felectra in July 2019. Using the manufacturer’s Layer Plastic Deposition (LPD) 3D printers and Z-ULTRAT filaments, Falectra managed to create a fully-functional prototype.
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Featured image shows a Cyberpunk 2077- inspired costume and prop designed and produced by Lightning Cosplay. Photo via Zortrax.