Technology in the Doll World- DIY 3D Printed Dolls

This past month, my mom and I decided to really use our 3D printer to the best of its abilities– to 3D print some ball jointed dolls! Found on the popular 3D printing site Thingiverse, these projects turned out to be winners!

3D Printed Dolls

The first project we decided to print was Froggy. Froggy was designed by an artist named Loubie. I am estimating it took me 26 or so hours to complete this print. I didn’t start keeping track of the hours each piece took until Robotica, who you’ll see next! Unlike the other two projects you’ll see, Froggy took some gluing before he was able to be strung.  My favorite parts of him are his huge frog feet and his fantastically sculpted/designed face. Froggy was printed in green Dremel brand PLA filament. He wasn’t the simplest thing to string, but eventually we got him together.

3D Printed Frog

3D Printed Frog

3D Printed Frog

The second project we printed also took around 26 hours to complete and is pretty awesome! Meet Robotica. She’s the creation of doll artist Shira (aka Sonja Verdu). Shira made an amazing sculpt/design for Robotica, which includes a cool panel like skin, a well defined bust/torso and some pretty awesome leg pieces. Robotica has a headcap, which allows you to do whatever you want with the eye area. My Robotica is currently using dark blue beads as eyes. She was printed with InLand temperature sensitive PLA. In cold temps, she’ll turn dark blue and in warmer temps, she’ll turn white-ish! For some reason, as you will see in the pictures below, she photographs purple in low light.

Robotica, 3D Printed BJD

Because I strung her legs poorly, she won’t stand, but if someone who was a master at stringing worked on her, I bet she’d be really great at standing. I’m not going to worry about it for now, though, because she looks fine sitting and her arms and head are strung tight enough for me to pose her upper body. Robotica’s hands move forward and backward. Her wrists were supposed to turn, but my printer fused these pieces together.

Robotica, 3D printed BJD

3D Print: Robotica

3D Print: Robotica

The last project we tried was also designed by Shira. This time, we printed her smaller Jointed Robot. My mom requested him. He took about 9 hours to print and was a terror to string (those darn arms), but we managed it eventually! I love how the robot turned out, myself. The print, especially his face, is adorable. I think I may try to print this guy larger one of these days. (The same goes for Robotica. There was a company that printed her human size and the results look pretty cool!) If you do decide to print this Jointed Robot, you may run into issues with his fingers. I printed the hand, which included three fingers, multiple times and each time I did, the fingers, made to move independently, would break (or fall off). In the end, we had to glue these fingers into place.

3D Printed Robot

3D Printed Robot

3D Printed Robot

Now, you may be thinking, ‘I don’t have a 3D printer, so I can never make these.’ Wrong. Many libraries nowadays are buying 3d printers and things for their patrons to use, so there’s a good chance that if you’re determined and okay with making several trips to, for example, your library, you can actually print one of these for your own collection! (Many schools are buying 3D printers, too, so if you’re a student, you may have access to one!) On top of that, there are sites that will actually print STL files for you and then ship you the results. Shapeways offers this service, but I’m sure there are also many other sites around that might be able to do this for you.  It may be a little more costly then finding a local haunt with a rentable 3D printer, but it’s an option!

3D Print: Robotica

The number of projects on the internet for BJD’s like these are slim at the moment, but I hope more artists try their hand at making 3D printable dolls for us to enjoy! This whole thing makes me think about Makies, the 3D printed doll company that closed up shop early this year. (Find real printable Makies files on Thingiverse here!) Wouldn’t it have been interesting if they had evolved into something that was more ‘do it yourself’, rather than doing all the printing in house? If they had created files that were easy to print and modify for users to print on their own printers, saving them the cost of all that filament? (Sure they wouldn’t be as pretty or well constructed, but if printing these three dolls taught me anything, it’s that it’s so cool being able to say you printed your own BJD!) It’s an interesting thought.

So, I’ll leave you with this question. With 3D printers making their way from industrial plants into homes, how do you see them affecting the doll market? Do you plan on trying your hand at printing your own BJD or even designing your own? (I’m not talented enough to do that, so if you are, why not try!) Let me know in the comment area!

May 27, 2016. Tags: . Uncategorized.


  1. Iphis of Scyros replied:

    I’ve seen a few BJD kits on Etsy and Shapeway that I’ve been wanting to get, though I’m a little afraid of trying to string them. How long did the stringing part actually take?

    Part of me would love to have a 3D printer and be able to do these projects from start to finish like this, but those printers are so expensive! (Think of all the dolls I could buy with that money!) Also I’d probably start flooding Etsy with really crappy 3D printed stuff if I had one, and that’s the last thing Etsy needs. 😛

    • kewpie83 replied:

      I never think to check Etsy for dolls. I should start! Are you good at stringing normal BJD’s? Are you good at tying tight knots? If so, then you should be able to string these well enough. The frog didn’t have a video to show you how to sting it, so that was a little tough. Shira’s designs had videos that showed you how to do it. They’re linked in the Thingiverse sites I hyperlinked in the post. The easiest to string was Robotica. The Jointed Robot was easy until you got to this arms, which aren’t three pieces, like you’d expect, but one single printed piece. I struggle with tying tight knots, myself, but I think you could probably sting one. 🙂

      There are some more affordable printers out there if you look and I think we’ll be seeing more as time goes by. Think of Mattel and their Thingmaker, which won’t be as cool as other 3d printers unless they allow it to print all files, not just their own. (We’ll have to see.) I print on a Dremel Idea Builder, but lucked out in the fact that it was sent to me for review from a program I participate in.

      • Iphis of Scyros replied:

        I’ve never strung a regular BJD…wait, do they arrive in pieces, too? (Guess I’ll find out soon; there’s one winging his way here right now…) I’m not great at tying knots, tight or otherwise, ’cause I have pretty chunky fingers. 😦 Still, I want to give it a try…though perhaps I should start on an easier 3D printed doll. (The one I was really eyeing is a centaur…but maybe I should try the mermaid first; fewer parts. 😛 )

        Wow, that must be a great review program! I’d say I’m jealous, only I don’t think I’d want the pressure of writing timely and consistently informative reviews like you do. (I like having the option of wimping out and just saying “I like it”…)

  2. Taswegian1957 replied:

    I think it is early days yet but it is a fascinating idea. How wonderful it would be to be able to create the exact doll you wanted. Maybe in the future toy manufacturers will offer kits if the printers become cheap enough to be household items. You could design your own Barbie or make one up from a bought design. One step closer to Star Trek’s Replicator.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Regarding Barbie, I really want the Thingmaker to take off, b/c how cool would it be to be able to print Barbie shoes, bracelets, etc with Mattel’s design team backing it up? If Mattel is smart, they’ll work the Thingmaker into their other brands, too. One company is already selling files, but I haven’t bought them yet. I prefer free! 😉

  3. Taswegian1957 replied:

    I love Froggy by the way.

  4. Blackkitty replied:

    Seeing how Mattel keeps ignoring the demand for spare doll parts, it would be great to print the ever-missing MH hands for used dolls.

  5. Elodie replied:

    I’m looking into getting a 3d printer once I get enough money I was looking at the Flash Forge 3d printer I was looking at the UP Mini but they don’t sell it anymore and the new one is over 1,000 dollars. This one is a bit pricey too but hey you only live once.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      I hear that the first version of the Dremel Idea Builder (my printer) was a Flash Forge, just rebranded. My printer retails at roughly $1,000, though I didn’t have to pay for it. (Got it for review.) I think 3D printers will be going down in price within the next few years. They’re going to become household items, like laptops and portable phones.

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