Each piece had to be part of a working puppet rig and the hero puppets will be about 12 inches tall so strength, fidelity, and an accurate representation of original drawings were all things that were really important to me.
I used a Cube3D printer (2nd generation) and right out of the box I printed a few models that were included that turned out pretty well. With the factory models I was looking for limitations in the printing process because I knew they were designed to look good, and once you start printing custom models, any imperfections or shortcomings are going to be amplified. Kind of like the magnifying mirrors people use to pop zits. The thing is, I love imperfections. I think they give pathos to what might otherwise be a cold lifeless thing. I just want to have as much control over them as possible so that I don't get halfway through a shot and have my puppet break in the middle of it.
The 3 things I noticed were:
1. The Cube has a hard time with cantilevers. Holes, dangly things, arms...These were going to have to be modeled with support structures.
2. The "smart" supports that the cube software uses are super janky. As is usually the case with any technology that carries the "smart" moniker, it isn't. It's not that they didn't try, it's impressive that with the click of a button Cube will throw in supports so your model doesn't look like a Dali painting. I just find that when I'm modeling, I'm going to know where the supports belong better than the software and I can reduce a lot of excess flashing and print goobers.
3. The printer is loud, slow, fussy, and totally awesome. When you're printing, half the time it sounds like it's burning out motors, and the other half it sounds like a super badass aphex twin song.
My 3D experience is mostly in Maya and Zbrush and I knew I would be using a pipeline that involves Drawing>Maya>Cube Software>Printer. The cube uses a proprietary file format (.cube) but the software will accept stereo lithography file types (.stl) which is more standard, although Maya doesn't natively support .stl so I found a great .stl exporter plugin called multitool (here) and after a little tooling (converting maya units to inches, installing the .mel script...) I got a successful .stl export from Maya. I brought the .stl into the cube software, prepped it for printing, exported a .cube file and printed! The results are above, note that I shot the print with a coat of primer before I took a picture so it's a little hard to see, but it's looking pretty good!