Open Forum

3d Design/printer

  • 1.  3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-02-2016 22:45

    I'm looking at being able to use 3D design and printer in my theatre class.  Has anyone included that in their curriculum for sets, lights, costumes or props?  


    Sheryl Goodspeed
    Theatre Teacher
    Palos Verdes CA

  • 2.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-03-2016 09:59

    Still working on it, but with the advent of a $400 3d printer, it has now become affordable. Basically, the students will need to know:

    1. How to create the digital 3d models in the computer, (I like Sketchup, but to some that's old hat). This is a unit in itself, including designing the models so that they can be printed in pieces within the design limits of the printer, then put together. I like the idea of breaking these down into stock units, i.e; platforms, flats, 3d units, etc.

    2. Printing and assembly, which if it is a large class can be extremely time consuming, especially if the printer decides to be a pain.

    3. So, a drafting program that speaks the language, or can be translated into a language the printer understands, curriculum to teach that program and balance it with the time constraints of the printer actually printing, and all this integrated into the design unit itself, complete with script reading, tech analysis, visual metaphors, preliminary sketches, paper models, then the finished piece.

    Been trying to do this for years. Hope it goes well.

    JIm Gunn
    Director of Theatre Arts
    Madera High School
    Madera CA

  • 3.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-03-2016 10:27

    Hi Sheryl!

    My name is Lawrence and I work for Samuel French, Inc. We have developed a 3D printing element for Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, as well as making the play interactive for iPad. Check it out here. At the end we provide the file and specs for a 3D-printed Toy Soldier. I think it’s a pretty great way for you to engage your students where the world of Agatha Christie in the 1930’s meets the cutting edge technology of today. 

    If you need any help, or any more information, let me know!


    Lawrence Haynes
    Marketing Associate: Musicals
    Samuel French
    New York NY

  • 4.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-03-2016 12:08
    Edited by George Ledo 06-03-2016 12:10

    Hi, Jim,

    Your proposed program sounds great, and I'm intrigued.

    As an old-school set designer (sketches, paper models, more sketches, and finally a final model or color rendering), I'm curious as how you would use 3D printing in the process, i.e., where the advantage would be in printing a final set model over making it the old-fashioned way. I'd love to have an excuse  :-)   to get into 3D printing in my work, but so far I haven't found one, besides using it to make highly-detailed final products (props and such) like they do in the movie industry.

    Can you give us a little more on your thoughts? Thanks.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 5.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-04-2016 09:58

    Has anyone looked at this device? The visual art teacher and I are looking at it together.

    John Perry
    Drama Instructor
    Atherton High School
    Louisville KY

  • 6.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-06-2016 12:55

    Hi All:

    We have a 3d printer in our building.  We have used it to print props as well as models of the set. I think it is tremendously useful and incorporates STEM into the classroom. While it hasn't been used yet-- I think it could also be used for marketing as well to print chotsky's for sale or give away.  My son in theater production at university also has a 3D printer that he uses for models for set design.  It is not difficult other than learning to design in 3D-- but there are many files that are already available.    Today we are printing a brain for an English project-- It will take 7 hours to print-- so it is not a fast process with our model of printer.  

    The 3d modeling process does take time and there are considerations as well.  We use a Makerbot Replicator which is open.  Our country regulations require that it needs to be used under a fume hood since it is not an enclosed system.  So there are lots of considerations

    All in all though it is fun.- and an important introduction of the technology. SO go forth in the world of 3D printing. 

    Jeanne Mayo
    Sykesville MD

  • 7.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-07-2016 22:38
      |   view attached

    Hi Sheryl,

    We use a 3d printer for specialty props (Ariel's voice in a shell) and set models.This is a terrific way of combining technology and design.

    If I had to choose where to invest my money I would encourage you to look into a CNC machine. We've used one for cutting coral, palm trees, and columns for the set of A Little Mermaid Jr, the spider design railings and a 4" x 8" wallpaper stencil for The Addams Family, and a stencil, clock hands, and nursery windows in Peter Pan (see photo).

    Krista Carson Elhai
    Theatre Director
    Claremont HS
    An International Baccalaureate World School
    Claremont CA

  • 8.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-08-2016 20:40

    Krista - Your set is amazing! Thanks for including the picture so we could see what you were talking about. It seems like you are able to use this CNC machine for multiple applications.  Can you provide more information about your CNC machine? I was not familiar with this, so I looked it up real quick - now I am hooked. I would seriously love to see one of these in person and have a chance to try it out!  Is this machine something that you have for your theatre shop, or is it a part of technology classes in your school, or used from a professional shop, or...????  Any idea how much something like this costs?  Do you have more photos of some of the other projects you mentioned making with this instrument?

    Does anyone else out there have experience with a CNC? Tell us what you know and how you have used it!

    Megan D'Orvilliers
    Coral Springs FL

  • 9.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 06-19-2016 09:26


    Our cnc router is a DIY system with components sourced from a lot of different places.

    The big one we use is from It was less expensive than most machines of comparable quality.

    There are a lot of new ones on the market now that might be worth researching. We also rent time on one in a local professional scene shop for some of our larger projects.

    Attaching pictures of The Little Mermaid, Jr coral and The Addams Family railings.

    Krista Carson Elhai
    Theatre Director
    Claremont HS
    An International Baccalaureate World School
    Claremont CA

  • 10.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 10-31-2021 12:51
    Hi Krista,
    Can you please tell me what material did you use to make the scenery for your production?
    I am far from an expert on 3D printing, but I read that it can using ABS, PLA, SBS or PETG filaments. Do 3D printers need any special maintenance?
    How long have you been making your scenery and what were the main challenges?

    Thank you in advance

    Anna Nikolson

  • 11.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 25 days ago
    Hi Anna,

    It's been five years since I made my original post and CNC technology and prices have advanced. I would suggest checking with any local Maker Faires who might be up to date in this area (and may allow you to use/rent their equipment for a try out).

    Almost all of our work was done using 3/4" plywood and lauan plywood including these Peter Pan windows and the clock hands below.

    Krista Carson Elhai
    Vice President, Educational Theatre Association
    Educational Theatre Foundation National Board of Trustees
    CA Educational Theatre Association, Past President
    CA Thespians Director of Membership & New Teacher Outreach
    Claremont CA

  • 12.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 25 days ago
    Edited by John Perry 24 days ago
    We have a local organization, LVL1, that is a "hacker space". If you are a member you can use their 3D printers, laser cutter/engraver, and their CDC. You might check around for a similar organization and there might be someone there that could help you. I have a former student who is a member and sometimes makes props for me.


    John Perry
    Retired Theatre Teacher

  • 13.  RE: 3d Design/printer

    Posted 25 days ago
    Edited by George Ledo 24 days ago
    Since my previous post here (in 2016), I've looked into 3D printers, and how they're used, quite a bit and purchased a small one to try it out.

    I can totally see using it for props and costume parts, but I don't see any purpose in using it to print models of stock flats and such. All this does is encourage students to fall back on using stock pieces instead of creating (creating) a fresh new environment for the show. It also reinforces the false idea that sets are made up of flats when there have been so many awesome sets that used no flats at all.

    Making a 3D model of the set could be very useful to the scene shop if there are complex pieces that really need studying from all sides, although, with SketchUp and proper construction drawings, I haven't found a need for this yet. A "rough" 3D model could also be useful to a choreographer, especially if they can't work with floor plans or a SketchUp model.

    As someone mentioned above, this should be done as two separate units (actually, three): learn set design, then learn the software, then learn how to use the software to visualize the set. Otherwise there's a real possibility of putting the cart before the horse.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer