3D Printing & Finishing: Robotica Doll Lives

3D Printing & Finishing: Robotica Doll Lives

When I started printing myself Robotica, the ball jointed doll (BJD) designed by Sonia Verdu, in May 2017 I knew it was going to be a challenging and full of learning project. And yeppers, it sure was! But in a good way!

Here is the original Robotica as printed and painted by Sonia (Files can be found on Thingiverse).

Robotica by Sonia


Types of Printers Used

Yes, we have more than one printer. For technical junkies, it's a bit hard to give you 3D printer specifics, as my mechanically minded hubby build ours from the ground up, though we use both a corexy style:

corexy printing robotica by stellar evolution designs

and a delta style:

delta printing torso of robotica

If you want to know more about which printers are good to start with I highly recommend checking out the YouTube channel Maker's Muse for all the details about getting into 3D printing!

Types of Slicer Progam Used

We use Simplify3D to get our programs print ready.

Type of Filament Used

We used all the ABS we had sitting around as it was plentiful in our shop and allowed us to use up colours we had no plans for, which generally worked well in our favour.

Spool3d filament

Downside to using random colours of filament is that you might use a bit more primer to get even coating and coverage depending on what you want your final paint job to be.

What Size?

While I was still awaiting the arrival of my first BJD, a new-to-me doll by Dreaming Doll company that went by the name of Molly that I had found on eBay from a marvelous lady. I changed her name to Dana Ripley. A perfect sci-fi name. 

Dana Ripley at 58 cm tall BJD

All I knew at the time Dana would be 58cm (23 in) tall! Twice as large as a Barbie which is 29cm (11.5 in)! So I was like, sure, let's make Robotica that size too!

That meant increasing each part we printed by 153% in scale! There were ONLY a few times we forgot to upscale and wasted a bit of filament..DOH! 

I also had to remember she needed larger elastic to be strung with-4mm rather than 3mm from the original plan!


From May-June 2017 we continued to work on printing all the pieces that make up the doll. Some pieces were printed multiple times, as they failed, or turned to what we like to call "spaghetti", on numerous occasions. 

Spaghetti Buffet

Welcome to 3D printing....cloudy with a chance of this....Not even close to being done, still had 9 hours to go, caught in time.

 3d print Spaghetti Robotica feet

This set of hands were calling out for help!

 3d print Spaghetti Robotica hands

I scream, you scream, we all scream,"Yikes, what happened!"

 3d print Spaghetti Robotica hand blob

This isn't unusual and generally you begin to laugh at it. There are numerous causes, heat imbalances, spool rolled incorrectly, piece of filament got caught by nozzle and ruined some support object, etc. 

We have webcams inside the machines and can view when we are away from home and can do an auto shut off if necessary. They are also in fire-proof boxes. Safety first.

Manos: The Hands of Wasted Time

If you haven't watched Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the first film being Manos: The Hands of Time (original on Netfilx) you might think this title spoof/joke to be odd. But joking about it with helped keep our sanity during the many repeat prints to get them just right!

The light blue mess of ice cream looking appendage above was supposed to turn out like this: 

3D print Robotica hand correct

Normally in ball jointed dolls, the hands are on hooks and attached to the elastic cording. This allows them some movement and posing capabilities. 

In Robotica, there is a print in place ball joint, with no connection to the elastic, and a rotating cuff and ball joint were two separate but connected pieces. In the doll world that generally makes collectors sad as it takes away the potential for posing possibilities.

These manos just weren't printing well enough for my liking, especially at the larger scale size. In fact, many of the supports weren't suitable for this larger scale, so we did have to make our own supports and do a few reprints.

So, we did modify the wrist cuffs and turned the hands into ball jointed connections, so they could be attached via s-hooks and then into the arm elastic, she now has more posing superpower! Weee!

Finished result:

3D printed Robotica New Hand design-s-hooks

I've also be shared those remixed hand and forearm files to Thingiverse HERE, should anyone wish to make this adjustment to their own Robotica. 


June beging sanding while printing is ongoing...

3D printing Robotica story-sanding

So. Much. Sanding. Add some car putty to get rid of belly button. Why does cyborg have belly button? Maybe I should stop sanding for awhile...Wait till dry.

Sand. SAND. Sand some more. Hands cramping, mask sweaty.

July, print a smaller sanding stick. Sand. Never enough sanding....

It is now August. 


I Had a Plan...Sort Of...

I had an idea of the colours I wanted to use, and where I wished to use them. I also knew I didn't want a "Princess Leia" bikini look, but rather a cyborg jumpsuit with electric lines type deal. I'm a huge fan of teals and blues. I also thought maybe she would be an assassin...cause I'm a bit evil like that...

I had numerous terrible sketches, random watercolour pages, and late night scribbles that got me to where we ended up. 

Supplies & Tools

We did have great help from Eliminator RC in terms of paint selection and did end up going with acrylic paints to paint this abs print that are airbrush ready for less smell, faster paint dry times, and available colours.

Priming all parts requires more cans than you think, especially with the odd colours of parts. And remember to protect your lungs!

Priming Robotica

Oh, and yeah, an airbrush. Budget kept us to a single action siphoned feed but as I've never used one before, it was cool with me. I'm totally one to buy the tools you can afford at the time and upgrade as you go. 

Painting 3D prints with airbrush

3d print painting 2

Tips for Painting: 

  • Practice on all those misprinted parts!!
  • Mask off areas with painters tape-it is your friend.
  • Use heat gun or hair dryer to help aid dry times (be careful not to overheat paint or burn yo'self)
  • Don't put down your clear coat spray paint you were using on the final painted pieces and then pick up the black primer the Hubby is using for something else that is sitting right next to it and then proceed to spray black primer on your nearly perfect finished piece!!!!! THE HORROR!!! Rectified by fast application of paint thinner and then repainting-ugh! At least it was on smaller piece and not large one! Guess the main tip is to do a check spray on scrap board before letting that spray loose on final pieces!

    3d painting oops
  • Also don't rinse your airbrush pieces over the sink drain, they will fit down it. Then you need to order a new set of needle pieces...live and learn!

September fades in and out as I clear coated and let cure for over a month, as I was awaiting silicone discs from Taiwan to put inside the joints of the doll, to prevent scratching of the paint inside the joints and to the ball portion of them. 

I also created a few different eyes by 3D printing the eyes supplied in the design, and filling them with paint and then epoxy resin!

3d printing robotica eyes

I prefer to be able to angle the eyes to express different emotions while photographing them, so I preferred my doll head eyeball-less. Plus what a fashion accessory!

3D printing and painting Robotica

I also hot glued the socket joints (smearing a bead of hot glue to a thin layer inside a joint which can be removed if needed) to give her some more friction which gave her the ability to help hold poses...


October is here! The Once all the joints were ready to go, it was time. Time to string her together, no more waiting. Just do it. Come on, you can do this. OMG. It's real and I was kinda nervous!

Here she is emerging from the printer...

Robotica emerging from the printer

Robotica emerging from printer 2

Robotica Back

Robotica face

 Now onto the cyborg catalog shots...

Robotica poses 1 Robotica poses 2

Robotica poses 3

Robotica poses 4

Robotica poses 5

 For all the images and more poses, head over to my Flickr account!


I'm pretty sure I will need to yet design and print a cool stand for her to protect her when she is out and about showing off! 

I'd also love to create a unique carrying bag, like a rocket ship or a capsule or shipping crate. If you have an idea I'd love to hear it!


I can now say, as she is now completed, in October 2017, 5 months later, that I surely learned much and spent many hours as well as funds. It was not cheaper to print my own doll, compared to buying one. No one will ever have this exact doll. She is my own blood, sweat and tears. 

I enjoy the pleasure of immersing myself in a hobby, to see if I can build it, and enjoy seeing the success of the challenge completed as well as sharing my knowledge with others to help them complete their own.

What have you challenged yourself, your family or your friends to take on lately? What would you like to dabble in? Start with small projects, steps or just one YouTube video or tutorial, you will be amazed where it could lead!

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