Jim Rodda was going to 3D print a My Little Pony glitter cannon for his niece's fourth birthday, but that was too hard so he decided to do something else.
3D printing a spring with enough compression to shoot glitter the way it ought to be shot out of a cannon was going to be too tricky (though he's still thinking about the idea), so he decided to 3D print a full set of medieval plate mail armor for the little one's Barbie doll.
It's a 30 piece set of armor, not including the 10 3D printed carabiners to hold the plates together, made from PLA on a MakerBot Replicator 1, and it's pretty sweet. It's so sweet, in fact, that he's almost three-fifths of the way to his $5,000 Kickstarter campaign goal to fund refinements to the design.
"You know what, I've found that a lot of people are donating and asking for no reward at all," Rodda said. "They don't even have 3D printers. They just think Barbie should have some armor and weapons, so they figure, 'Sure, I'll give the guy $5.'"
The project isn't meant as a feminist statement about the need to empower Barbie and the millions of little girls who play with the iconic doll, but it's okay if people want to think of it that way.
"It's taking Barbie's usual roll and expanding it," Rodda said. "She does not have to wait for Ken to suit up; she can take on the dragon herself. At the same time, the armor has to be something Barbie would be caught dead in."
So, it has to be absolutely fabulous. "She's still a princess," Rodda noted, only now she's a warrior princess.
The only criticism he's gotten so far is from medieval armor enthusiasts pointing out things like the scale of certain pieces of the suit wouldn't work in actual hand-to-hand combat.
"Dude, it's Barbie armor!" Rodda said.
He clearly states on his page that he is in no way associated with Mattel, "the undisputed masters of Barbie and all her associated trademarks.
"I'm just some dude cranking out 3D models in his basement," he adds.
He doesn't want to offend Mattel, or the company's lawyers.
"I feel a little like Frodo with the ring," he said. "If he puts it on, a giant eye will appear and say (in menacing voice), 'I see you!'"
On the other hand, like much of the rest of the world, Rodda can't figure out what possessed corporate executives at the toy company to allow Barbie to pose on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
"I would love to be a fly on the wall during that meeting," Rodda said. "Somebody higher than my pay grade must have made that decision."
A video game designer by trade, Rodda's also made a set of Ancient Greek armor for Barbie. The designs are free to download on his site, The Forge.
The site is also the home of Seej, a tabletop game in which players use 3D printed medieval siege weapons to hurl pennies at 3D printed flag posts hidden behind 3D printed brick walls. The first one to knock down all of his opponent's flags wins.
"My hope was that people would create their own siege weapons, and to some extent they have," Rodda said. "I've had teachers call me up offering their students' files."
Speaking of medieval warfare how did his niece like her Barbie armor?
"Oh man, I am so gonna get it from my sister," Rodda said. "You know, I don't think this armor is really appropriate for a 4 year old. No. 1, it's sharp. That sword is really sharp for a 3D printed sword. And No. 2, there are a lot of little pieces; something could wind up in someone's mouth. I don't want to be responsible for that, so I think she is gonna get an Amazon gift card and a couple of IOUs for glitter cannons."