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CCM Interview: Frankly_Built

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For our Winter issue, Creative Cosplays welcomes an incredible 3d printing cosplayer, Frank of @Frankly_built.

Known best for his fully 3d printed Iron Man cosplay that you can catch him wearing at events across the country. If you have any questions about 3d printing, Frank is the man to ask.

Let’s get into it in this CCM Interview.

Q. Frank, it is a pleasure to meet you and thank you for being a part of this issue. Please introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about your cosplay origin story.

My names Frank! I grew up in New Jersey and ended up at an automotive customization shop for a few years until I enlisted in the US Air Force, being fortunate enough to live overseas for 8 years in Japan and England. During my time in England, I watched Avengers Endgame in theaters and after seeing Tony Starks final Iron Man armor, I knew it was time to get into Cosplay. I grew up like most kids wishing to have my own Iron Man suit but now it was possible! Early 2019 I started researching how to make an Iron Man costume and by July of 2019 I had my hands on my very first 3D Printer. A Creality CR-10S!

franky_built as Iron Man

Q. What was it about cosplay that you gravitated to and has kept your interest most up till now?

It’s Iron Man. What wouldn’t pull you towards it? But honestly, I grew up watching the Marvel movies with my dad. He liked the comics as a kid, and he got me into the movies when they came out. I didn’t even know who Iron Man really was until the first movie came out and I went to see it with him. From then on, I was hooked to the MCU. And seeing that final culmination of all his technology in Endgame? Plus, the design of the MK85 paying homage to the original Ditka armor? It was beautiful. I will always make a MK85 armor. It’s my favorite.

Q. Is it safe to say that Iron Man is your favorite hero? How many different Iron Man suit variations do you currently have made? Which is your favorite?

Absolutely. As stated above I just gravitated towards the design of this suit. The bulkier more organic look. The color schemes. Everything. But there’s plenty of fish in the Iron Man sea. I’m a sucker for regal looking suits. This probably stems from my love of Gundam Models. So, when I saw the MK39 Starboost finally get its own 3D files for printing? I had to have it. An all-White, Gunmetal, and Gold Iron man suit? Its awesome looking! Currently I only have these 2 suits in my arsenal but not for long.

Q. How much time would you estimate goes into creating a complete 3d printed suit and what are some of the challenges that have encountered along the way?

Well, that’s a tricky one. While I didn’t exactly time myself, I can tell you the running average of printing a full suit varies between 1000-1500 hours of printing. Obviously, you can break this up across months, get extra printers to split the load, and learn small tricks to help save time/material. Plus, with printers getting faster, bigger, and cheaper this number will only go down further and further. Everything after the print time is nearly incalculable. It can take you weeks, months, even years to fit the armor to yourself properly, attached the pieces, add electronics, paint, and more. But that’s fine! No one’s rushing you and everyone has priorities. The fastest I’ve ever seen someone make a printed suit (print, fit, paint, etc) was about 3 months. It can be done! The biggest problem people run into is scaling. Iron Man is NOT human shaped. He has impossibly long legs and a super skinny waste. Boulders for shoulders and a small head. Humans aren’t shaped this way so when scaling a file or suit to fit a real normal human body, things can get wonky. Take your time though and get ArmorSmith by the armored garage. It’s a lifesaver.

Q. What are some of the other cosplays that you’ve created?

Right now, I’m on a Red Hood and Power Rangers kick. I just got finished adding some new pieces to my Red Hood Rebirth cosplay and my gosh it is so much more comfortable than a full plastic iron man armor. I’m also working on 2 maybe 3 new power rangers cosplays that I can’t wait to debut!

Frankly_built as Iron Man

Q. What are your future cosplay goals and plans for future builds?

Well, I've made the wild decision to completely rebuild my first Iron Man suit, the MK85. And not just rebuild it, Make it even better! I love my first suit and I’m still so happy with how it turned out. However, it was my FIRST suit. Many mistakes were made, which you can see in my first YouTube videos. It’s far from perfect and that doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve learned SO much in these past 3 years, Not only fixing my first suit and building my other White MK39 suit but helping people in the community. We all learn from each other, and I’ve never stopped paying attention. I know I can make this suit so much bigger and better! So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I won’t give away too much but in the end of this MK85 2.0 build? I’ll be able to jog in this armor. And I can’t wait. Oh, also maybe a sick Gundam Cosplay too!

Q. As someone who hasn’t had much luck with 3d printers in the past, usually due to something going wrong with complicated assemblies and testing. With quite a bit of 3d printing experience under your belt and a variety of 3d printers out there, what are some printers that you recommend most to beginners looking to create their own cosplay gear but may not have much 3d printing knowledge?

Oh, buddy now THIS is my bread and butter. I’m fortunate enough to be sent a variety of printers to test and review. I also utilize MANY of them for my own projects and builds. In just the past 3 years since I started 3D Printing the leap in quality that these machines have taken is insane! Right now, my top recommendations are the Elegoo Neptune 3 lines of 3D printers. They have one for nearly every budget. The normal Neptune 3 is just over $200 and has features on it that my $500 Creality CR-10s couldn’t dream of 3 years ago. It’s small, easy to set up and is awesome quality. From there, you have the Neptune 3 Plus which offers a larger build volume. THIS is the Perfect Cosplay Starter printer right now. Big enough for some armor pieces and especially helmets. I think it’s around $350 right now and larger than my first printer. It was some great features to dial in prints too. But with that said! Don’t get TOO hung up on specific printers! Don’t be upset you got a Sovol or Longer instead of a Neptune or Prusa! The community is MASSIVE and if YOU’RE having a problem with something? Chances are someone else has too! So, look around and you’ll find help, I promise.

Q. Are there any tricks, tips, or game changer products for the 3d printing process that you have picked up that might be helpful to others?

Power Tools. This was something the community absolutely slept on when I started. Because older 3D Printing plastic was much weaker than it is now, you couldn’t use any spinning disks or power sanders on this stuff. Now, the plastic has gotten better and strong. You can use power sanders and other dremels/tools on it. This literally and figuratively shaves off so much time when post-processing 3D Prints. That plus quality paints/products like filler primers, resin smoothing, etc.? It’s getting easier and easier to get beautiful finishes and shines on 3D Printed parts! But remember first and foremost PREP WORK IS KEY! If you have layer lines left in the Primer/Sanding stages? They’ll be there in the end! Take your time and put in the work now rather than later when you regret not sanding just a little bit more. It’ll be worth it! Just remember to always wear proper PPE and protection when using paints, sanding plastic or other types of chemicals. Your health and well-being isn’t worth a smooth print. Be safe!

Q. I’ve created an Iron Man suit once out of EVA foam which was fun to make and great to have. I can only imagine how cool it would be having a 3d printed one like yours. However, after experience how hot and uncomfortable it was, I rethink that. What are some pros and cons of 3d printed cosplays VS EVA foam. And have you figured out how techniques to stay cool inside when you’re suited up?

EVA foam is such an amazing medium and from what I can tell much more cost effective then Printing. However, they both definitely have pros and cons both ways. EVA foam can be lighter and easier to move in. You have more freedom to mold and shape the suit to fit you exactly because you’re making it FOR you. You have your body right there to test fit! But when you print, you’re at the whim of your scaling. You won’t know it fits properly until it’s done printing. This can add up to some costly wasted prints really fast. Plus being solid plastic it can be trickier (but not impossible) to reshape and form things to fit. 3D scans help a lot, but no method is perfect. With that said, 3D Printing can definitely deliver you better cleaner results with less effort and time. Is it cheating? Who cares. I hate that argument. We’re all just trying to make awesome cosplays and if people aren’t willing to accept various paths and roads to that end they don’t belong here. Obviously, the printer needs to take time to print the thing, but you don’t need to fuss around with perfect line and panel scribing, matching details, accuracy, etc. It’s all in the model already. So, I think both have great benefits depending on your budget and end goal and neither one is better nor worse. They’re both tools!

Q. You also run a successful YouTube channel. Would you like to tell us more about it and what kinds of content people can find on it?

The main focus of my YouTube is educational and tutorial-based videos. The cosplay AND 3D Printing hobby share a huge similarity in the fact that they would NOT exist or be as accessible as they are if not for the amazing community. And as I was going through my journey of printing my suit I was able to share information across both hobbies. Even if someone doesn't want to make an Iron man suit, I can still show you very simple and easy way to start 3D Printing. I always first and foremost try to remember what it was like to be BRAND NEW to the hobby. The beginners. Not the seasoned pros who know we should call it "tramming" not "Leveling" My content isn't for the people who already how to do a PID tune. It's for the people like me who have no idea where to start. I do my best to make sure every video I make has something new and exciting to offer my audience and help people in the long run.

Frankly_built Youtube channel

Q. Do you have any tips for Beginner YouTube channels like our own to get to a level like yours?

Tell a story. Even if it’s a quick one. People love conflict and resolution. They love seeing people overcome challenges and hurdles. They want to connect and understand the reason you’re making the video or at the very least the thing IN the video. That and consistency is key. You only upload once a month? Don’t miss that deadline. You don’t need to upload every day or every week, just be consistent when you do. Focus on the important parts of the videos. And for the love of God make sure your audio is good! This has absolutely cost me countless subscribers in the beginning of my YouTube career. It doesn’t matter how awesome the content and information you’re sharing is, if they can’t listen? They don’t care. Oh, and make good thumbnails. I’ll let you know when I figure that one out myself.

Q. One question that we like to ask cosplayers, especially those with multiple larger cosplay builds is, where does one with your collection keep them all when they are not being used?

Oh, it’s very apparent where I keep them. Right on display as my backdrop in my videos! How could I NOT have full Iron Man suits displayed in my studio?

Q. What is a secret about yourself that most people may not know about? What kind of CCM exclusive might you have to share?

I used to have another YouTube channel back in High school. 2007-2009 ish is when it was at its peak. We ended up with roughly 32k subscribers and back in the early days of YouTube? That was pretty good for some high school kids doing flips and stuff! The BackYard Ninjas.

Frankly_Built building Iron Man Suit

Q. Throughout your cosplay journey, what have been some cool opportunities you’ve had open up because of your cosplay work?

2 things immediately come to mind that I could’ve literally never imagined or planned for. First is being invited to red carpet premieres of Marvel movies and shows. I was fortunate enough, along with some of my friends, to attend premiers in Hollywood for Doctor Strange 2, The Eternals, Moon Knight and more. I still can’t even fully grasp how it happened or that it even really DID happen. And even if I never go to another one again, it was such a surreal and amazing experience that I’ll never forget or take for granted. But what I personally feel is even cooler than that? Is being INVITED to Comic-Cons and events. Me. They asked for ME. This still makes me feel certain ways I’m not able to fully process but to have show runners or organizers reach out and ask me to attend these events? It’s amazing. A chance to go and meet fans. To wear my suit to these events. To travel and have fun? This is a dream job and being fortunate enough for this is mind blowing.

Q. Other than cosplay, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy or what other kinds of things do you like to nerd out on most these days?

I really love One Wheeling. I wanted to grab a hobby that had no connection to this. To my socials or YouTube or anything. A hobby I could just pick up and go with. And riding my One Wheel was exactly that. It reminds me of snowboarding and just feels so freeing to float down the road and not think about anything. Aside from that, I’ve been very into fitness and the gym lately, Video games of course, and I really still love building Gundam Models. I don’t need to think about them or plan them. I can just follow the instructions and create the awesome little robots.

Q. Who are some of the cosplayers that you look up to and grab inspiration from the most?

My friends. Danny (CTK Creations) Emily (Emily the Engineer) and Kiara (Kiaras Workshop). These 3 have been with me nearly this entire journey and I love them to death. Plus, so many other amazing people I’ve met through all of this. I honestly don’t really pay attention to what other cosplayers are doing. In the sense that I don’t really look up to any of them. Don’t get me wrong, so many amazing people do so much better work then me, but I don’t particularly look to any of them for inspiration or guidance. I want to do my own thing and be better than I was yesterday. And my friends help me do that.

Q. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions and for being a part of our magazine. For anyone interested in following more of your work, where can they find you?

Thank you for having me! is the place to go!

Creative Cosplays Magazine - Spring 2023


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