Replicator, one com-badge please


I really love the Odyssey uniform from Star Trek Online, I figured it would be fun to have one. I would normally make my own but Cosplay Sky are doing a reasonable facsimile and I don’t have a lot of time to devote to sourcing materials, making a pattern and putting it all together. Buying one seemed like a no-brainer.

One thing that’s conspicuously missing is the com-badge. Thankfully /r/sto’s intrepid wiki editors have done a great job screen-shotting the various badge designs from the game. I pulled an image into Inkscape and scaled it to approximate size.

I covered the template in cellophane wrap and started rough shaping Milliput two-part epoxy putty on top of it. Milliput has a decently long set time and is a really nice material to work with.

Once I was happy that the approximate shape was there I transferred the sculpt onto a flat plastic card. This allowed me to ensure the sculpt didn’t warp and it gave me a small surface that I could move around as I worked.

Time to science this thing up! I pressed a small diameter piece of piping into the surface at the approximate location and started refining the shape to form the raised edges.

I then eyeballed the inset curves on the science logo, marked them with a scalpel and carved out the design. After tweaking the raised ridges some more I let the epoxy set overnight.

Once the sculpt was hard I filed the surfaces to remove small marks and dents, wet sanded it with 280 and 800 grit wet and dry paper then hit it with a base coat of flat black. The paint helps bring out any of the easily missed imperfections. More sanding, more paint and so on until I get a smooth surface.

I then took some Blu tack and filled in the science logo. This forms a mask which can later be removed. Three coats of silver with a light sanding in between resulted in a nice, semi-metallic finish. I then removed the tack.

I drilled three holes in the rear surface of the badge and super-glued in small but powerful magnets. I made a matching back-plate. I’m pretty happy with the result - it’s not 100% accurate but it will work for the convention this weekend. I’ll probably make a more accurate badge in the future using a 3D printer.

As no Odyssey uniform is complete without a fetching belt I figured I may as well make one of those too.

I used two-part epoxy putty for the badge but I wanted to try something I’d read about but never tried before with the badge: electroetching! No, it’s not a 1980’s music genre, it’s a method of removing metal using little more than a saturated saline (salt-water) solution and some highly-motivated electrons. Note that this shouldn’t be used as a how-to; I learned a lot during the process and I’ve read a few things that would produce better results.

The first thing I needed to do was create the template. As with the badge, this was also drawn up in Inkscape, mirrored and printed using a laser printer onto photo paper. The toner in a laser printer is a thermoset plastic - if you heat it it bonds - that, inlike an inkjet printer, sits on the surface of the paper. You need shiny paper to transfer the design onto the metal, matt paper holds onto the toner too well. Thinner paper is better as it transfers heat more efficiently.

Preferably one would use a flat piece of metal for this but all I had to hand was some aluminium pipe. I put a layer of masking tape on and marked out the dimensions of the piece I needed to cut from it.

I then took a thumb detector and hammered the aluminium section flat. Here’s an in progress photo:

I sanded the surface of the metal with increasingly fine grades of wet and dry paper until the scratches were very fine. Transferring the design onto the metal involves placing your design onto the surface, setting your iron to eleven and ironing the hell out of it. The tricky part of this is to ensure uniform coverage - any missed bits will leave the design on the paper. I had three goes at this. Any gaps in the template can be filled in with a permanent marker. The toner and marker forms what it known as a ‘resist’, any areas covered by the resist will not be etched.

The electroetching setup is really simple, if you’re interested there are a bunch of how-tos a mere duckduckgo search away. All that’s required is a non-conductive tray in which to immerse both the object and a sacrificial piece of metal (stainless steel seems to be preferred). I had an old computer PSU that I’d modified for battery charging, it can output 5 or 12 volts DC and supply a couple of amps of current.

Contact! (For the love of Dog, do this outdoors. I am not responsible for any AoE damage effect this might cause to your body should the gases ignite and you blow yourself to smithereens! (I switched this on briefly indoors to take a photo.))

After about ten minutes of periodic checking I’d noticed a few patches of the resist had flaked off, the etch was reasonably deep so I stopped it. The result looks kind of cruddy and you’ll notice the conspicuous areas along the outer border where the resist flaked off. Thankfully I had allowed for this (to a degree).

Time to get the files and sandpaper out! I removed the resist and started cleaning up the non-etched areas. You can see it’s not quite perfect but it has a well-worn look that I really like. Only thing left to do is mount it onto a belt I bought.
Voilà! One finished anti-gravity device.

Lessons learned:
All indications are that a cut-vinyl resist would be more effective than the toner-transfer method I used here.
Start with a piece of flat metal!
I could use a pulse-wave modulated DC source to vary the etching rate.

Thanks for taking the time to read. :slight_smile:


That. Is. Awesome. :grinning: