While most people agree that metal armor looks amazing, it’s not the easiest material to work with, especially for beginners. Instead, many Mandalorian kit builders around the world like to use Sintra for costumes. Vac-formed ABS and 3D printing parts are also commonly used. For the price and ease of use, Sintra is the preferred material for armor plates. I recommend using Sintra for most of the armor plates, 3D prints for the wrist gauntlets, and resin casts for the helmet.
Metal Mandalorian Armor Kits
- durable, hard to damage
- won’t warp or deform in hot environments
- sounds great when you “clink” metal together
- looks and feels like real armor
- pride of owning a handmade, one-of-a-kind steel or aluminum armor kit
- can be more difficult to add attachments
- hot to wear in sunlight
- more expensive, due to the labor of a blacksmith and need for special tools
- must be custom fitted to the wearer to get the right proportions and spacing
- hard to reshape if needed
Sintra is the brand name of expanded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foam sheets. Other brand names include: Komatex, Foamex, Palight, and Celtec. It’s a hard rigid board and that comes in different sizes and colors. I recommend 3mm since it’s easy to cut with a knife, cheaper than 6mm, and you can layer it for nice effects (trauma plates). I also suggest you get the white color. If you use a hot gun, you can see if you’re starting to burn the plastic. (The plastic will get painted over anyway, so the color isn’t important.) Note that toxic fumes can be released with high heat/burning. Work in a well-ventilated area and beware that small pets (like birds) may be more sensitive to toxic fumes.
Sintra for Costumes or Cosplay
- Easy to cut with a knife or Dremel
- Easy to shape and re-shape with heat. You can use a hot gun or a large pot of hot water.
- Lightweight, you can wear it for long periods of time.
- Durable, it will last years of repeated use.
- Easy to attach to fabric via velcro or snaps.
- A good paint job can look like metal.
- Available in 3mm or 6mm thickness.
- Can crack in curved areas like shoulder or knee armor
- Toxic fumes at high heats.
- May be hard to find in some countries or rural areas.
- Some shapes are hard to form.
- Easy to scratch and dent
3D Prints for Mandalorian Costumes
3D printing is still an evolving technology but is becoming more popular for costume parts. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind before choosing a 3D print over Sintra for costumes.
- Can scale the sizing or make custom fitted pieces by using 3D printing body scanning software.
- Can get nice small details and complex shapes in forms.
- Can create a custom part in hours, with quick prototyping and then print on demand.
- Many variables can affect the final product, the quality of the filament used, the printer settings, the skill of the maker, and the quality of the 3D print STL file.
- Reshaping is not always possible afterward to custom-fit your body.
- Has visible print lines which need time-consuming work to remove. VPL will require Bondo filler, primer filler, and lots of sanding.
- Can be more expensive than Sintra.
- PLA material can warp in hot environments.
- Durability? This will depend on the filament material, PLA, ABS, PETG, or is it 3D print resin?
- Not suitable for larger-sized items, or it needs assembly of smaller parts.
- Printers and filament can be expensive, require maintenance, and increase electricity bills.
- 3D Printing may create toxic fumes or need a stable temperature environment.
- 3D Printers are not user-friendly for beginners.
Where to buy Sintra plastic?
Start searching via google for “your city” and “plastic supply”, “sign shops”, “PVC Foam Board”, or “Sintra”. If you’re still having trouble finding sheets, check with a local Mandalorian Mercs clan. They’ll know who the local suppliers or vendors are. In the US, I’ve heard that PVC board is also available to order at some HomeDepot locations. Lastly, you can always purchase from Amazon/eBay, although the sheets will probably be smaller in size and more expensive due to the shipping costs.
If you know of a source for PVC sheets please respond in the comments below to help others. (List source and country.)
PVC Foam Board Suppliers:
Piedmont Plastics (Canada & US)
cosplaysupplies.com (Canada, US, International) 3mm and 6mm
https://onlinemetalsupply.com/plastics/pvc/pvc-expanded-sheet/ (US & International)
http://www.tri-dee.com/Sintra%20sheets%20information.htm (Canada & US)
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