Tag Archives: Square

87: Shrink Plastic

You remember shrinky-dinks, right? I spent a good handful of childhood afternoons trying to cook little plastic cartoon characters alive. As it turns out, they’ve had this shrink plastic material as letter sized sheets perfect for inkjet printing for years now! Jen picked some up on a recent trip to the craft store and this week, I’m going to see how well they work with the laser.

The army I gathered for this particular project.
The army I gathered for this particular project.

First, I had to settle on what to print. I have a shameful secret, and it’s called Final Fantasy Record Keeper. It’s the only microtransaction-fueled free-to-play mobile game I go anywhere near, and it’s all because of my slavish addiction to its weaponized nostalgia. One of the most interesting traits of that game is that the development team creates Final Fantasy VI-styled sprites of characters from every Final Fantasy, upgrading the older NES and SNES games and creating neat retro takes on the polygonal entry’s protagonists. The active time battle gameplay is surprisingly faithful to the series, too, so if you’ve got fond memories from the Final Fantasy series, and you can stomach an energy meter in your game, you should give it a try! (This is a friend invite link, but it doesn’t involve any social networks.)

Printed people. I used too much ink, which would cause issues later.
Printed people. I used too much ink, which would cause issues later.

I selected a gaggle of my favorite warriors from the game and printed them out on the shrink plastic paper. While it was obvious that I had to print them bigger in order for them to shrink to about half an inch size, what wasn’t obvious was just how much more ink I was using than I should have been. In my excitement, I missed the step in the instructions that suggested printing with the graphics lightened to about a 50% screen. Because the ink condenses when you cook the plastic, this results in much darker images than what you see when you first print it out.

More plastic warriors of light fresh out from beneath the laser.
More plastic warriors of light fresh out from beneath the laser.

Before I could cook them, though, I set up the laser cutter to cut out each character with a generous amount of space around them; this was primarily to avoid any registration issues but it also helped ameliorate the awkwardness you can get when a black printed surface is cut away to a bright white edge. One thing I had to keep in mind was how thin the material was; despite it being a kind of plastic, I had to treat it like paper and weigh it down so that the cut outs wouldn’t get sucked into the exhaust.

Rosa and others, hanging out around Jennifer's 3D letter M.
Rosa and others, hanging out around Jennifer’s 3D letter M.

When I finally cooked the characters, I did so in three batches. 275 degrees caused the characters to curl up so severely that I was sure the project was lost; I didn’t remember from my childhood that the pieces would eventually flatten back out. They did, but it wasn’t until the third batch of characters that I realized I had to help finish flattening them immediately out of the oven. One of Jennifer’s heavy museum studies tomes did the trick.

Cloud and Rikku are perfectly flat, but Josef is a little curly.
Cloud and Rikku are perfectly flat, but Josef is a little curly.

For the most part, the characters came out great. My bumbling with two batches resulted in some pretty curled up corners, particularly with Final Fantasy II Josef’s bald head. The ink did exactly like the instructions said it would and condensed down, making several of the characters very dark; for the purposes of this entry I’ve adjusted the images to restore what I could from each fighter’s original palette.

So many FFRK characters!
So many FFRK characters!

Oh, I think my stamina meter is full again. I better hurry up and play FFRK because otherwise I’m wasting stamina recharge time! Did I mention F2P games are awful? Fun, awful, but also fun, and mostly a little bit awful. 😉