Ryne Sandberg Life-sized Bobblehead

Case Study: Event Model 3D-printed Statue

Table of Contents


For those of us who are baseball fans, a bobblehead (affectionately known as “nodders”) can be a valuable item. Sports teams throughout the years have made bobbleheads an iconic collectible, but Major League Baseball was the first to start the tradition. A pharmaceutical company promoting the use of medical marijuana made use of this beloved tradition to gather attention and support by commissioning a giant, fully-functional bobblehead statue of their representative, Hall of Famer and Baseball Legend Ryne Sandberg.

Heather Shevitz, the creative marketing director of Verilife (a subsection of PharmaCann) began looking at companies in China to create these bobbleheads but found that the lead time was too long and the shipping costs were astronomical. This led her to start searching online for local companies that might be able to follow her vision, which is how she found our company page on 3D-printed character statues. Calling our representative, they discussed some options and pricing, ultimately deciding to make 3 fully functional bobbleheads for Verilife’s upcoming campaign. The bobbleheads were created to be an indoor display. The vision for these bobbleheads (other than being fully functional) was to have incredible detail, to look like an actual bobblehead that would be sold at a sports event, and had to be eye-catching and impressive to its viewers. 

Process of Design

Two different ways were discussed in designing this bobblehead figure. First, a 3D scan of Ryne Sandberg’s face could be used to CNC a foam mold and replicate that process two other times to make the 3 identical heads. The body mold would have been created in a similar fashion. However, this process became impossible due to time constraints and being unable to get a 3D scan, so our design team ended up creating 3D printed models from PLA plastic, based on simple 2D photos of Ryne Sandberg (similar to how our other 3D characters are created). The base was created using steel to provide a solid foundation so the bobbling head would not knock the entire figure off balance. Everything was designed in such a way that it could be detached into several pieces for easier transport and storage.
We were given very specific elements of design that we were able to work with, such as a desired pose and clothing elements. For example, the hat had to be white with the Ryne logo on the front. The T-shirt had to be black with a white Verilife logo showing underneath the jersey. The hashtag #teamverilife was placed onto the back where Sandberg’s last name would traditionally go. The jersey was perhaps the most important element that had to be painted with exactness. Baseball fans are very particular about their jerseys, and it would have been entirely inappropriate for a famous cubs player to have been wearing the white jersey of a rival team (the White Sox). Thus the iconic blue pinstripes of the Cubs were added. 


First the body, then the heads were printed and assembled. Photos were consistently sent to the customer to update them on the progress of the project. There were 25 pieces (15 pieces for the head and 10 for the body) and it took 1200 total print hours per statue. They each had a metal structure in the body and were filled with expanding foam, which is the traditional process for our 3D printed character models.
Giving a ‘bobble’ to the bobblehead was the trickiest part. Eventually, one of our team members found some porch swing springs and hardware which could be placed onto the body and the head lightly attached to the top of it. Once you gave them a nudge, the heads could bobble on their own for quite some time. 

Finishing Process

When everything was assembled, the sculpture was hand-painted and airbrushed to create the face of Ryne Sandberg. Great detail was given from head to foot to ensure that the viewer would recognize the famous athlete. The eye color was even changed once it was pointed out that Ryne Sandberg’s hazel eyes were more of a light brown color than a stark green. 

The final product was approximately 6’-6” tall (base included) with the height of the round metal base being approximately 18 inches.

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