Ok, after a cursory examination, 3D graphics are the ideal direction. However, the natural question to ask at this point is whether a 3D printer that will accept a 3D design output will work. My impression is no. Taken together, they don’t seem to kluge well because the current level of 3D printing technology is inadequate to meet 3D graphics design in something like a ST prop.
I may be wrong about this or just not seeing the beneficial aspects of this new kind of printing technology yet. The technology it is in its infancy. There are apparently only a handful of specialized materials that a 3D printer takes (minus foodstuff printers like cake decorators), and the level of precision in the best possible commercial 3D type printer is limited to about 35 microns (100 microns is the overwhelming majority of models available to consumers). They are asking many thousands of dollars for these devices.
Does it do the job though? I don’t think it is quite there yet. On manufacturer websites and after performing a YouTube marathon about numerous 3D printers, you will usually see folks ignore the question of precision altogether in favor of the ability to just download open source specs and focus on spitting out something – anything – that resembles any given object with their 3D printers. It does demonstrate a different kind of capability, yes, but only to a point and maybe all I have observed is a series of garbage in/garbage out examples. Expert design, molds, polymers, and temperature capabilities are going to yield the right results for a good ST prop, as best I can tell. What I have not run across yet and hope to find is it may indeed be possible with really well-tailored specs sent to a 3D printer that you could make a decent mold from, but I just don’t see it out there. I remain open to new information on this question of 3D printing, and if new research turns up better results, will revisit the 3D printing question.