Question of the Week: Swiss Guard Helmet

By on August 13th, 2019 in question

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 Swiss Guard 3D model [Source: TurboSquid]
Swiss Guard 3D model [Source: TurboSquid]

This week’s question is how one could obtain Swiss Guard helmets.

Reader Kristine Jurjane reached out with a strange question:

“I am stage and costume designer from Riga, also teacher for students in Academy of Arts in Riga, also movie set designer. For now, I am working in Riga New Theatre with production, where action takes place in Vatican and, of course, I need to dress up Swiss guards, I am looking, where to buy helmets?

Would you help me with some information, as this is very difficult to get them here in Riga.”

The Swiss Guard are effectively the Vatican’s army. They are the personal guard assigned to protect the current Pope, and they’ve been using more-or-less the same uniform — and helmet — for more than five centuries.

Certainly we are not a costume shop; we’re a worldwide 3D print news site, so we cannot offer such helmets ourselves. But we do know a little bit about 3D printing that might be able to help in this case.

My first thought was to simply 3D print the helmet. Likely the 3D model would have to be segmented in order to fit within the build volume of most 3D printers and assembled afterward, but that’s not a big deal to do. But the question is: “Where is a 3D model of a Swiss Guard?”

Helmets on Thingiverse

My first foray was into Thingiverse, that monstrously large repository of 3D models that now apparently encompasses over 3.8M entries. Many are 3D printable.

But no, there does not seem to be a pre-made 3D model of the classic Swiss Guard helmet in Thingiverse. Yes, I used external Google Search to overcome limitations of Thingiverse’s own degrading search feature. There does not seem to be anything even close to a Swiss Guard helmet.

Yeggi and CGTrader 3D Model Search

I then resorted to Yeggi, a meta-search engine for 3D models, which is able to search multiple online repositories of 3D models all at once. After searching for “Swiss” and “Helmet”, and scrolling through literally thousands of helmets (most of which were from Marvelor DC Comics characters), it was clear there are no 3D models of Swiss Guard helmets in the usual 3D print repositories.

I decided to investigate whether CGTrader had a Swiss Guard helmet. CGTrader is an 800K entry repository of 3D models, but most are paid and are not necessarily 3D printable. No, there was no Swiss Guard helmets in their rather extensive inventory of helmets. If you have half an hour sometime, please check out their helmet collection.

After scrolling through many more thousands of entries, I did find three that were somewhat similar to the Swiss Guard design, and perhaps they could be used instead:

 The Spanish Medieval Knight Morion Helmet 3D model [Source: CGTrader]
The Spanish Medieval Knight Morion Helmet 3D model [Source: CGTrader]

The Spanish Medieval Knight Morion Helmet 3D model (US$24 for model download)

The Morion Helmet 3D model (US$25 for model download)

Morion Low-poly 3D model (US$15 for model download)

Helmets on TurboSquid

My next stop was TurboSquid, another online repository of 3D models, but the focus of the service is for visual, not 3D printing, use. Virtually all of their 3D models are not printable and are for appearing in video games or movies. However, I found one.

 Full 3D model of a Swiss Guard [Source: TurboSquid]
Full 3D model of a Swiss Guard [Source: TurboSquid]

The Swiss Guardsmen (Vatican Knight) on TurboSquid by contributor 3d_molier is exactly the style desired. However, there’s a big problem: this is a fixed 3D model of the ENTIRE guardsman. It’s not just the helmet. This 3D model is priced at US$164.

One possibility would be to buy this 3D model and then “cut off” the helmet and 3D print it. However, that would require some 3D CAD tools and training to do. Another possibility would be to contact the original modeler who uploaded it to TurboSquid and request a custom helmet extracted from the original 3D model. Printable, too. It’s not clear whether that would be possible, nor what the price would be.

Designing A 3D Printable Helmet

Another possibility would be to simply hire an experienced 3D CAD modeler to prepare a helmet design. The design does not appear to be particularly complex, other than the insignia emblazoned on the sides. However, for a theater production that insignia could be painted on instead. Having this helmet custom-designed could be somewhat costly, depending on who does the work.

It might be worthwhile learning a 3D modeling tool for this job. If so, then those skills could likely be reused on future theatrical productions. And you’d have full control over the resulting 3D model.

Swiss Guard 3D Printed Helmets

Ironically, the Swiss Guard themselves have recently started using 3D printed helmets! The unit was paying too much — and the metal helmets weighed too much — to continue making them in Austria using traditional approaches, and they decided to make a switch. An actual helmet was 3D scanned in great detail, and a 3D model prepared for use in production.

The Swiss Guard received a number of these 3D printed helmets earlier this year.

However, it is highly unlikely this detailed official 3D model would ever be released to the public.

The bottom line here is that if you intend on 3D printing a Swiss Guard helmet, the best option is to have someone design a very simple replica for you. Then, have a 3D print service or handy 3D printer produce it for you, with some replica-style painting applied afterwards.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!