3D Printing - The future in the film industry

Using 3D printing to create cost-effective and realistic movie props. With Ultra High Definition cinematography hitting our screens, the demand for quality props and models is as high as ever.

While traditional manufacturing methods are still being used, digital technologies such as 3D scanning, 3D modeling and 3D printing have allowed current methods to achieve complexities faster than ever before.

What film and prop makers need to know about 3D printing

From day one, the movie industry has tried to create motion pictures in which everything looks as realistic as possible. Filmmakers and directors have been using a combination of diverse camera tricks, special effects, but also props to make the audience believe what they see is real.

Art directors, costume designers, SFX departments and Makeup artists have developed some revolutionary uses of 3D printing. A major advantage in the development stage allows changes in the design to be made instantly, and reproduce them within hours. Discussing ideas in a physical form is a great way to present props and models which engages everyone involved.

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A revolution in the prop and movie industry

A recent example is the production of an iconic prop used for a British comedy franchise, Red Dwarf. Phil O’Connell says that “the Red Dwarf crew had ‘Starbug’ 3D printed in order to preserve the original ship from taking any damage on set. The original ship was scanned, 3D printed, epoxied and painted within a week which gave the model crew a time advantage of six weeks compared to traditional reproduction. Added to that, production costs were reduced considerably.

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The process "High Speed Binder Jetting"

Starting off, a 3D model is created on the computer or 3D scanned from a physical object. Creating a digital file allows the props to be optimized to the design production require before finalizing the data for 3D printing. By starting the printing process, a 0.15 mm thin layer of PMMA powder is spread out onto a build platform which is then selectively bonded by a bonding agent, applied via the print head. By repeating these steps, the three-dimensional object is build up layer by layer. After printing, the unbound powder is removed to uncover the raw prop. In order to ready a print for the big screen, prop makers use their skills and bring the prop to life.

Darth Vader Helm - Star Wars Collectables

While 3D printing is relatively new to the Film and Television industry, these technologies have been tried and tested in a variety of ways and already prove successful. That said, we are just at the beginning of the future of model making. With 3D printing, the possibilities are endless.

For further information on how movie props are 3D printed, see the links below:

Further Case Studies

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