Starbug - A British TV icon is 3D printed

Red Dwarf is a British comedy franchise which spans over 11 series of a television science fiction sitcom since 1988. The series has won numerous awards including the Royal Television Society Award for special effects, the British Science Fiction award for Best Dramatic Presentation, as well as an International Emmy Award for series VI episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse". The show had also been nominated for the International Emmy Award 3 times. Series VI won a British Comedy Award for 'Best BBC Comedy Series’ and the video sales have won eight Gold Awards from the British Video Association. The series still holds the record for being BBC Two's longest-running, highest-rated sitcom and currently holds the top spot as UKTV’s highest rated show to date.

Primarily, Red Dwarf is a character driven comedy with science fiction elements used as complementary plot devices. It has a great reputation for its use in scale models over digital special effects and not much has changed over the years. One of the main space crafts used in the series is the JMC transport vehicle Starbug which has appeared in most of the episodes and has been known to crash land on a number of occasions.

In production terms, the scale model of Starbug needed to be strong enough to withstand several crashes while being used on set. We approached the team at Red Dwarf to discuss a possible solution to preserve their ‘hero’ Starbug from sustaining any damage at all.

We 3D scanned hero Starbug, and with that scan date, created a digital model. We then 3D printed Starbug and made an identical model of the original. Since it was now in digital form we could make it larger, smaller, as a single piece or cut into sections. With the ability to split it into parts, sections could be reprinted if replacement parts were required on set.



It took one of our technicians just over a week to produce the 3D printed Starbug on our VX1000 machine. It was made of 16 parts which were primed, painted and sent off to the studio ready for the model shoot.

Hero Starbug was used for all the main model shots and the 3D printed Starbug was used for crash landings and impact shots. While 3D printed Starbug sustained some damage during the shoot, the crew were able to fix it between shots. In the event of unrepairable damage, a new part could have been 3D printed and on set again the next day.

The crew were very happy with the space craft, and added that it was a great help in achieving the crash scenes required at no risk to the original model.

You can watch Red Dwarf X and XI on Dave as well as brand new Red Dwarf XII due to air later this year.