While traditionally considered the tool of product designers, 3d printers are making their mark on Hollywood blockbusters such as Coraline and Iron Man 2.
Henry Selick has set the bar high for all future stop motion animations in his 2009 film Coraline. Never before has a hands-on medium been able match the smooth facial transitions of CG animation, within the project budget and time lines. To achieve the level of detail required by Selick, some 15,300 different faces were produced for the 21 characters along with thousands of props, the production of which would have taken roughly four years using traditional model making techniques – the use of 3d printers allowed for the completion of these parts within eighteen months.
The use of 3d printing has not however been confined to the world of animation as evident in its role in Iron Man 2. Through the use of 3d printers it was possible to produce custom-fitted pieces that fit the wearer like a second skin, allowing greater flexibility and longer wear times. Armour for Iron Man 2 was design and built based on scans taken from the actors with the Repulsor 3-in-1 glove worn by Robert Downey Jr produced from a scan of the actors hand. The use of 3d printing technology allowed for objects such as Stark’s Iron Man suit and Whiplashes body armour to be produced within hours all at the touch of a button, with all that remains prior to shooting a simple painting job.