How 3D Printing can be used in Movies

Written by Chanda Lalwani

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Posted on April 23 2021

Welcome to the big bad world of 3D printing; where miniatures can be printed and even films can be made. 3D printing has been known to have a range of applications but now, even the film industry has begun using this breakthrough innovation. 

Movies from the Black Panther to Ironman have all used 3D printing technology as a way to enhance the movie viewing experience for everyone. 

So what are some of the ways 3D printing can be used in movies? Let’s take a look:


3D Printed Movie Props

Props are essential parts of storytelling, as it brings stories and movie characters to life. This includes anything from swords to masks.

As an example, futuristic or sci-fi movies typically require characters that use uniquely designed props that have never been seen before; while in historical movies, filmmakers looking to recreate authentic artifacts can easily do so with 3D printing. With 3D printing, filmmakers can gain access to 3D printed props in no time.


3D Printed Armor for Ironman

Flickr / chris Doornbos

In Marvel’s Ironman, the armor suit worn by Ironman was actually 3D printed. 3D printing was used in conjunction with CGI technology in the movie.

As many variations of this suit were required for the shoot, the production crew used 3D printing technology. This is how the process went: the team scanned the actor who played Ironman, Robert Downey Junior, with a 3D scanner to ensure that the armor had a perfect fit. The armor was then printed and painted to make sure that it looked as authentic as possible.


3D Printed Props for Star Wars

Likewise, the movie Star Wars used 3D printing to create a large number of futuristic props that could be used by characters in the movie to make the movie seem more realistic.

For example, in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren, the villain uses a red lightsaber that was completed 3D printed while Captain Phasma’s helmet was 3D printed as well. Not only that, the entire costume for C3PO was created with the help of a 3D printer.


Jurassic World (2015) - 3D Printed Dinosaur Bones

With 3D printing, prehistoric artifacts can easily be scanned to produce a replicated version via 3D printing. The team had a chance to scan actual dinosaur bones and fossils which were then 3D printed. Once the team created a digital file of what the dinosaur skeleton looked like, this was used to adjust how large the dinosaurs would look in the movie.

3D printing helps to create realistic artifacts that can then be used as props in movies.

The use of 3D printing ads to the authenticity of any film while also cutting down on costs and saving vast amounts of time.

Custom-Made Outfits

Movies are turning to 3D printed wearables to reflect the futuristic or historic environment where the characters are set.

This helps to set the scene for characters; directors use costumes as a way to display a character’s personality, interests, so on and so forth.

Costumes work to make characters more believable on-screen, which ultimately determines if the movie is made to be memorable or not in the audiences’ eyes.


Black Panther 3D Printed Outfits

In Black Panther, the movie is set in Wakanda, a fictitious country that is technologically advanced.

This means that costume designers of the movie had to unleash their creativity to produce distinct outfits that have never been seen before. After designers produced their designs, they collaborated with a 3D printing company to bring their ideas to life, making the outfits much more real.

In the movie, Queen Ramonda from Wakanda wore outfits and hats that reflected an African aesthetic along with futuristic design. To learn more about how 3D printing can be used in fashion, click here.


Set Design

Sets usually take a long time to produce, while the designing process itself requires large amounts of creativity. This is where 3D printing comes in handy. Large sets can now be printed in just a few hours, thanks to large-sized 3D printers.

Previously, smaller 3D printers were only capable of printing out 3D models in parts which means that the design team then had to spend time assembling different parts together which would be a time-consuming process in and of itself.

Movies such as First Man and Interstellar have all used 3D printing to print out replicas of spacecraft, rockets, and capsules that had actually been sent out to space.

Set designs may also require the use of terrain depicting such as Mars or even the Moon. This is where the Sonic Mighty comes in handy, as large-scale terrains can easily be printed in one go.


Miniatures for Animated Films

3D printing is also great for creating miniatures or other 3D models in animated short films. This can be ideal for creating a custom universe in which different characters are printed out instead of being created with CGI.

It can also be used in stop-motion animation to print out large amounts of characters in one go. This can then be customized as characters typically require a wide variety of facial expressions and emotions.

Miniature characters are especially suitable for printing with the Sonic Mini 4K as the device replicates every single detail to ensure that the characters are as realistic as possible.

3D printing can be thought of as a cost-effective solution and a creative way to bring film ideas to life.

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