When your business depends on heroes, villains and monsters, it really pays to stay on the cutting edge of technology. Just ask legendary Hollywood special effects studio Legacy Effects. They‘ve been using Stratasys 3D printing to create memorable characters for such blockbusters as Avatar, Pacific Rim and Iron Man.
This year’s RoboCop movie, where man and machine become one, brought 3D printing again to the big screen. Using Stratasys’ high resolution Objet Connex multi-material 3D printing technology, Legacy Effects produced every aspect of the RoboCop suit – from helmet to boots – as master mold patterns. These pieces were then molded and cast into other materials to create variants of the suit depending on the requirements of each scene.
But you’ll also see actual 3D printed parts in the film, which is now available on DVD. Some versions of the suit used in the movie were composed of as much as 90% actual Stratasys 3D printed parts. For example, the striking visor, which forms part of the helmet on the black version of the RoboCop suit, features a gleaming red strip which was 3D printed using Stratasys transparent VeroClear material.
Stratasys 3D printing technology the only option for reproducing fine detail
According to Jason Lopes, Lead Design Engineer, Legacy Effects, RoboCop’s chest-armour piece perhaps best exemplifies how the use of 3D printing technology overcomes certain challenges that can affect production methods.
“First, in terms of the size of RoboCop’s chest piece specifically, only Stratasys’ 3D printing technology would allow us to print something at the actual size; the part virtually fills the entire build-tray,” Lopes explains.
“Second, the same part comprises a blend of smooth areas, as well as other areas that feature an extremely high level of detail, such as the police badge and other logos, which we needed to retain for the molding process. There isn’t a technology currently available beyond that provided by Stratasys that affords us this level of intricate detail, together with the hard surface modeling of the shells all together in one print.”
Smoother workflow and greater flexibility over traditional production methods
Using Stratasys’ 3D printing technology the team at Legacy Effects is able to work much faster and more efficiently than it could in the days when it produced parts by hand.
“Doing everything by hand meant that we couldn’t run tests as it would have taken forever,” recalls Lopes. “Also, 3D printing allows us to work in symmetry, which enables us to build an entire left side of a suit, then mirror it and output the right side as well, all from one file with the click of a button. You can’t do that by hand.”
“Legacy Effects’ use of our multi-material 3D printing as its solution of choice is indicative of how the technology is becoming increasingly integral to film making,” says Bruce Bradshaw, Director Marketing, Stratasys North America. “The ability to rapidly 3D print all different materials together in one single print run meets the film industry prerequisite to save time and money. But the real showstopper is Stratasys’ ultra-fine 16 micron-layer 3D printing. In the special effects world, fine detail and true-to-life models are the industry standard and our Connex multi-material 3D printing technology continues to be a top performer among designers and engineers.”
Using Stratasys 3D Printers (both PolyJet and FDM technologies) has been a part of Los Angeles-based Legacy Effects’ creative design process for several years. Legacy Effects, under the stewardship of lead systems engineer Jason Lopes, has had a hand in video games like Halo, the Wired Robot from Comic-Con, and movies such as Jurassic Park, Avatar, the Iron Man series and this summer’s blockbuster Pacific Rim. Over in London, FBFX Ltd. used a Stratasys Objet30 Pro 3D Printer to create custom costume pieces for the hit science fiction film Prometheus.