3D printing has become a big part of Hollywood magic.


3D printing has become ubiquitous in Hollywood. The flexibility to manufacture unique parts quickly and inexpensively makes this technology a useful tool. Additive manufacturing design experts are taking on more and more work on accessories. Rob Wiggins is one such Hollywood prop maker who worked on the Transformers, Star Wars, and Marvel movie franchises for Hasbro.

Wiggins later served as a 3D Designer and Print Champion at Formlabs, where he modeled projects for SLA 3D printing. He is now at Nexa3D, where he designs and produces props and characters for a wide range of major TV shows and movies.

Image courtesy of Nexa3DRob-Wiggins-Nexerator.jpg

Building worlds with 3DP

Wiggins noted that additive manufacturing is playing an increasing role in the development of film and television props. “3D printing is used in the film industry for world building. This includes blasters, lightsabers, ray guns, everything. Everyday objects are also 3D printed; pagers and walkie-talkies,” Wiggins said. Design News. “The reason for creating the prop is that it may be unavailable or hard to find locally. The actor may not be comfortable with things like firearms. We printed a walkie-talkie for a paramedic broadcast. It was lighter and more economical than a real walkie-talkie.

Physical props have become more popular as production companies have moved away from computer-generated images. “When you use virtual production, instead of a green screen, you use an LCD screen. You get the right lighting and the actors can act realistically,” Wiggins said. “3D printing can be used to the engineering props and tools behind the scene.”

As production companies returned to the physical world, they also reinstituted the classic miniature models. “We also print miniature spacecraft,” Wiggins said. “The film industry is going back to the old style of using a model instead of computer generated graphics. With 3D printing you get more detail in this model. We made the Razor Crest Starship model.

To get the right accessories, you need to get the right hardware. “We use different materials, including resin printing or aluminum. We use the process that requires the least amount of post-processing,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins learned the 3D printing process on the job. As a toy designer, he was involved in a wide range of production technologies. Over time, we have come to focus on the possibilities of additive manufacturing. “You don’t need a degree. Experience is the biggest advantage. That’s almost every industry,” Wiggins said. “As for my degree, I went to 3D animation school. Still, the best education I got came from research. So much information on YouTube. You can get good at following instructions accessible to all.

As with most design work, it all starts with a drawing. “We start with sketch work. The art department sends us a sketch of what the prop should look like. “We go from sketch to Autodesk design to 3D printed part,” Wiggins said. “The sketch can be done digitally. I no longer do pencil on paper. Then we move on to Nexa3D. software to get the print.

Sometimes the objects to be printed come from existing supports. “We’re taking characters from video games,” Wiggins said. “We create a 3D image of the character, then turn it into a 3D prop.”

Locations and Promotions

3D printed props go beyond the world of film production itself. “We also use 3D printing for pitch work, making helmets to go into a TV show. It’s powerful to have 3D printing for pitching,” Wiggins said. “It’s easy for people to imagine what the project will be like if you have something physical. It can go a long way in getting funding. You can bring in a 2.5 foot beast and the producer will say, OK, I’ll fund that.

3D printing is also becoming widespread for promotional items. “The biggest lines we do are for shows like Comic-Con,” Wiggins said. “We printed a promotional replica of Bumblebee that was 20 feet tall.”

Image courtesy of AlamyBumblebee.jpg

The process behind the accessories

The process of developing an object can take a long time. “The Obe-Wan helmet took four weeks to print. The design was quick on screen, but we had to go around the resins. Then we had to mix some materials. You don’t want to go through all of that, the design, the engineering, and then you drop it and it breaks in half,” Wiggins said. “I was doing a mix of two or three resins, including a fast and tenacious resin. You have to experiment. This is why experience is more important than a degree. Many programs will help engineering, but it’s not until you print it out that you know what you need. We print it piece by piece. Some parts can take 35 hours.

Image courtesy of Nexa3Drob-wiggins-mando-front-v2.jpg

Much of the initial design time is spent researching materials and printers. After this stage, the production moves faster. “Once you know what you need, you can move on to the fastest printers. then the print time can go down to five or six hours,” Wiggins said. “The post-process can also take time. This includes sanding, priming and painting, then sanding again. Sanding is a big part of it, but it depends on what surface you’re trying to get right. It boils down to elbow grease.


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