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Making High Quality Movie Props Quickly

Even with all the computer-generated imagery (CGI) in movies these days, concrete practical effects aren’t going away anytime soon.

Indeed, the latest in the Star Wars franchise has been lauded for its emphasis on practical effects. Based on our experiences with BB-8 (look for that story in Designer Edge on Monday), that’s not surprising.

But just because physical props are the traditional special effects tools doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a little modern technology.

Industrial Concierge from PartWorks is a service for designing, prototyping and manufacturing props for the film industry. More specifically, it consists of four services bundled together:

  • 3D scanning and reverse engineering
  • 3D CAD design
  • 3D printing
  • Reproduction and manufacturing of metal and plastic parts

To get a sense of how the Industrial Concierge service works, consider one example.

A PartWorks customer needed a reproduction of an intricately carved tombstone for use in a History Channel movie (Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony). In order to create it, PartWorks employees travelled to the library at Brenau University, which houses the original tombstone.

First, they performed a 3D scan of the original. From that scan, they created a 3D model. The model was then 3D printed by PartWorks’ business partner CloudDDM who handed it over to the PartWorks art department for painting.

The resulting replica was realistic enough to be used in multiple close-up shots.

Finding viable commercial applications for 3D printing is no mean feat and there have been casualties along the way. However, companies that manage to find the right niche end up flourishing.

One could argue that the Industrial Concierge service is nothing new. People have been using handheld 3D scanners to create 3D prints of antiquities for a while now.

Even the notion of creating movie props with 3D printing isn’t entirely novel: Voxeljet created a 3D printed model of James Bond’s Aston Martin for the express purpose of destroying it back in 2012.


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