Jun 23, 2015 | By Alec

3D printing and movies? Surely that has to be a terrible combination? After all, every movie is filled with props and special effects, and no cinemagoer is waiting to see all those layers of 3D printed products. Besides, movie factories work with very strict deadlines, so it’s not exactly a place where you expect the slow and sometimes inefficient 3D printers. And yet, the young Carbon3D – founded in 2013 – is taking that industry by storm. Their custom 3D printing technologies have already been used for a TV commercial (below) and even for the special effects of the forthcoming movie Terminator Genisys.

Carbon3D recently announced that top special-effects company Legacy Effects (of such movies as Avatar, all Iron Man films, and RoboCop) relied on its CLIP 3D printing technology during the production of both the commercial (of an insurance company) and for the upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster Terminator Genisys. This is very remarkable, because while Stratasys technology has been used in the special effects industry before, it was never a match made in heaven. Especially the economic recession led to tighter budgets and stricter deadlines – not exactly situations in which PolyJet or FDM 3D printing thrives. And as the Legacy Effects team say on Carbon3D’s website, many of these 3D printed prototypes were easily damaged.

But all that changed last year, when Carbon3D’s CLIP technology came into the picture. ‘Right away I was attracted because of the quality of the parts they were showing me, and the speed at which they were able to produce parts with final-part mechanical properties’ says Jason Lopes, Lead Systems Engineer at Legacy Effects.

So what is this technology all about? If you’ve never heard of Carbon3D or CLIP, that’s hardly surprising as they’ve only been on the scene for a very short period of time. They really only came to the forefront through a lecture at TED 2015, given by the company’s founder and CEO Joseph DeSimone. CLIP is short for Continuous Liquid Interface Production, and this 3D printing technology somewhat resembles SLA printing. In a nutshell, CLIP harnesses UV light and oxygen to continuously grow polymers. ‘UV light triggers photopolymerization and oxygen inhibits it. By carefully balancing the interaction of light and oxygen, CLIP continuously grows objects from a pool of resin. CLIP moves beyond the limitations of 3D printing to offer unprecedented speed, quality, and choice,’ its developers write on their website.

The result is a type of UV printing that is insanely quick; from 25 up to 100 times faster than common 3D printing technologies. The printing results themselves are also excellent. Surfaces are super smooth – reportedly comparable to injection-molded objects – while structural integrity is excellent. In short, it seems to have tackled all the current limitation to 3D printing technologies, though this won’t become a marketable machine until 2016, so we will have to wait a bit for testing that first hand.

Quality claims by Carbon3D.

Nonetheless, Lopes and his special effects team were very optimistic about what can be achieved with this technology. ‘In this industry, you want to believe everything you hear, but you have to pull back and ask more questions,’ he says. ‘What really attracted me even more to working with Carbon3D were the questions they asked about me and my work flow-they really cared about solving our problems. It was a breath of fresh air. ’Having CLIP technology -- being able to print at these speeds, without the quality suffering -- it's a game-changer,’ Lopes says on Carbon3D's website.

With this prototyping opportunity, Lopes used the technology for the commercial for Progressive Insurance first, a project with a very tight deadline and multiple intricate parts. ‘Some parts were smaller than a pea but with intricate surface detail. The first thing I noticed was the smooth quality of the grown surface matching the geometry exactly; with no grow-lines! The parts required no body-shopping. In fact, the surface had the same characteristics of metal-mold injection plastic!’ he says. You can see the results in the commercial below.

This success convinced him to again turn to CLIP 3D printing for the new Terminator movie, though it is currently unknown what parts have and haven’t been 3D printed for it. However, these results were evidently good as well, as Lopes is already planning to use CLIP 3D printing for other projects as well. ‘You start revisiting things you always wanted to do and try. It’s really exciting!’ he says. While a single company isn’t exactly a revolution, this definitely suggests that CLIP is going to create a bit of excitement in Hollywood, and ultimately, in the real world as well. It’s just unfortunate that they don’t have an actual product yet.




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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