Despite the rise of computer-generated imagery (CGI) to produce dazzling cinematic effects, many filmmakers are interested in going “back to the future.” Realistic backgrounds and props can be fabricated using the latest 3D printing technology, which is not only customized and cool, but affordable, too.

What Are 3D Printed Props?

3D printed props are first created by scanning a physical object to create computer imaging. Once the data dimensions are specified, a 0.15 mm layer of PMMA powder is spread onto a building platform and a bonding agent is selectively applied, building the object up layer after layer. The unbound powder is then removed, and the raw prop is sanded, polished, and painted.

What Are the Benefits of 3D Printed Props?

You might consider using 3D printed props if:

  • You’re working on a science fiction or fantasy film. If you can dream it, we can print it. From the “Game of Thrones” dragons to tyrannosaurus rex fossils in “Jurassic World,” 3D printing brings fantasies to life. Many of the decades-old techniques filmmakers used to bring creatures to life no longer work with the high-quality resolutions—but 3D design and printing smooths the edges and seams.
  • You need larger-than-life proportions. 3D printing studios can create extreme-sized models. We’ve made giant UFOs and Egyptian tombs, oversized lollipops and steaks, and Alice in Wonderland scenery.
  • You need props yesterday. Whereas it might take days or months to create props by hand using clay, plaster, fabric, wood, chicken wire, and metal, 3D printers offer lightning-fast delivery in mere hours.
  • You care about cost. Manual builds that have been used traditionally can be cost prohibitive and wasteful. It’s always good to find ways to save on budget, wherever possible. The cost of materials can vary greatly, especially with the supply chain issues we now face. 3D printing uses one material that can be reinforced and finished in a variety of ways.
  • You want multiples or backups. Fragile props, costumes, and backgrounds can lead to heartache, especially when replacements are costly, difficult to find, or need to be shipped from afar. With 3D printing, replications can be made to spec for precise prop making and delivered in a jiffy.

How Are 3D Printed Props Used in Productions?

There are countless examples of 3D printed props in film:

  • Costumes: Robert Downey Jr’s “Iron Man” suit was entirely 3D printed, as was Thor’s hammer—in fact, made in 34 pieces and sized perfectly to Chris Hemsworth. Custom crowns, collars, and headdresses were added to “Black Panther” and “Thor: Ragnarock” costumes.
  • Characters: Laika films like “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Missing Link” involved stop-motion of 3D printed characters in different positions and facial expressions.
  • Props: On Broadway, a 3D printed vase used in “Head Over Heels The Musical” enabled the prop to fall and break into pieces repeatedly, show after show, with magnetized components that made reassembly a piece of cake.
  • Sets: Large scale 3D printing can be seen in “First Man,” including a scale replica of the legendary Apollo 11 space capsule. 3D printed miniatures were used to create the sets of “Dunkirk” and “Interstellar.”
  • Licensed Toys: Often, 3D printing is used after a film wraps to commission replica toys and action figures for mass production.

Call for a Quote on Custom 3D Printed Props

Movie Prop Rentals offers custom 3D printed props for rent or sale. Our work has been featured in music videos, commercials, theatre productions, and major motion pictures. We offer a full range of design, fabrication, and storage services to suit your needs. Contact us for a free quote.