SLA 3D PRINTING FOR PROPS AND MODELS
In the cut-throat world of film creation, the 3D printing army is gathering apace and rising up to meet the demands of modern-day film, prop and model-making. Everyone now knows that 3D printing is cost-efficient; it’s quick; materials are robust; and it useful for augmenting special effects, manufacturing props, speeding up stop motion, and creating magnificent, intricately detailed armour and costumes.
From dragons and dinosaurs to Star Wars, from helmets to helminths to labyrinths, from filigree to mini-trees, there is no need to tell prop and model makers of the distinct advantages 3D printing. On the other hand, to the uninitiated, the array of printer types and the even wider array of resins available, can be a bit of a quagmire. In this brief article, we’ll explore the benefits of SLA (stereolithography) printing for film, television, commercials, theatre and other events.
Stereolithography or SLA 3D printing
SLA is immensely popular amongst props and model-makers. This is largely for its ability to produce highly accurate, infinitely detailed, highly polished, water-tight parts. One of the greatest benefits of SLA is its versatility. The 3D print materials innovators have come up with a range of resins with mechanical, thermal and optical properties that match standard-, industrial- and engineering-grade plastics.
With a print bed of 800 x 800 x 600mm, the NEO 800 is one of the largest, fastest industrial SLA printers available in the UK. This outstanding machine has a scanning resolution of 1 micron, ensuring side wall quality (with a <0.5mm potential) is superb; intricate detailing is easy; and the smoothest of finishes is possible. With three of these award-winning, industrial sized printers in our 3D printing stable, we have significant capacity and can work to to tight turnaround times.
We run two exceptional resins on our three NEO 800 SLA machines.
Somos® EvoLVe 128 is a shiny white, durable resin that produces highly accurate, highly detailed parts. Designed for easy finishing (it boasts an exceptional A-side surface finish), EvoLVe has a look and feel that is almost indistinguishable from traditional thermoplastics. It can be bonded to other plastics and metal, and can be painted when a plastic-friendly primer is applied.
Somos® WaterShed XC 11122 is a crystal clear, highly water resistant, very hard engineering resin with ABS-type properties. Again, it has been designed to deliver on intricate detailing, very thin walls of less than 5mm, and an exceptionally smooth finish. Beloved by model makers for creating pattern masters and mould cores, it can be primed easily.
For much smaller parts (less than 500 x 500 x 580mm), we run a grey resin, Somos® Taurus. This robust and durable resin does have a trade off – more finishing is required to produce a smooth surface and fine detailing may be lost as a result. As this material is not run on our NEO 800s, it may also take longer to print. You can find out more about our other SLA technologies here.
What does this mean for prop and model makers?
Remember that costume worn by Ramonda in Marvel’s Black Panther? Iron Man’s new suit? Or, the critically acclaimed 2015 stop-motion picture, Kubo and the Two Strings? The costumery of the former, the armour plates of Iron Man, and the thousands of facial expressions of the latter all came to being through 3D printing.
EvoLVe 128 would be perfect for similar creations. And, with the NEO 800’s large capacity and fine detailing capability, costume parts can be printed in fewer pieces. If you are after stop motion assistance, with some canny design orientation, we could probably fit 40 to 50 different faces on one bed.
In the same vein as the stop-motion, EvoLVe’s versatility and high-definition ability makes it an excellent material for character research and development. The large print bed, and the relatively quick process, enable designers and model makers to experiment with multiple iterations of their monsters, should they wish.
WaterShed XC 11122 is preferred by model makers with large, very rigid parts and items to be printed, and for making pattern masters and cores for silicone moulds. Animatronics, prosthetics, make-up and creature FX specialists, Millenium FX, for example, favour WaterShed for making moulds for many of their award-winning puppets. The moulds for the head and feet of the baby hippo, modelled in the clip below by special effects and Star Wars actor, Robert Nairne, were created in WaterShed. Finer detailing to the face was made before the silicone mould was created by adding modelling clay to the print itself.