3D Printing in the Movies

The recently released Oceans 8 film depicted another Hollywood fantasy of 3D printing. During a complex heist, Helena Bonham Carter’s Rose and Mindy Kaling’s Amita 3D scan a necklace and use a desktop 3D printer (a Makerbot) to produce a cubic zirconia replica.

Audience members hopefully recognized this as Hollywood magic. It’s common nowadays to see present technology like 3D printers stretched into unrealistic, albeit idealistic, heights. There is a huge market for 3D printed jewelry, but no 3D printer is capable of producing a contiguous metal and cubic zirconia necklace (especially since cubic zirconia is not an available additive material).   

3d printing movies

Using 3D printers as set decorations or as a vehicle for major plot points has been done since the technology’s early commercialization in the 1980’s.

In Jurassic Park III an inventive archeologist uses a “rapid prototyper” to produce a raptor larynx from a 3D scan. Even more recently, Westworld and the Fifth Element proposed a futuristic world where producing a human-like robot or anatomically accurate clone is as simple as pushing a button. In the recent Hotel Artemis’ trailer Sterling K. Brown inserts a chip into a 3D printer and out pops the pieces to assemble a gun.

Jurassic Park III “Rapid Prototyper” Scene


As far-fetched as some of these moments feels, real-life 3D printing applications that have emerged thanks to the inventive thinking of movie makers.
For example, bio printing has made significant strides towards 3D printed organs and transplants. Meanwhile, 3D printing anatomical models is a unique medical innovation that is actually used to save lives today. PolyJet is utilized to create custom models of a patient’s unique anatomy or condition in full color and life-like materials for surgeons to practice pre-surgical operations. Anatomical models are also used in educational settings for trainees to simulate medical procedures on life-like models versus foam or cadavers.



How Hollywood Really Uses 3D Printing

Besides seeing a Makerbot or Stratasys FDM 3D printer alongside the film’s hero, there are real 3D printed applications unfolding on screen. Legacy Effects, one of Marvel’s go to creative agencies for iconic props and costume fabrication, uses 3D printing to produce hundreds of parts for their onscreen magic making. 

Jason Lopes, Lead Systems Engineer at Legacy Effects, speaks about how 3D printing technology and utilizing Stratasys Direct as a 3D printing service provider enables new possibilities in live action effects.

Brian McLean, Direct of Rapid Prototyping at LAIKA Studios, talks about their use of Stratasys 3D printers for facial animations on their stop-motion films.

Why Movie Makers Love 3D Printing

It’s easy to understand why filmmakers want to utilize the futuristic possibilities of 3D printing. 3D printing has already changed the world in amazing ways, and it will continue to advance manufacturing. 

One of the most exciting parts about seeing 3D printing on the big screen is the inspiration that might be generated from a moviemaker’s ideas. Engineers, designers and makers have propelled the technology into new innovative directions before due to movie magic. Who knows? Maybe cubic zirconia will become the next material on Stratasys Direct’s catalogue...but probably not.  

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