For the creative industries 3D printing isn’t necessarily about ‘quicker’ or ‘cheaper’, its about getting as close to a vision as physically possible.

Moving image media has been using 3D printing for quite a while now. Here are some examples of the main uses.


Sci-fi and Fantasy genre films are obvious areas where 3D printing can enable physical models and props to be made where no alternative manufacturing techniques are available.

Video featuring Peter Jackson’s Weta Studio describing the process of building a prop for Ghost in The Machine. Life-sized prop has 300-400 elements and is composed of 3D printed nylon, resin and steel, covered by a 3D printed ballistic gel ‘coat’.

Increasingly though period dramas and other mainstream genres are turning to 3D printing to produce cost effective, convincing and robust props.

Colours and Prop Making

Off the shelf colours and surface finishes will never be quite right for screen uses, so film makers will probably continue to opt for neutral base colours and post fabriaction painting and surface treatment.

So in order to get convincing effects for the screen, strong engineering grade materials, like nylon, that are able to take dyes and paints on their surfaces are often of greater use than more fragile materials (such as PLA) that are available in strong colours.

Stop motion animation

The ease of replication of models and the ability of CAD to allow fractional change makes stop motion animation a natural area of application for 3D printing.

Laika is small studio specialising in computer-enabled stop motion animation. They made ParaNorman, Box Trolls and Kubo and the Two Strings.

Future Technical Uses

The film set is the ultimate area for rapid prototyping applications.

Film and TV productions have tight budgets and very tight timescales, and are often on location so if a piece of technical equipment or support gear breaks or doesn’t perform well enough, access to a means of rapid reproduction or repair is a bonus.

In a similar to the way that the US Marines have started to investgate drop-in 3D printing units large film productions could easily have 3D printing teams on standby, on site if necessary.