3D Printing in Animation

Yash Rane, Director & CEO, Chizel Headquartered in Pune, Chizel is a technology platform deploings data backed business intelligence to cater to on-demand 3D printing solutions to enterprises and individuals.

I have been writing about 3D printing and its applications for couple of years now, and I have noticed a strong, striking application evolve in the past three years. My previous two articles talked about Mass Customisation in 3D printing and how it is impacting the sports industry. But when I look at animation industry, I see totally different applications. Most basic animation principles and techniques were developed in the first twenty years of the twentieth century, and were perfected by the 1940s, particularly by Walt Disney, whose studios popularized the form through full length feature films. Disney's impact on animation and the entertainment industry is profound and unprecedented. Although there used to be clear divisions among cartoons, feature film animations, visual effects, gaming software, 3D animation, and GIF animation, these related forms of animation now often overlap.

When I think of 3D printing in animation, character designers are the early adopters of this technology. With early stage of story writing, a character designer iterates with forms, outfits, styling, detailing and much more. To give a realistic understanding of the character,it has to come to life, and 3D printing does just that by not only capturing the intricate details and textures but also by providing
the quickest way to manufacture a prototype. These prototypes today can cost any where between Rs.500 to Rs.3000 which some time in 2013 were priced on the higher side of Rs.6,000. The prototypes can further be painted to enhance the detailing in colours and textures. These prototypes are made of polymers that limit the iterations, as sculptors cannot really play with the models as they did with clay. Few years back, with the advent of wax 3D printing, sculptors, modellers, and artist now 3D print only the near net shape and sculpt it with chisel.

3D printing not only captures the intricate details and textures, but also provides the quickest way to manufacture a prototype

Stop Motion Animation: The guiding principle of using 3D printing is to make things quickly and on-demand. In last 10 years, the precision and speed of 3D printing has reached a level, where industry now makes highly detailed end characters that can be used for stop motion animation. New films like 'Kubo and the Two Strings' & 'COCO' are pushing the boundaries of stop motion animation using new 3D printing techniques to create millions of unique designs.

Merchandizing: Retail sales of licensed products grew to $251.7 billion in 2015, a gain of 4.2 percent from the previous year, according to the 2016 International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association's (LIMA), Entertainment/Character licensing continues to be the largest category, accounting for $113.2 billion, or 45 percent of the total global licensing market.

With the major buyers in the age group of 3-18 years, and with last righteous efforts of DC and Marvel, the average buyer's age has now been pushed to 16 years which reflects significant growth in buyers from age group of 22-28 years. Companies are continuously seeking new forms of creativity and user experience, which 3D printing allows today. Customisation of the characters and super heroes are trending and a lot of bobble shops/prop shops now allow you to customise the picture of your choice with character of your liking which can then me simply 3D printed into a physical model.

3D printing overall is significantly smaller chunk of market, but growing at a peaceful rate of 28 percent from past 10 years. The applications are already out there, and all we need is a visionary to enter the game and take the technology into the hands of the consumer in the most convenient and experiential manner.