The promise of 3-D printing continues to expand almost by the day. We've lately been introduced to 3-D printed guns, buildings, shoes, implanted replacement bones, cupcakes, and prosthetics. The 3-D printed project du jour is stunt cars, which were used in the MGM-Sony (NYSE:SONY) James Bond blockbuster Skyfall to include a priceless 50-year-old Aston Martin from the very first Bond film without risking damage.
A report in 3ders.org has the dirt. Production designers for Skyfall needed a way to highlight the classic Aston Martin DB 5 without damaging a real car. They rejected the notion of computer generated imagery, or CGI, turning instead to Propshop Modelmakers and German industrial 3-D printing company Voxeljet. Voxeljet's massive 3-D printer is capable of creating designs up to eight cubic meters in size, equivalent to over 280 cubic feet . With this supersized printer, Voxeljet and Propshop Modelmakers built three, one-third-scale Aston Martins with 18 individual components, assembled and hand-painted to such accuracy that a photo of the final model would be indistinguishable from the real thing. One of the models was later auctioned off by Christie's for almost $100,000.
What does this mean for 3-D printing industry watchers? For one thing, it shows just how varied the output of the technology can be. The machines are proving themselves scalable to nearly any size without sacrificing resolution, which is an important consideration when replacing traditional manufacturing methods. On the other hand, this successful proof-of-concept in Skyfall points to a future where luxury designers create must-have machines for the wealthy using 3-D printed components.
Voxeljet's had a distribution arrangement with 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) for a year and a half now, and it's likely that this effort will perk up some serious interest among both industrial model makers and movie set designers. Based on the rapid rate of 3-D printing sector consolidation we've seen since 2010, either 3D Systems or Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) may soon come sniffing around with a buyout offer as well.
The success of Skyfall may even renew interest in model-based stunts over the graphically rendered intensity of many recent films. Now that Disney's (NYSE:DIS) acquired CGI pioneer Lucasfilm, might we see a return to the models that made the original Star Wars trilogy so beloved? Perhaps not for the next big space battles, but we might see a successor to the lumbering AT-ATs come out, piece by piece, from a Voxeljet mega-printer.