James Bond film makers impressed by Augsburg-based 3D printing technology
Innovative 3D printing technology from Augsburg-based voxeljet is on display in the newest James Bond film Skyfall – more specifically in the scene when James Bond's car explodes in flames. A total of three Aston Martin DB 5 models were created at the company's service centre. The models double for the now priceless original vehicle from the 1960s in the film's action scenes.
Action scenes in expensive film productions such as a James Bond film must look as realistic as possible. For the model builders working behind the scenes, the high demands of film makers translate into more requirements and detail work. Therefore companies such as Propshop Modelmakers Ltd., which specialises in the production of film props, are always on the look-out for trend-setting manufacturing methods.
The fact that the British company selected the 3D printing technology of a German provider is a special honour for the Augsburg company. "Of course only state-of-the-art technology was used for the new James Bond film Skyfall. To be considered a benchmark by the model builders from the Pinewood Studios is evidence of the performance and position of our 3D printing system in terms of global ranking," says voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer.
voxeljet is considered a pioneer in the area of 3D printing. At its service centre, which is the largest in Europe, the Augsburg-based company has specialised in the on-demand production of sand moulds for metal casting, as well as plastic moulds and 3D functional moulds. Small-batch and prototype manufacturers in a variety of branches of European industry appreciate the fast and cost-effective manufacture of their casting moulds and 3D models based on CAD data. At the same time, the internationally active company has also made a name for itself as a manufacturer of high-resolution 3D printing systems. voxeljet moulds are very precise and rich in detail – properties that also impressed the British model builders.
Aston Martin from a 3D printer
"Propshop commissioned us to build three plastic models of the Aston Martin DB5. We could have easily printed the legendary sports car in one piece at a scale of 1:3 using our high-end VX4000 printer, which can build moulds and models in dimensions of up to eight cubic metres. But the British model builders were pursuing a different approach. To ensure that the Aston Martin was as true to detail as possible, and for the purpose of integrating numerous functions into the film models, they decided on an assembly consisting of a total of 18 individual components. The entire body is based on a steel frame, almost identical to how vehicles were assembled in the past," says Ederer.
voxeljet started the printing process once the CAD data for all components were available. The models are produced with the layer-wise application of particle material that is glued together with a binding agent. The plastic material PMMA is used for this purpose; it is ideally suited for precisely these types of tasks. The individual components that are made of PMMA feature outstanding attention to detail, but are also very stable and resilient, which means that they are well suited for mechanical post-processing.
Following the unpacking process, which involves the removal of unbound material from the finished components, voxeljet's service centre looked very much like a body shop. A total of 54 individual parts for the three vehicle models, including mudguards, doors, bonnets, roofs and more, now had to be safely packaged and transported to Pinewood Studios near London.
Elaborate detailed work
The model builders at Propshop then meticulously assembled and finished the components, painted them in the original colour and added chrome applications along with realistic-looking bullet holes. The special effects that can be seen in Skyfall confirm the perfection in execution of this work. After the finishing process, it is impossible to distinguish the Aston Martin models made with the voxeljet printer from the original, even in the close-up shots. And: The priceless Aston Martin DB5, which was already used in the first James Bond film exactly 50 years ago, remains unscathed, while one of the elaborately and meticulously constructed models explodes in flames in the film.
An expensive crash, since one of the three models was auctioned off by Christie's for almost USD 100,000.
For voxeljet, participating in a James Bond production was of course anything but a normal contract, and it also opened up an entirely new industry for the company: "In addition to the automotive industry, foundries, designers and artists, the film industry represents an entirely new customer base for voxeljet. 3D printing is on the cusp of a great future in the film industry. The technology offers fantastic opportunities, since it is usually much faster, more precise and more economical than classic model construction," says Ederer.