Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Thursday, October 30, 2014
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James Bond Does 3D Printing 

Any James Bond movie is sure to feature an iconic auto subjected to high speed chases and often explosions. The newest installment, Skyfall, featuring a classic 1960’s Aston Martin DB5 that is involved in a series of stunts and huge explosions including one scene which saw the priceless vehicle explode in flames is certainly no different. Being a rather expensive car, the producers didn’t have the luxury of using an actual vehicle for every scene. The priceless Aston Martin DB5, which was already used in the first James Bond film exactly 50 years ago, needed to remain unscathed.

So what choices did they have? They considered computer generated imagery (CGI) but chose instead to utilize UK based, Propshop Modelmakers, and German industrial 3D printing company, voxeljet. Voxeljet’s rather large 3D 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.

“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,” voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer said, according to 3Ders.org.

“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,” he added. “The entire body is based on a steel frame, almost identical to how vehicles were assembled in the past.”

Skyfall marks the sixth time the Aston Martin DB5 has been featured in a Bond film. “The first of five distinct Aston Martin models to be featured in James Bond films, DB5 continues to be celebrated as one of the most iconic cars ever produced,” the car company said on its website, which touts the long history of its brand with Bond.

Prior to “Skyfall,” the car was featured in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films “GoldenEye” and “Tomorrow Never Dies,” as well as 1965’s “Thunderball” and 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which also starred Daniel Craig.

The vehicle is reportedly affixed with the same license plate it had in its original outing in 1964’s “Goldfinger.”

Voxeljet executives showed off their replica at an advance showing of the film in Augsburg, Germany, earlier this month.

“Our guests were surprised and excited about the 3D technology,” Rudolf France, COO of voxeljet, said in a release on the company’s website. “In fact, it is not possible to distinguish between the Aston Martin models from the voxeljet printer and the original, even in the close-up shots.”

The company believes 3D printing will come to play a big role in Hollywood, and it hopes to be involved with many more productions. “In addition to the automotive industry, foundries, designers and artists, the film industry represents an entirely new customer base for voxeljet,” Ederer said, according to 3Ders.org. “3D printing is on the cusp of a great future in the film industry,” he added. “The technology offers fantastic opportunities, since it is usually much faster, more precise and more economical than classic model construction.”

Voxeljet’s had a distribution arrangement with 3D Systems for over a year and it’s likely that this effort will perk up some serious interest among both industrial model makers and movie set designers. The level of attention and potential success of Skyfall may even renew interest in model-based stunts over the graphically rendered intensity of many recent films. One of the Aston Martin models from Skyfall was recently auctioned off by Christie’s for almost $100,000.

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