3D printing can be used, on the one hand, to produce medical prostheses perfectly tailored to the body of an individual – a unique, potentially life-changing one-off. On the other hand, it can also be taken advantage of to produce a kick-ass robosuit for a Hollywood blockbuster. Legacy Effects, working in the field of 3D printed special FX props, has, naturally, opted for the latter, making this year’s Robocop reboot a 3D printed work of art.
The company wanted to convert the 3D modelled artwork of Martin Whist, the film’s production designer, into a physical reality. Because this artwork would be worn by the lead actor, playing the titular robotic police officer, 3D printing was essential for ensuring a tight fit. Legacy, then, took Whist’s models and tailored them to the face and body of actor Joel Kinnaman, segmenting the suit so that the actor could act and perform stunts with an adequate range of motion. At the same time, the team made model adjustments for additional FX-related equipment, such as magnets, batteries and LED lights.
Once ready, the parts were manufactured on the 3D printers most suited to the task, depending on a given part. Artists then applied the more intricate details of the suits (worn by Kinnaman and stunt actors) by hand. The final suits were made up of a number of different materials optimized for visual appeal and physical comfort. In the end, Kinnaman’s Robocop costume was outfitted with the same cooling vest used by racecar drivers, so that he could withstand the Toronto summer heat during filming.
3D printing served the effects company to create some of the film’s other important props, as well. In addition to the legacy suit, an homage to the original films, stereolithography was utilized to manufacture such items as the EM208 and EB207 robot statues, displayed in the background of scenes in the film.
All in all, quite a labour intensive process for props that only have the look of functionality, but what a look of functionality! For a more complete look at the making of the suits and props, watch the video below: