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Kiwi ingenuity behind Weta Workshop's latest technology

Published: 7:11PM Thursday July 19, 2012 Source: ONE News

Cutting edge 3D printing technology and a little bit of kiwi ingenuity is helping Weta Workshop change the way movies are made.

Many of the swords, spears, costumes and weapons seen in The Lord of the Rings, and the soon to be released The Hobbit are made by a new device - the 3D printer.

"We use 3D printing extensively. It allows us to take digital models and turn them into three dimensional physical objects," says Weta Workshop's Sir Richard Taylor.

The Wellington-based special effects and prop company first started using 3D printers for its productions and public sculptures around nine years ago.

The printing machine works by taking a 3D computer image of an object, which it then prints out in solid 3D form.

Using the technology, Weta Workshop engineers are now using the printers to experiment with different materials, such as plastic, plasticine and resin.

Animatronics engineer, Rod Sheehy, says that the printing technology is an advantage because it keeps costs down with the items made in-house, saving a lot of time.

The larger-scale printing devices are still in the early testing phase but animatronics engineers soon hope to create life-size props.

"The sky's the limit," Weta Workshop's Pietro Marson says of the prop making equipment.

Sir Richard says there is an element of DIY involved in developing the technology.

"One of our staff bolted it onto a robotic milling machine and now he's able to print a car."

"Weta has also used the 3D printing to make helmets, sword hilts and axes," he said.

Such props will be seen on screen when The Hobbit is released in New Zealand on December 14 this year.

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