As the video game developers, Grey Box, put it, this is “process junkie nirvana”: Gentle Giant Studios, 3D Systems’ entertainment division, just shot an amazing “making of” video for the stereolithographic 3D printing of a life size “Singleton” robot, a character in the new real time strategy videogame Grey Goo.
As most people who read 3DPI know (but it can be useful to repeat it occasionally) stereolithographic (SLA) technology has no inherent limit in size, as the laser which photo-activates the resin materials traces every single dot in the object’s layers (unlike DLP, which digitally projects an image and is thus bound by the projector’s resolution). In fact the largest of 3D Systems SLA production systems – the ProX 800 – can create resin-based objects as wide as one and a half meters.
That is what Gentle Giant Studios did with Singleton. Although it was not necessary to built the bot as one, single object, all components of the seven-foot tall, life size Singleton replica were 3D printed and assembled by the studio’s staff over a period of months. In total, over 70 pieces were created from the digital model provided by Grey Box and, because most of the detail on the game’s model were based on texture maps, Gentle Giant’s artists sculpted in all of the details “so that they would pop once 3D printed”.
The team re-topologized the entire surface area, merged parts, separated parts, and planned the final statue both for the real-size models and for the model of a second, quarter-scale collectible statuette (which is available for purchase). The full sized model components were printed on the iPro 8000 (which is now the ProX 800), while a ProJet 6000 – the smallest of 3D Systems production SLA 3D printers – was used for the 1:4 model. Each machine offers high resolution and detail. Furthermore the grey material that was used proved to be perfectly in line with the game’s “grey goo”.
After a “geometry optimization” post-process, the parts were molded in fiber-glass, reinforced with a steel structure and hand painted by Gentle Giant’s in-house artists. The Singleton character was not chosen casually: its careful character design, dreamt up by Stephen Lambert of Weta Workshop, has made it into one of the most iconic characters in the game.
It has a human-like structure which leaves the spaces for the soul and the heart visibly empty and it follows one, single, embedded instruction: “That Others May Live”. Its mission has been to fight for over two centuries. In the game, Singleton is an icon of war; in real life he can now also be an icon for 3D Systems’ mantra of “manufacturing the future”.