HomeBlog 3D printing in movies and on TV: a look at 3D printers that have appeared over the years

3D printing in movies and on TV: a look at 3D printers that have appeared over the years


The 3D Print General, 3D printing YouTuber and book author, rounds up the movies and series in which he spotted 3D printers. This post follows up on the ones we had done in 2016 and 2017 on the same subject: 3D printing in movies (and series)!

 

Time to take a look at some popular TV shows and movies from over the years that have featured 3D printing technology! It’s always a pleasure to notice that our geeky passion is making it to the big screen.

A decade ago it was pretty rare to see 3D printing in movies or series, but now they’re really becoming part of the landscape, especially in science fiction or dystopian pieces.

In this blog post I list a variety of series and films that feature 3D printers, ranked from oldest to most recent appearances.

Some of them are right on target with 3D printing capabilities, while others are just setting unrealistic expectations (looking at you, Ocean’s 8!). As most of us know already, 3D printing is a lot more complicated than pressing “print” and obtaining instant results.

Anyways, there are plenty of other movies/series like this out there, so I may need to do this analysis again in the future; but for the time being, enjoy!

Small Soldiers (1998)

 

3D printing in movies Small Soldiers

I’m not sure why, but watching this comedy actually scared me as a child. While the process is a little odd and CGI-like, the intro to this movie is essentially performing some sort of SLA printing. It’s fairly accurate considering that the models have support structures.

Since this is from 1998, I’m pretty surprised that they noticed the need for this – I assume the set designer had some experience with additive manufacturing.

Jurassic Park III (2001)

 

3D printing in movies Jurassic Park

 

When I rewatched this movie a couple of years ago, I was not only surprised to see how bad the film was, but also shocked to see them include “rapid prototyping”.

Considering this is from 2001, I think they are pretty spot on with the capabilities. I’m not sure this was possible back then, but it can definitely be done today.

Futurama Season 10 (2013)

 

3D printing in pop culture Futurama

 

Now this is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Dated 1,000 years in the future, I’d say just about anything is possible.

This episode may be from season 7, depending if you have the DVDs or if you’re watching it on Hulu. Here’s hoping this show gets the opportunity to be cancelled for a third time!

Big Bang Theory (2013)

 

3D printing in pop culture Big Bang Theory

 

I’m really not a fan of this show, and I definitely don’t turn to it for scientific accuracy. That said, 3D printing something like a model of yourself can be done on a cheap machine for a couple hundred dollars, though articulating and coloring them will be an added nuisance. And 3D printing a 25 cent whistle would take around 3 hours.

At least they are using a Kinect to 3D scan, which is definitely possible.

Neighbors (2014)

 

3D printing in movies Neighbors

 

I ended up liking this movie a bit more than I expected. I think you get the idea of what’s going on here. My step brother actually had a similar business plan, but he never went to market.

Portlandia (2014)

 

3D printing in pop culture Portlandia

 

This doesn’t really show off the capabilities of the machine, but it’s funny that they have an entire episode around the premise of a 3D printer.

Well executed in my opinion. Just about every city needs a 3D printer!

Big Hero 6 (2014)

 

3D printing in movies Big Hero 6

 

I haven’t seen this Pixar flick, but it seems to be some sort of Disney DMLS – a.k.a. Direct Metal Laser Sintering – which makes it possible to 3D print in metal. Not exactly a cheap process, however.

This metal print definitely isn’t possible the way they are doing it, but it’s a cartoon, so I’ll let it slide.

Westworld (2016)

 

3D printing in pop culture Westworld

 

Westworld’s entire universe of characters and animals are all essentially built from a form of futuristic 3D printing. I seemed to lose interest in the show during the second season, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Considering this is another show taking place in the future, it’s tough to say that this isn’t possible. I mean, they have figured out how to cure all diseases, so who knows?

Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

 

3D printing in movies Cloverfield Paradox

 

I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I like this application of 3D printing a crappy bagel. I’m told it plays a bigger role in the overall plot, but the bagel I like.

The prop they are using as a food 3D printer definitely looks like a standard FDM machine. Considering it is set in the future, I approve.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

 

3D printing in movies Ocean's 8

 

No! Fallacies! Definitely can’t be printing crystal clear zirconium on an FDM printer. And definitely not on a Makerbot. That was also the easiest-to-remove print bed I’ve personally seen.

I’m happy to give shows and movies a pass for being set in the future or for being a cartoon, but since this movie is supposed to be a heist film set in current day, I can’t let it pass.

Lost in Space (2018)

 

3D printing in pop culture Lost in Space

 

This is another show I haven’t seen, but it looks like I am going to have to now. I have heard that their 3D printer is a part of their everyday life and plays an important role in the plot, which is very cool to see.

Based off of this scene, it looks like they are definitely using this technology correctly. Even though it is set in the future, they are still showing off the limitations (though I must say that this is the best support material removal I’ve seen).

The printer has dual nozzles for two material types. I figure that this show’s writer and set designer have used a few printers themselves.

If you want to take a better look at the different scenes, check out my video on 3D printing in pop culture:

 

Stay tuned for the second part of this video, coming soon on my YouTube channel The 3D Print General!

Note: some movie producers and costume designers also use desktop 3D printers to create props. This can be especially useful for sci fi movies or series!

 

About this author

Sean Aranda

Sean is The 3D Print General on YouTube, his channel dedicated to 3D printing. He also his the author of a best selling book on 3D Printing Failures.