Faster and bigger: reimagining theme park creation with 3d printing

For well over a century, people around the globe have flocked to a sweeping array of amusement parks, theme parks, and other attractions that seek to transport patrons to a different reality, if only for a few hours. For juggernauts such as Disney, Universal Studios, and Six Flags, who operate parks in multiple countries, the primary challenge is creating immersive experiences. With breakthroughs in 3D printing, theme park designers now have a powerful new way to meet this challenge.

Image Credit: Warrior Troll Jim, 3D printed by SEEN Technology for Fortress.

Creating an Immersive Theme Park Experience

Due to the central importance of visual cues in creating a world apart, throughout the decades no effort has been spared to achieve bigger, brighter, and more engaging visual design elements, allowing more and more park visitors to feel truly transported. What Walt Disney did was to organize Disneyland into thematic “Lands.” This lent greater importance to props that enhance the rides and amusements by creating immersive, themed environments that tell, or continue, a story.

The 21st century introduced a heightened societal desire for “reality” in entertainment. The significance of this subsector of scenic fabrication has taken on an even larger and more critical role that allows guests to shed their real-world concerns and explore a carefree, wholly uplifting environment design-built for this express purpose.

Planet of the Apes 3D Printed by 3DRU

Planet of the Apes 3D Printed by 3DRU

For decades, visual props were painstakingly hand-crafted through a laborious process of design, planning, and modeling with traditional materials such as clay, wood, and foam. Needless to say, the finished products were incredibly expensive and time-consuming to create, limiting the ability of industry visionaries to expand their repertoire and achieve a more fully immersive experience for guests.

3D Printing Our Reality

Imagine a world where creating these immersive theme park experiences is a lot easier. Where a theme park designer can digitally design what they have in mind, even if it is something huge or complex, and print a prop or set piece within hours. Breakthrough technologies, like those in Massivit  printers, have made this possible. What we’re witnessing now is a fundamental change in how theme parks can be created, and further customized on the fly.

Storyville Decor 3D Printed by SEEN

Storyville Decor 3D Printed by SEEN Technology

Take for example what MÉTROPOLE, a France-based specialist in event management, digital printing, and large format 3D printing, accomplished for the International Cartoon Festival of Angoulême. Using a Massivit large format printer, they were able to produce five life-sized characters, to the delight of commuters and festival goers. Although these characters were produced for a festival, the executives behind the event were accustomed to the laborious prop production processes used by theme parks.

“Only the Massivit printer, deployed by MÉTROPOLE, could have pulled off this feat in terms of turnaround time. Our life-size statues were ready onsite on the opening day of the festival, creating just the wow effect we had been aiming for,” explained Franck Bondoux, the festival’s President.

Another relatable example comes from the world of manga. SID Installation Art, based in Taiwan, was commissioned to create giant replicas of main characters from the world’s best-selling manga and comic series, ranging from 1.8m-5m (5.9ft-16.4ft), and they turned to their large format Massivit printer.

Hung Jui Chia, COO of SID Installation Art, enthused, “The Massivit printer enables us to produce models in half the time it would have taken with our traditional manufacturing processes… Creating props and scenic environments based on digital 3D models also brings us far greater design flexibility so we can propose and implement unique props and models.”

The Future of Theme Parks is 3D Printed

Already we’ve seen the impact of 3D printers in theme parks, sometimes in more subtle ways. Just last year Disney Imagineers in Glendale, California unveiled Project Exo – announcing that they were evaluating 3D printing methods to create muscles that can mimic authentic humanoid movements. The team is developing a very elaborate full-body exoskeleton system piece by piece that could one day be used to bring Disney characters, like the Hulk, to life at the theme parks and interact with guests.

Kraken 3D Printed by Daniels Wood Land

Kraken 3D Printed by Daniels Wood Land

Other innovative uses for the technology can be found underneath our feet. Epcot’s upcoming 3D printed floor design reinforces the 50-year history of one of the most visited theme parks in the world. Not only does it mimic Walt’s original idea, but it makes sure the origin story of Epcot continues to unfold, even as the park changes and transforms.

Companies all around the world involved in amusement parks, theme parks, resorts, and other attractions are already using 3D printing to create visual props. Large format 3D printing empowers them to create giant, stunning props, selfie points, and scenic displays in a fraction of the time of every other creative construction technology.

By dramatically speeding up core model production for stage building, theater sets, and theme park props, inventive minds can focus more time and energy on ultra-creative finishes, paint work, texture, or animatronics. Complex shapes and undercuts are no longer an issue, as Massivit’s Gel Dispensing Printing (GDP) technology supports any type of artistic finish – from a scaly dinosaur skin to shiny, smooth surfaces, and allows for the fabrication of giant parts up to 6ft tall (1.8m) in one print.


Gaming Console for XPG 3D printed by SID Installation Art

All of this adds up to an entirely new way of doing things in the theme park industry. The size and accuracy afforded by large-scale 3D printing allows the public a way to become physically intimate with the characters they love from movies, television, and gaming. This is a huge boost for the creative minds that bring us these fantastic immersive worlds, and to the millions of theme park fans around the world who can’t wait to see what’s next!


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