As a 3D printing consultant, you get to work with just about every sector of the economy. I have been very fortunate over the last 20-years to work with some fantastic companies, from global brands in aerospace, fashion, healthcare and automotive to small start-ups and lone inventors. However, once in a while, you get to work on a project that just makes you smile. I recently completed one of those projects for a company called Merlin Entertainment.
Merlin is one of the worlds largest theme park and attractions companies with literally hundreds of venues around the world. Along with rollercoasters, aquariums & LegoLand, Merlin also owns the iconic Maddam Tussauds attractions. Started over 200-years ago, Maddam Tussauds now has attractions across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. For those not familiar with Tussauds these attractions all house lifesize and lifelike waxworks of historical and cultural figures, from world leaders, to pop-stars, action heroes, and film stars. The level of detail in these figures is truly breathtaking as are the skills of the fantastic team at Merlin Magic Making (MMM) in London where all the characters are made.
Although the skills and attention to detail at MMM remain unchanged since the days of Maddam Tussaud herself, the use of new technologies has enabled the company to reduce the time it takes to go from the first ‘sitting’ with the ‘talent’ to the grand unveiling of the character. As you would expect, 3D Printing is one of these technology.
I first met the guys at MMM over 6-years ago when I was running Econolyst. So I was delighted to be contacted by them again so many years later and asked to help them continue their ‘digital journey’.
I started by mapping out both their current digital and physical processes. This included the 3D scanning of faces and high-resolution photography of the eyes, to the intraoral scanning of teeth. I then looked at the manufacture and use of master patterns, molds, glass fiber-layups, and of course the casting, finishing, and painting of wax. From heads and hands to eyeballs and teeth, from shoes and jewelry to belts and buckles. I then mapped out the possible insertion points for 3D Printing before establishing the potential time and cost savings of using the technology.
Having understood where 3D Printing could add value, I then went on to identify the most appropriate technologies for the different applications. Having established this, I then helped Merlin to source a series of benchmark parts from independent 3rd party suppliers, which we then assessed. I then helped the procurement team within Merlins parent company to prepare an invitation to tender for a range of AM/3DP machines. In parallel, we also started mapping out the people, skills, and competencies needed to hit the ground running. Suffice to the say; the project was a great success.
Today, Merlin has a fantastic 3D Printing capacity and capability, which is being driven by some of the most innovative digital workflows I have ever seen. I just hope I get another call in 5-years time so I can keep on smiling.