Question on 3dModels\Printers in the effects industry?

I was wondering how much of the practical effect is being modeled in 3D then printed out? In watching the behinds the scene stuff for movies like Iron Man and Pacific Rim for example, you see that a lot of the suits were 3D printed. I know that sometimes they'll do the master in 3D and then make molds from them but going forward as someone who is interested in working in the industry is 3D printing, as it gets cheaper and more accessible going to replace the mold making and foam or the fabricators?  I can do up a Model in Zbrush or Maya, texture it and save it off and make changes to it and if i don't like it, or the boss doesn't like it in a split second have the original base back.. or (as it becomes faster and less costly) print out a few different poses for Maquettes, or want a bust? couple of edits, scale up and you got yourself a bust. All from one model. Something that ( I would think) would be harder or take longer to do in clay.

Don't get me wrong, I love my sub and have learned so much and enjoy actually touching and watch something being created from hand when I am tried of staring at a computer screen.I am just wondering how it's affecting the industry and what someone wanting to work in it should expect as the technology is starting to mature and become more accessible?


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    My thoughts on the matter are you will still see a great majority of concepts done in clay, for the speed (It takes a day to print an 18 inch maquette and a day to design one, a good clay sculptor can do it in half the time).

    I do however think that digital has a place in fabrication (like pieces of the Iron man suit) and in lifecasting, being able to scan an actor anywhere in the world and print out a "lifecast" is getting easier and cheaper.

    The real revolution in 3d printing and makeup effects will come when someone designs a silicone or prosaide fused deposition modeling printer.
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    so THAT's what I should be working on!


    just kidding. :)
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    Gotcha Chris, thank you for the reply. I just know in the costuming\hobby\fandom arena you're starting to see the printers making an entrance, but those are dinky and nowhere near the quality and power that a shop would be using. That's why I was just wondering how much they were being relied on for protyping and such. 
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    I agree with Chris completely on this.  As I own a small 3D printer, I can attest to the fact that they are NOT the end-all, be-all.  They are simply another tool.  Every time I have to build something, I have to consider all aspects of the process and weigh time investment versus reward.  3D printing doesn't win very often.  There needs to be something intrinsically difficult about the piece that makes traditional methods expensive or error prone to warrant the time investment of 3D printing.

    Take for example the pieces in this picture.  I had to run 4 pieces before I had the design tweaked so that these snapped together snugly but still could articulate.  Each one stands 1.5" tall.  Each took 45 minutes to print!  Not what I would consider a high-volume option, but doing them by hand would have been worse.
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