Fraunhofer 3D Printing Tech Featured in Laika's Latest Film
April 11, 2019

Fraunhofer 3D Printing Tech Featured in Laika's Latest Film

Laika’s latest animated film, Missing Link, released on April 12, features models made using Fraunhofer IGD’s Cuttlefish 3D printer driver.

The movie is the animation studio’s fifth stop-motion feature, and the first to make use of the Cuttlefish 3D printer driver developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD. Using this technology, Laika has printed a myriad of models, including subtle changes in facial expression for each individual character. The greatest challenge is ensuring that the colors of each model seamlessly match the ones used in previous frames. With this in mind, Laika chose Fraunhofer’s patented Cuttlefish technology due to its outstanding color consistency. 

In stop-motion animation, each scene is created by carefully setting up elaborate physical models and minimally manipulating them between frames. Photographs are taken after each of these changes – enabling the individual frames to be combined to form a complete motion picture. Playing the series of still images in rapid sequence creates the illusion of movement. 24 frames in combination translate into approximately one second of film. 

To animate the characters’ facial expressions in Missing Link, Laika used a number of Stratasys J750 3D printers, in conjunction with the Cuttlefish 3D printer driver, to create 106,000 highly detailed color 3D faces. 

Brian McLean, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects for Kubo and the Two Strings, is Laika’s Director of Rapid Prototype. He has extensive experience in deploying 3D printing for stop-motion animation, and in 2016 received a Scientific and Engineering Oscar plaque for his pioneering work.

“We have used 3D printers for our stop-motion movies since Coraline, Laika’s first film,” says McLean. “For our current production Missing Link, we leveraged Fraunhofer IGD technologies because they are unrivalled in terms of color consistency and geometric accuracy. The combination of Cuttlefish software and Stratasys J750 hardware has allowed us to produce the most sophisticated colored 3D prints ever.”