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Cirque du Soleil is using 3D printing to test fittings of wigs and hats, and hopes to expand its use of the technology to costumes(Reuters)
Cirque du Soleil is starting to trial 3D printing in its costume design in order to ensure the 18,000 outfits its designers make every year provide a perfect fit.
3D-printed shoulder pieces that emit LED strobe lights, made and designed by Anouk Wipprecht, Niccolo Casas and Materialise for Cirque du Soleil(Liana Bandziulyte, Materialise)
The theatrical entertainment company revealed in a recent behind-the-scenes tour that it uses Handyscan handheld 3D scanners to scan the heads of hundreds of cast members.
The scans are used to print out resin busts of gymnasts, clowns and actors to ensure all hats and wigs will fit perfectly.
When it comes to costumes, though, Cirque du Soleil’s costume designers still make body casts of performers but this is a time-consuming process, so the company has started to experiment with 3D printing.
Cirque du Soleil invited Dutch fashion tech designer Anouk Wipprecht, who specialises in combining fashion with wearable electronics, to create fantasy costumes for a New Year’s Eve performance at Light nightclub in Las Vegas.
A view of how the 3D-printed shoulder pieces interacted with the rest of the acrobat’s costume, from the back(Liana Bandziulyte, Materialise)
Wipprecht worked with Italian architect Niccolo Casas on certain elements of the costumes and the designs were printed out by Materialise, a 3D printing solutions and software provider.
The Cirque du Soleil performer was outfitted with four shoulder pieces made with selective laser sintering (SLS) that featured 20W high-power LED strobe lights. Each piece was able to be independently controlled wirelessly from a distance.
Following this successful test, the company is keen to expand its use of 3D printers in costume design but is waiting until the cost of 3D-printing materials is more affordable and the material density is more conducive to costumes.
Cirque du Soleil is interested in emerging technologies and recently trialled the use of helicopter drones as floating lanterns, controlled remotely and made to dance in the air.
Astronauts on the International Space Station have used a zero-gravity 3D printer to produce a working socket wrench complete with ratchet action – using digital plans that were emailed to the station by Nasa mission control on Earth.
Engineers at Made in Space, which built the experimental printer, overheard space station astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore mention on the radio that he needed a socket wrench. The company used computer-aided design (CAD) to draw up plans, produced an earthbound version of the spanner for safety certification by Nasa, then had the plans relayed to the ISS, where it took four hours to print out the finished product.
“The socket wrench we just manufactured is the first object we designed on the ground and sent digitally to space, on the fly,” said Made In Space founder Mike Chen.
“We designed one in CAD and sent it up to him faster than a rocket ever could have.
“It also marks the end of our first experiment – a sequence of 21 prints that together make up the first tools and objects ever manufactured off the surface of the Earth.”
The 3D printer was delivered to the ISS two months ago and the first thing it made was a sample component for itself. The space agency hopes to one day use the technology to make parts for broken equipment in space.
The company plans to replace the orbiting demo machine with a bigger commercial printer next year. The European Space Agency plans to fly its own 3D printer in 2015. Meanwhile the ratchet and other items made by the ISS printer will be returned to Earth for detailed comparison with corresponding parts produced on the ground.