Updated: Aug 16
Through the efforts of YouTube show “3D Printing Nerd,” the head of Optimus Primal, a Transformers character, has been fabricated from Inconel 718. To engage fans at home, a file to print an Optimus Primal head is now available as a free downloadable file from Printables.com.
A unique collaboration is inspiring young minds to engage with manufacturing by bringing the character Optimus Primal from “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” to life… specifically a 165-lb. Optimus Primal head and 60-lb. stand – totaling 225 lbs. – 3D printed from Inconel 718.
For those not familiar with the movies, Transformers are heroic alien robot factions at war. Optimus Primal is the leader of the Maximals, a civilian race who takes on beast modes in their commitment to save Earth. (Optimus Primal is a King Kong-like mechanized beast.)
For those not familiar with Inconel 718, it is a nickel-based superalloy known for its superb tensile strength when subjected to extreme pressure and heat, making it ideal for high temperature applications such as gas turbine and power/process industry parts and critical applications in the aerospace, defense and petrochemical industries. Even in bulk orders, Inconel 718 powder costs more than $65/lb.
The mastermind behind the project is David Tobin, an executive producer with a passion for 3D printing, David had been on a mission to showcase the potential of additive manufacturing to the world. Together with Joel Telling, his long-time friend, collaborator and host of YouTube show "3D Printing Nerd,” they have been traveling the globe telling stories of engineering and manufacturing. The “3D Printing Nerd” YouTube channel has 615,000 subscribers, more than 1,100 videos and 116.8 million views.
The opportunity to engage young people with 3D printing via Hollywood began with a brainstorming session with old friends at Paramount Pictures. Tobin saw this as the perfect platform to not only bring Optimus Primal to life, but also to inspire youth to pursue careers in science and technology.
Tobin reached out to Velo3D, a fully integrated additive manufacturing (AM) company known for its work with advanced materials, design-for-AM software, and Sapphire XC large-format laser powder bed fusion printer. Velo3D was eager to join the project, offering to 3D print Optimus Primal’s head.
Velo3D’s in-kind value donation was extremely significant and included design work, materials, a print time of more than five days and post-print activities such as depowdering the head, and support removal. An episode of “3D Printing Nerd” captures all the details.
Bang Your Head
With the head in hand, the “3D Printing Nerd” team set off to prove the true strength of Optimus Primal. They traveled to Toronto to meet the Hacksmith, a renowned creator known for making working prototypes from fictional items to inspire youth into science, technology, and engineering.
To show the strength of the Inconel 718 head to a layman’s audience, Telling and Hacksmith dropped concrete blocks on the head, beat it with metal rods and tried cutting it with Hacksmith’s “real-world lightsaber” (which creates a plasma gas with temperatures reaching 4000-degrees Fahrenheit). The head remained unscathed throughout all the indignities. After Hacksmith, “3D Printing Nerd” brought the head to Adam Savage’s “Tested YouTube channel, where Adam geeks out and subjects the head to further percussive insults.
At the Hollywood premiere of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” the head of Optimus Primal proved to be a huge red-carpet attraction. Ron Perlman, the voice of Optimus Primal, and other celebrities took photos, which generated millions of impressions across all social media platforms.
Connecting at Home
But the real breakthrough for young fans: Tobin worked with Paramount to release official 3D-printable models of Optimus Primal from the film. They worked with the team at Printables.com to create an official profile and share two free downloadable models with the world. The model is prepared both for printing on FFF and SLA machines.
This move marked the first time a major studio officially endorsed 3D printing and provided the opportunity for fans and enthusiasts to engage with their favorite characters in an entirely new way: printing an official model of a character at home at bringing it to the movie with them.
FFF stands for fused filament fabrication, which uses a continuous filament of thermoplastic fed through a computer-controlled heated printer head. “Resin” 3D printers (which use masked stereolithography (MSLA) or stereolithography (SLA) technology) create high-resolution models by curing a liquid resin using a UV light source. Desktop 3D printers start at less than $200, and many cost less than $500, putting them in the same price category as a gaming console.
Thanks to the dedication of David Tobin, Joel Telling, “3D Printing Nerd,” the team at Paramount Pictures, Velo3D, Hacksmith, Adam Savage, and Printables.com, the success of the printable model project has inspired other companies and studios to follow suit. Now instead of just watching a movie, kids can engage with the movie at an entirely new level while boosting their skills.
As for the adult audiences transfixed with Transformers, be on the lookout for a photo op with the Opitmus Primal Inconel 718 head at one of Velo3D’s upcoming trade show appearances. While there is no official “tour schedule,” opportunities include Formnext 2023, Nov. 7-10 in Frankfurt, Germany. Tobin and Telling will be broadcasting “3D Printing Nerd’s” live show, “Show and Telling.” Beyond Formnext 2023, we’re hoping to see the print at Velo3D’s activations around the world, including IMTS 2024 in the Additive Manufacturing Sector at the Velo3D booth: 433031. And eventually in a museum because this tells an important story in additive manufacturing.
Help Shape the Future of Industrial 3D Printing
Be a part of the conversation at Formnext Forum Austin, August 28-30, in Austin, Texas. Industrial AM innovation is the focus of the event, which is designed for industrial business leaders who want to further expand AM into their operations, as well as for those who want to evaluate AM as a production technology.
Register for Formnext Forum Austin to learn more at formnextforum.com. Use the discount code: FFAIMTS.