The thermoforming process will be used to make the company’s merchandise.
3D Printing Industry reported that the company has a new “technique for computational thermoforming objects with a textured film”, and that this could “change thermoforming for ever”. The present process requires toy dolls to be “painted and finished” after the doll has been made, but this is a multifarious process and not very efficient. Thermoforming has long been used by the packaging industry to mould shape and contours in a 3D-like manner.
By taking advantage of 3D scanning to make a “distortion map” and then create a mould, they then use a “film with the texture or colouring already in place”. Using this technology, the company has shown that it is possible with a “pattern and pre-printed texture and design” to print on a moulded face.
The report said that faces are “exceptionally difficult to map”, and that Disney’s new process will be able to “add a great deal of detail” to its figures and other products. The report also noted that it would be possible to do this process at home using a “laser printer to produce the desired pattern on transfer paper”, and then using a thermal press to “transfer the print to the plastic sheet”, after which the plastic is thermoformed into a gypsum mould – however, without Disney’s computer help and “advanced algorithms” the end product may not be perfect.
Disney make their moulds from “heat-resistant gypsum” and then place it with precision on a “calibrated bed”, and the report said that robots could be used to do this, but that they suspect Disney is streamlining this project further, and that future packaging processes could be changed because of the new technology.
Having invested heavily in 3D printing, the company have revealed a 3D photocopier that “scans and copies an item without structural support”, and the report said that it is easy to see why when Disney products were responsible for generating $40 billion (€36 billion) in 2014, as anything that helps to “streamline the production process will have significant impacts on its profits”.