Disney Seeks More Realistic Robots

Disney is turning to high-tech processes such as 3D scanning and 3D printing to make robotic characters in Star Wars films and amusement park rides more human-looking.

In a patent application published Dec. 15, Disney Enterprises described new technology to produce injection molded skins on robots that feature wrinkles and other human charcteristics.

Current approaches, the company said, are very labor-intensive, expensive and lack reality.

“While many advances have been made in realistically simulating the physical movement and facial movement of a character, problems with maintaining a realistic or desired movement or facial animation still occur when the robotics (e.g., internal components of a robot including mechanical/structural portions as well as software, hardware, power systems, and the like) are covered with a skin or skin system.”

The new approach starts with a 3D scan of an object, such as a person’s hand. The digital information is then 3D printed to form a mold core. Parts are then injection molded with an elastomeric material, such as TPE.

“It is likely that the interest in robotics will continue to expand in the coming years, and a growing area of interest is how to provide robots that appear more realistic,” Disney stated in the patent application.

It’s estimated that the new approach will reduce manual labor by 20 to 30 percent, while also increasing quality.

Automation of what Disney calls “physical face cloning” has been a goal for more than four years.

Illustration depicts a mold cavity with a model of a human figure. (USPTO

Illustration depicts a mold cavity with a model of a human finger. (USPTO)

About Doug Smock

Former Chief Editor at Plastics World and Senior Technical Editor Design News
Additive manufacturing, Consumer Goods, Elastomers, Injection Molding, North America

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