The detailed facemask, produced using a combination of software, 3D printing and traditional thermoforming (Credit: Disney Research)
Researchers at Disney are proposing a new method of producing its merchandise that uses a twist on the traditional thermoforming process to create unique, customised items.
The key to the new method lies in new, specially designed software, which uses complex algorithms to deform an image to compensate for its application onto a 3D surface.
The process works by using this software to design and then distort an image, before it is transferred to a plastic sheet. In combination with a special 3D printed mould, the sheet is then formed to create a faithful replica of the desired product.
Disney has released a video showing the process in action using three examples: a complicated facemask, a tree trunk and a loaf of bread.
Such intricate software, able to precisely map the stretch of plastic when applied onto a mould was previously unavailable. Although the concept of printed thermoforming is not new, it is the level of detail that can be achieved with the new software, such as facial features and expressions, which is being touted as groundbreaking.
It is thought that the combined software and hardware manufacturing process will enable Disney to create more advanced merchandise in the future, but is also transferrable to many other industries and applications.