Where would you get a candy dish shaped like a human cranium?
When the University of Lynchburg theatre department needed one for the production of “You Can’t Take it With You,” the solution was simple: print it.
The department recently purchased a 3D printer to use in preparing props and costume pieces. Using a digital file containing a three-dimensional scan of a human skull, the printer laid down layer after layer of plastic filament to create the candy dish. The process took about 36 hours.
The printer opens up a world of possibilities, said Christopher Otwell, designer and technical director in the theatre department.
“Normally when you’re shopping for props, you have to get what’s available, or you’re making something from scratch,” he said. “Usually you’re having to settle for what you can find. With a 3D printer, you can print and get exactly what you’re looking for.”
The upcoming production of “You Can’t take it With You” also utilizes NYPD police badges that printed in about an hour each.
The printer can create almost anything within a certain size. For example, it can create replicas of guns that fit the setting of a play as well as glasses rims that match the style from any time period. The plastic filament used in the printer is inexpensive enough that in many cases, printing a difficult-to-find prop is much less expensive than purchasing it.
Otwell said he also plans to print miniature models of his scenic designs, saving time so he does not have to build scale models by hand. “The 3D printer is going to make a big difference in the world of scenic design,” he said.