Strike a Pose! Stickybones Takes 3D Printing to Hollywood
With over 15 years of experience in the entertainment and special effects industry, Stickybones' CEO and C-Founder Erik Baker identified a significant gap for animators to produce animated and visual effects films —it takes too long. By offering a physical, tactile approach to explore ideas rapidly, Stickybones is able to save countless hours for animators and artists who need to explore poses and tell their stories with highly posable animation figures. By partnering with GKN Additive (Forecast 3D), Stickybones can produce parts on-demand and bypass tooling. In addition, they can customize, accessorize, and differentiate themselves in the market. Stickybones takes agile manufacturing to a different level with an unparalleled level of poseability.
In 2016, Erik Baker and his cofounder Lauren Baker launched Stickybones after identifying a common bottleneck in animation production. Stickybones grasped the opportunity to redefine the animation industry by simplifying the production process. The company's mission is to provide technology and design-centric products that empower people to create faster and more playfully.
Since the beginning, Stickybones has developed major partnerships with CAD software giant Autodesk and our team at GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) to offer its customers customizable and on-demand products. The product itself is a human model that is approximately 8 ½ inches tall and consists of several modular pieces that range from ¼ to 1 ½ inches for hands, heads, varying body parts, accessories and more. Employees at companies like Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks are actively using the Stickybones product to enhance their creative process and speed up production. While the traditional method of poseable figure production is done through injection mold tooling, Stickybones required a more immediate and flexible solution.
The traditional route to produce high-precision, steel molds is a requirement for any business that wishes to mass-produce identical products, including Stickybones. But in order to differentiate themselves from the competition and provide unique accessories, they needed to find an alternative method of production. “Tools are very expensive, sometimes $100,000 per steel mold and this large, upfront investment didn’t make sense for our experimental and custom pieces,” said Baker, who suggests that there is a production threshold, and that volume plays an important role in the decision-making process. “In order to breakeven and more importantly, become profitable, we needed to hit certain numbers,” he said. “We needed an alternative.”
With many molds already in production, Stickybones required a method that could enable them to create new product lines and expand the product offering to accommodate 41 modular components that didn’t require expensive tooling.
GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) (Carlsbad, CA) was founded in 1994 and has built quite a reputation in the prototyping, production, and volume manufacturing realm. With a proven propensity for early technology adoption, GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) has grown its capabilities significantly over the years. What started as a prototyping/production house with SLS and CNC technologies has since evolved. Becoming one of the first DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) service facilities in 2007, investing in FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers in 2010, and officially becoming the West Coast Experience Center for HP MJF (Multi Jet Fusion) technology in 2017. Early adopters are often considered visionaries, and GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) is helping companies like Stickybones see the future.
Baker and his team are familiar with 3D printing and own several machines in house that are used for a variety of reasons, mainly prototyping and tolerance testing. While the SLA (Stereolithography) technology is ideal for building beautiful prototypes, it sacrifices strength. And the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology is great for mimicking the needed strength properties but leaves layer and striation lines. Stickybones required a goldilocks 3D printer that could produce injection mold-like quality production parts and didn’t break the bank. Enter HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology.
Arguably one of the fastest 3D printers on the market (10x compared to traditional systems), the MJF 3D printer prints parts in 80-micron layers and is ideal for prototyping and production. Utilizing a Nylon12 material that has isotropic strength properties in all axes, this technology rivals the quality and strength of injection molding. After a simple cost per unit analysis, Stickybones took the recommendation from GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) and began their medium volume production of custom accessories. MJF is a cost-effective solution for customers looking for strength and quality in prototyping and production.
- Time Savings → Baker reflected on the value of turnaround speed and flexibility to make design modifications: “The traditional method of creating tools is time-consuming. Cutting steel and dialing in the tolerances can take months and multiple iterations. Our recent order of parts with GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) took seven days.” With multiple patents and 41 modular designs ready to be tested and produced, 3D printing has provided Stickybones with immediate feedback and sales.
- Cost-Efficient Customization → “3D printing is our preferred medium to low volume production method. Hand poses and accessories are different but it’s the same price and we can print them all together, overnight.” Baker added that the value of 3D printing is the flexibility to produce custom parts and bypass tooling. “When variety is key, this works.”
- Commercialization → The Stickybones team is impressed with the MJF parts and ready to go to market: “We want to explore and present new products to our customers rapidly. Our partnership with GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) enables us to test the market and differentiate ourselves from the competition.”
“We asked ourselves if we can find a solid additive manufacturing partner and the quality is there, would it work?” Baker acknowledges some hesitancy when they originally researched 3D printing service bureaus. “There aren’t enough places that are equipped with high volume capacity.” With over 31 HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers in the Carlsbad, California office, GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) was up for the challenge and has since delivered its promise to provide quality products within agreed-upon timelines. This enables Stickybones to test new products with current customers and develop conversations with prospects leading to new innovations and ideas. 3D printing is changing production as Baker says, “it’s time to embrace this type of manufacturing.”