Gentle Giant Studios combines talented sculptors, cutting-edge 3D technology, and a deep understanding of the design and production process to deliver a wide range of services to the toy industry. Rapid turnaround on licensed products is one of their strengths.

Gentle Giant recently added FreeForm modeling to their arsenal to improve productivity and cycle time while maintaining their high quality standards. When toy manufacturer Jakks Pacific approached them to do a line of WWF action figures, FreeForm software was perfect for the job.

Developing Licensed Products via 3D Scanning

When developing licensed product, it is often fastest to start with an existing example of the character. Such an approach also streamlines the licensor approval process. Gentle Giant first acquires a model of the character, either from their own library of past work, from retail toy stores or by scanning people using one of their in-house laser scanners. Computer software is then used to painstakingly clean up the scanned data. Finally, rapid prototyping machines are used to create a physical tooling pattern.

Speeding the Process with FreeForm Modeling

Even when the highest-quality hardware is used, the scanning process creates extraneous artifacts, especially in difficult places such as under chins, around ears, and other occluded areas. Also, fine model details, such as teeth or knuckles on human characters, can be lost. Addressing these problems by editing the scanned data point-by-point or polygon-by-polygon with traditional editing requires more time than the actual scanning.

This process is difficult, tedious and not expressive. Often, traditional software tools are simply incapable of dealing at all with the required cleanup.

Today, Gentle Giant uses the FreeForm modeling system to “digitally retouch” scanned models more quickly and easily. They were able to refine over 50 head scans for the WWF action figure line in a matter of days. Scanned data in .stl format is imported into the FreeForm system, where it becomes “digital clay.” Crucial detail can then be recreated with the precision, control and expressiveness that only comes through FreeForm modeling’s touch-enabled sculpting workflow.

Extraneous artifacts are simply carved away with the sweep of a tool. Poses and gestures can even be modified. And it really is that simple. According to Kelly Pearlstein, one of Gentle Giant’s key sculptors, Geomagic FreeForm is a great fit for their workflow. “I’m an artist, not a technician,” says Pearlstein. “Even without computer graphics training, I was able to immediately put FreeForm modeling to use.”

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Image above: FreeForm gives users an unprecedented connection with their models since they can actually “feel” them through the PHANTOM(R) force-feedback interface.

“FreeForm modeling helped us get the WWF line to market faster without sacrificing quality. We’re happy and our client is happy.”

Karl Meyer, President, Gentle Giant Studios

Completed models are exported from ]FreeForm as .stl files to create physical tooling patterns with 3D Systems RP equipment or for conversion to NURBS surface data for use in CAD.

The Results

By using FreeForm  in its process, Gentle Giant modelers were able to remove scanning artifacts and restore lost detail quickly and easily. “The Rock” and other WWF models were modified digitally while maintaining the lifelike aesthetic quality that Gentle Giant customers demand. The bottom line was a 6-8 week cycle time reduction that resulted in lower costs, faster time-to- market and a very happy client.

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Image: Gentle Giant uses a process they call “Real Scan,” which includes scanning the character, cleaning data, printing in 3D and adding the finishing touches.