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3D printed costumes used in Black Panther

Published on March 20, 2018 by Niru K.

Black Panther the recent Marvel hit movie has reached a new milestone by being the latest movie to gross more than billion dollars at the world wide box office. The success of the film has brought so much scope and inspiration to many around the world. One of the main highlights of the movie was the costume worn by the actors especially the Wakanda Queen, Ramonda.  It is exciting to know that some of the film’s stunning costumes were 3D printed.

The manufacturing of the costumes involved 3D printing to combine the both traditional African design and the futuristic elements of the Wakanda civilisation. Julia Koerner, an architect and 3D printing fashion specialist, helped Ruth E. Carter, a costume designer, to integrate 3D printing into the costumes especially of those of Queen Ramonda.

The use of 3D printing in movies especially for costumes and accessories for characters has been popular in recent times. The use of 3D printing makes it easier to create personalised objects more quickly, efficiently and most importantly at lower costs while allowing simple and complex designs to be printed at the same time. Recently we saw Stranger Things, Netflix hit show, turned to 3D printing to create Demogorgon. For Black Panther it was a case of capturing traditional African influences in a hypermodern context, one where nature and technology are intertwined, to create the costumes that will represent the fantasy world of Wakanda, an objective that is not easy to achieve.

Some pieces of the Queen’s costume have been printed in 3D

3D printed costumes inspired by the African Culture

Here is a small history behind the concept of the Black Panther movie and the desire to use 3D printed costumes: the kingdom of Wakanda is a fictitious African civilisation that is very advanced from a technological point of view but because of its isolation from the rest of the world, it has kept the deep roots with its African culture and tradition. Hence, the costumes in the film had to be very futuristic and at the same time completely true to its African origins. In the case of Queen Ramonda, the key lay in 3D printing, the technology is capable of creating complex designs and structures and it was the perfect way for stylists to create the association between the old and the new.

The crown worn by the queen was to resemble the traditional crowns worn by married Zulu women; Carter, however, wanted to give it a futuristic touch so it doesn’t feel like that the costumes were handmade. She turned to Julia Koerner who created the model pieces combining both the concepts into one using 3D printing.

The head piece and the shoulder mantle of Queen Romanda were printed using laser sintering technology from Polyamide 12 powder. This material offers a high level of accuracy, robustness and flexibility to the final product, the materials is also well suited for skin contact this makes it ideal for costume and fashion designs. They used a professional-grade 3D printer in Belgium to print the prop with this material.

In fact, Carter wanted to keep the look of 3D printed costumes authentic, she decided not to paint the piece and left it in its all additively manufactured glory. The technology also enabled her to focus in on the African lace style while also highlighting the advanced technology that is used by the Wakanda people in the film.

“I am inspired by nature and its patterns and structures. The organic growth and synthetic manufacturing processes have an incredible contrasting engagement which I find enticing. Additive manufacturing is definitely the only technique to output the 3D designs I develop on the computer within their organic form, the intricate patterns and geometries often challenge both the computational capacity of my tools as well the production companies I work with. I always push and see what has not yet been done and I am eager to create something new.” explains Julia Koerner.

Image: Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER / Costume Design by Ruth Carter

Watch the below video of Ruth Carter by IMAX to find out more about the concepts and ideas behind the making of the costumes in Black Panther:

Could this film be nominated in the “Best Costume” category for the 2019 Oscars? Find more information on the website of Materialize, a Belgian additive manufacturing specialist who helped design 3D printed models for this movie.

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