Odyssey Studios

Background

Odyssey Studios has transformed itself from a traditional props maker to a global reaching, digitized company thanks to an automated robotic system from CNC Robotics and KUKA.

Robots are typically tasked with performing heavy-duty jobs, on a big scale, delivering the same thing, repetitively, over long periods. This is pretty much the opposite of what Odyssey Studios does.

With headquarters in Limerick, Ireland, and newly-opened premises in Dublin, it specializes in making ‘props’ – models and scenery – for films, TV series, theatre, and public art, such as sculptures and installations in open spaces. Many of the props are bespoke, large scale, and specialized rather than repetitive. For Odyssey, a run of 10 statues is big.

“Sometimes we do some large, one-off pieces and it could take artists sculpting them quite a long time,” says Mark Maher, founder, and CEO of Odyssey Studios. He has been in the business for over 20 years and has made props for movies such as The Hobbit series, Alice in Wonderland, and for TV series including the first incarnation of Penny Dreadful, which used Dublin as a stand-in for Victorian London.

Mark has always been aware of the potential of automation and after investing in the robotic system has seen how transformative this is in the prop building industry. A statue that had originally been created as a one-off but which the Director liked and then ordered a dozen more of; or to speedily scale up a maquette (scale model) to something three meters tall, using 3D scanning. The robotic system has enabled Odyssey to replicate designs and machine props more efficiently and with shorter lead times.

Automating artistry

The technology to machine small-volume one-off parts was developed just 10 years ago by CNC Robotics Founder and CTO, Jason Barker. The breakthrough came as CAD/CAM capabilities advanced. Jason had been searching for ways to bring affordable automation into creative industries and with his background in this sector, he was able to see the potential.

“When you’re making one-offs, it’s usually a very complex, highly detailed part, which would often take weeks to sculpt using traditional tools and methods. The leap from the industrial environment into the creative world came from driving robots with CAD/CAM software.”

CNC Robotics had worked with Autodesk PowerMill software for several years. Jason says that manufacturers like Odyssey Studios have seen positive benefits from incorporating additive manufacturing/3D printing and developing hybrid solutions, enabling it to initially 3D print and then mill back from near-net to net shape, very quickly.

Acceptable accuracy

The key to adopting these solutions was the realization that creative industries did not need the same levels of accuracy as engineering. If it did, the 5-axis machines typical of engineering applications would still be prohibitively expensive.

“For companies like Odyssey, the visual aspect and the creativeness that they add by using a KUKA robot instead of a human being is that they can get repeatable parts, multiples of the same thing, but they also get that one-off capability where they can drive something dynamically and investigate how to extrapolate from the digital world into the real world. The robot is the best vehicle to do that,” Jason says.

Ease of use

The simplicity of operation is the key to Odyssey Studios. It’s KUKA KR 210 R2700 robot has made its work easier, faster, more accurate, and more productive.

“Since we got the robot, we haven’t stopped using it, except for COVID-19 interruptions,” says Mark Maher. “We can scan in a model approved by the director and immediately scale up to the size needed and then form the piece, in polystyrene or, in the case of public space art, produce a plaster mould that will be used to make a sculpture. In the studio, what we are making could be the interior of a Gothic palace or the interior of a spaceship.” Making such things manually is time-consuming; producing a digital maquette, getting it signed off, and then producing the full-sized article – or articles – with a robot is more efficient and effective use of time.

The robot has also helped to win new business.

“We work in a very fast-paced industry,” says Mark. “Often we have pieces that might take months to do by hand and with multiple changes to get right. It was those needs that spurred us to go with automation. We are the only studio with it in Ireland. There are not many anywhere in the world,” he adds. And business is good; Odyssey Studios is working on one of the biggest tickets in entertainment at the moment, Mark confirms.

 “We’re doing work right now for an Apple TV show coming out next year called Foundation, from the Isaac Asimov books. It’s a massive undertaking.”

Odyssey Studios Case Study
Odyssey Studios Case Study
Odyssey Studios Case Study
Odyssey Studios Case Study
Odyssey Studios Case Study

“Simplicity of operation is key for Odyssey. Its KUKA KR 210 R2700 robot has made its work easier, faster, more accurate and more productive.”

Mark Maher     CEO

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2020-10-15T16:20:46+00:00
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