Odyssey Studios has transformed itself from a traditional prop maker to a global reaching, digitized company thanks to an automated Robot M-series from CNC Robotics.

Located in Limerick, Ireland, with a new extension in Dublin, Odyssey Studios specializes in bespoke props for films, TV series, and public art. Their journey from manual sculpting to embracing robot automation, including a CNC Robotics and KUKA M-series system, marks a significant evolution in prop making.

robotic case studies - odyssey studios
Robot Automation in Prop Making


Many of Odyssey Studios 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.

The Solution

Mark has always been aware of the potential of automation in prop making, and after investing in the robot system, he has seen how transformative this is in the prop building industry. The robotic system has enabled Odyssey to replicate designs and machine props more efficiently and with shorter lead times.

Robot Automation in Prop Making

Automating Artistry

The technology to machine small-volume one-off parts was developed just over 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 advanced robot automation systems, as prop making can take advantage of automated CAD/CAM, meaning the barriers to entry are low.

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.

Robot Automation in Prop Making

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.”

Mark Maher