One hundred thousand square feet of rockwork per year. That’s the estimate that Disney quotes as an industry estimate of how much rockwork one theme park operator might construct each year. Of course, this includes not only new construction, but refurbishments of existing construction too.
In the patent that was first filed back in 2018 and granted this year, Disney says one process used in creating artificial rockwork includes having construction workers bend underlying rebar by hand using calipers and “best guesses” to determine how pieces might fit together. Disney says that this leads to inaccurate fits, inefficiency, and a high reliance on the skill of a construction worker.
With this patent, Disney seeks to automate the entire process of designing and fabricating fake rockwork for its theme parks and beyond.
Before we dive into the patent, lets first understand how the rockwork was created. In the design pipeline, each rockwork structure starts with the formation of a foam sculpture or digitally created 3D model. If the model is foam, it will be imported into a 3D environment via 3D scanning. Next, the imported 3D model is “chipped” or split into pieces. The digital rebar structure is the applied or created for each “chip”. The digital rebar structure or model is then either bent manually or by a bending machine that is able to read a design file. In both cases, though, there is presently no way to autonomously generate a rebar structure from a sculpture or 3D digital model of a rockwork structure. As a result, the bending profile for each individual piece of rebar or metal rod must be determined manually, which is very laborious and expensive.
Essentially, the patent allows Disney to automate the bending and chip creation process so they no longer have to rely on contractors to fabricate the rockwork. Instead, the automated process will create the chips from a 3D file and contractors and construction workers will only need to assemble the chips.
It’s possible and very likely that the process described in the patent was utilized by Disney for high profile projects such as Pandora – The World of Avatar and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It’s also very likely that it is being used to create the rockwork for the Fantasy Springs project. Looking into the future, the Disneyland Forward project could lead to some wonderfully beautiful natural and fantastical rockwork.
Disney fans and observers alike will likely agree that Disney’s rockwork has been impressive of late, and the system described in this patent could very well be the reason why.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news and photos from around the Disney Parks!