Elon Musk Drew Inspiration From Iron Man to Build 3D Printing System

The relationship between art and life is one of almost mutual inspiration. Everyday experiences often lead creators to dream up the images and stories that brighten our world while others get their creative spark from the things found in art. As it turns out, that holds true when it comes to the relationship between art and science as well, specifically when it comes to Elon Musk. According director Jon Favreau, Musk's inspiration for his 3D printing system was Iron Man.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Favreau reveals that it was the scene in Iron Man when Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark uses hologram manipulations to help design is Iron Man suit that led Musk to develop his 3D printing system.

"I met him when I was making Iron Man. He's in Iron Man 2. He let us shoot at SpaceX for free, long before any rockets launched, so [Iron Man 2 villain] Justin Hammer's worksite is SpaceX," Favreau said. "He understands how much impact he has on the path to the future. He understands storytelling, whether it's in how he makes presentations or what he gravitates toward. When he wants to explain things, it's often by referencing something that has appeared in fiction. Whether you're making movies or whether you're selling an idea of the future, the best way to demonstrate it for the most people to understand it is through a good fable, a good story. That's why Steve Jobs was a great storyteller. He told you the story of the iPhone, he didn't just give you the iPhone."

Favreau went on to explain that, like Star Trek inspired the iPhone, Iron Man inspired Musk.

"Remember, the iPhone never had an instruction manual," he said. "The flip phone would have never existed had it not been for Star Trek. The engineer who developed that saw it in Star Trek and said, 'How can I build this?' After Iron Man, I went down to SpaceX, and if you remember when Robert Downey is designing the Iron Man suit, he sticks his arm into a hologram and moves it around. [Musk] had his people build that 3D printing system based on manipulating holograms because he saw that in the movie."

Sound wild? It's true, and Musk himself confirmed it. Back in 2013 when Musk shared a video of the groundbreaking design system, Favreau retweeted Musk's post about it and asked, "Like in Iron Man?" Musk replied that, after seeing it in the movie, they decided to make it real.

Of course, the 3D design system isn't the only inspiration Musk has taken from Iron Man. A few years later, Musk would pay the Pentagon a visit and, when the press wondered what it was he was working on? Musk teased he was making his own Iron Man Suit.


"Something about a flying metal suit..." he wrote.

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