2.5D print your own samples with Mofrel

On our website, we try to give you as much information about the materials that we collect as possible, but there is one thing we cannot do digitally: let you touch the samples. We give you the opportunity to do so in our exhibitions, but it can still be a hassle to go there if they aren’t near you. Electronics company Casio presents a way to bring materials closer to you, without sending them all around the world. They created a printer called Mofrel, which uses 2.5D printing to create the texture of the material on special paper.

2.5D printing, as opposed to 3D printing, does not create 3D objects, but rather a texture on a flat surface. The feel of a material is important to decide if it is the right material for the project, and the new printer promises to make it much easier to get your hands on samples – literally.

The Mofrel printer is able to print textures such as leather, embroidered fabric, seams, and even hard materials like wood and stone, though these may require additional coating to mimic the hardness or shininess.

To create the textures, you can use your current hardware and software. Grayscale indication data is created to raise the paper according to the design pattern (the darker the grey, the higher the texture). You can revise the automatically generated data by hand, if necessary.

The printer, a 16-million-colour inkjet, is able to print the texture on special ‘digital sheets’. Looking like slightly thicker sheets of paper, they contain a layer of micro-powder between the inkjet layer and the paper. Each powder particle consists of a liquid hydrocarbon coated with a thermoplastic resin (acrylonitrile). The combination of materials expands when it is exposed to heat. The structure that is created this way is retained when the heat is removed.

The texture pattern is first printed onto the sheet’s top microfilm with carbon. The carbon particles absorb infrared light and focus the heat onto the desired areas of the micro-powder layer. The sheet’s expansion has a limit of 2 mm (0.08 inches) and a minimum width of 0.5 mm (0.02 inches). Finally, the microfilm is peeled off and the colours are printed on the textured surface.

To print a single-sided A4 sheet, the process takes around 3 to 5 minutes and costs about USD 10 (EUR 8.45). It is also possible to make 2-sided A4 sheets and the printer even supports A3 paper.

The current version of the Mofrel printer costs JPY 5,000,000 (USD 44,400; EUR 37,500), but Casio hints that a consumer version will also become available in about one and a half year.

For other 2.5D printed materials, click here and here.

Photos: Casio / Engadget