3D printing with paper
3D printing is coming closer to every-day reality for consumers as well as designers. Well-known office supply company Staples is teaming up with Mcor, who produce 3D printers, to provide a new, cheap and efficient way of 3D printing. The key is to use paper.
Staples’ office in Almere (NL) has huge stocks of paper, and of course there is ample opportunity for the use of recycled paper in the near future. The main advantage to these printers is their extremely low cost. The developers estimate printing at about 5% of the cost per volume of ‘standard’ 3D printers, many of which use bio-plastics and other organic compounds.
The paper used here comes from wood pulp, which is itself of course an organic material. The printer, called IRIS, builds models from computer instructions in a printer the size of a large fridge-freezer. Layers of paper are produced in the desired shape by software which converts digital drawings to printing instructions.
Using glue, these layers are bonded under pressure. The parts that form the desired object are adhered more strongly and the machine then cuts away the less well-glued material to reveal the finished object. This could be a scale model toy, perhaps. But a full-sized mock-up of the next generation smart-phone is just as easy to produce, as is a complex building detail.
Paper’s other advantage is its applicability to a technology we all know very well – 2D printing. Using standard inks, colour can be added to the layers used in the 3D models before printing. The ink is absorbed by the paper so that even if small errors occur, or the model is cut, no white is shown.
At Materia, we keep returning to 3D printing. Its popularity is increasing rapidly, as printed prices drop and applications, particularly in design and modeling, are found. Part of the attraction is the visceral result: tangible, shapely models which are frequently made of organic materials, and which can often be used for effective communication of ideas as well as being pretty objects.
The developers are focusing on printing services, as the printers themselves are still too expensive for consumers. They are expecting people to come up with all sorts of uses for the machines. This seems very likely to happen, as the creative-digital world seeks new ways of generating physical results.
Read more about Staples’ 3D printing services in Almere here.
And find out more about Mcor 3D printers and technology here.