How to print us­ing of­fice pa­per

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - 3D TECHNOLOGY -

3D print­ers have been with us for decades, turn­ing 3D com­puter de­signs into de­tailed phys­i­cal ob­jects.

These de­vices cre­ate mod­els in a range of ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing plas­tic, plas­ter, pho­topoly­mers, metal and some­times even food. Each of these ma­te­ri­als brings in­her­ent ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages, de­pend­ing on your ap­pli­ca­tion.

There’s one more to ma­te­rial to con­sider though: pa­per. Se­lec­tive De­po­si­tion Lam­i­na­tion (SDL) or pa­per 3D print­ing was in­vented by Dr Conor and Fintan MacCor­mack in 2003.

Dr MacCor­mack saw the tech­nol­ogy first-hand when he was earn­ing his doc­tor­ate de­gree at Trin­ity Col­lege. Un­for­tu­nately, the school’s 3D prin­ter was only a tease. Be­cause of the high cost of the ma­te­rial, only one or two stu­dents could print a model at the end of the year, de­feat­ing the whole pur­pose of hav­ing the tech­nol­ogy.

When he started work­ing with Air­bus as an engi­neer, he had am­ple ac­cess to a 3D prin­ter – ac­cess he knew most stu­dents and en­gi­neers were de­nied. It just wasn’t right. Although 3D prin­ter prices were de­clin­ing, the cost of their ma­te­ri­als was soar­ing. So Dr MacCor­mack and his older brother, Fintan, a qual­i­fied air­craft me­chanic and elec­tri­cal engi­neer, set out to in­vent a 3D prin­ter with an op­er­at­ing cost so low the tech­nol­ogy would be ac­ces­si­ble to every­one. It was also im­por­tant to make the prin­ter ro­bust enough for se­ri­ous use in com­mer­cial set­tings.

That vi­sion has be­come a re­al­ity in the com­pany the MacCor­ma­cks co-founded, Mcor Tech­nolo­gies, which man­u­fac­tures mono­chrome and full-colour 3D print­ers that cost a frac­tion of any other 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy.

The key rea­son? While most tech­nolo­gies build mod­els from ex­pen­sive plas­tic or chem­i­cal­ly­in­fused pow­der, Mcor 3D print­ers use or­di­nary, af­ford­able and ubiq­ui­tous A4 of­fice pa­per as the build ma­te­rial.

SDL is not to be con­fused with the old lam­i­nated ob­ject man­u­fac­tur­ing (LOM) tech­nol­ogy. LOM used a laser, lam­i­nated pa­per and glue, so ev­ery­thing was glued to­gether, in­clud­ing the sup­port ma­te­rial around the model.

Print­ing with pa­per starts when the first sheet is man­u­ally at­tached to the build plate of a Mcor prin­ter.

The place­ment of the first sheet is not im­por­tant, as the first cou­ple of pages are at­tached as a base layer be­fore the ac­tual part cut­ting be­gins. Once the blade depth and the ad­he­sive lev­els are cor­rect, the doors are closed and the ma­chine is ready to ac­cept data from a stan­dard 3D file.

From a PC the user se­lects print and the 3D prin­ter starts to make the part. The first thing that hap­pens is that a layer of ad­he­sive is ap­plied on top of the first man­u­al­ly­placed sheet. The ad­he­sive is ap­plied se­lec­tively – hence the name SDL – “Se­lec­tive”.

This means that a much higher den­sity of ad­he­sive is de­posited in the area that will be­come the part, and a much lower den­sity of ad­he­sive is ap­plied in the sur­round­ing area that will serve as the sup­port.

A new sheet of pa­per is fed into the prin­ter from the pa­per feed mech­a­nism and placed pre­cisely on top of the freshly ap­plied ad­he­sive. The build plate is moved up to a heat plate and pres­sure is ap­plied. This pres­sure en­sures a pos­i­tive bond be­tween the two sheets of pa­per.

When the build plate re­turns to the build height, an ad­justable Tung­sten car­bide blade cuts one sheet of pa­per at a time, trac­ing the ob­ject out­line to cre­ate the edges of the part.

When this cut­ting se­quence is com­plete, the ma­chine starts to de­posit the next layer of ad­he­sive and the whole process con­tin­ues un­til all the sheets of pa­per are stuck to­gether and cut, and the model is fin­ished. Items from the 3D prin­ter are tough and durable.

If you’re us­ing the Mcor IRIS full-colour 3D prin­ter, there’s one more step. Be­fore any cut­ting, the Mcor IRIS pre-prints the colour out­line of the part on each page in the ap­pro­pri­ate colour com­bi­na­tions us­ing a mod­i­fied 2D colour inkjet prin­ter that sits in the IRIS stand. Mcor’s patented wa­ter­based ink per­me­ates the pa­per, pre­vent­ing any white edges on the part.

In order to be fully ac­ces­si­ble, 3D print­ing must be af­ford­able to use on an on­go­ing ba­sis. Mcor’s de­ci­sion to use or­di­nary A4 and let­ter pa­per as the build ma­te­rial was an easy de­ci­sion.

De­spite us­ing low-tech pa­per as the build ma­te­rial, Mcor 3D printed mod­els are strictly pro­fes­sional class. They are cut to a pre­ci­sion of 0.00047in (0.012mm) and a di­men­sional ac­cu­racy of 0.004in (0.1mm).

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