While wandering the aisles of Solidworks World earlier this week, I came upon a vendor whom I’d spoken with many times previously, and they had some equipment that gave me an idea.
The company was Roland, makers of a wide variety of making devices. Recently they’ve been marketing small 3D printing / CNC devices, which we’ve written about earlier. They’ve also been developing a SLS-style powder-based 3D printer that’s not yet released.
I saw a rather large machine in their booth and assumed it was the same SLS device I’d seen previously, but I was entirely incorrect. The device, the VersaUV LEF-200, is a very unusual 2D printer: it can print high resolution color text and images on, well, almost anything that’s flat. For example, you could easily print a very professional looking logo on a ceramic tile.
The machine is interesting in that it can print 2D on non-flat surfaces as well. Here we see the limits of their capability, which is an image on a golf ball.
This is all fun, but certainly not 3D printing, nor has it anything to do with 3D printing.
Or does it?
I had the notion that a machine like this might be a valuable complement to any existing 3D print service. While some 3D print services merely run your job thru their printers and produce an object, some services provide additional post-printing services, like color dyeing, smoothing or painting.
But here’s the idea: what if the 3D print service offered high-resolution color 2D surface printing on the printed (and presumably smoothed) 3D object? A color-accurate logo could appear on the side of your object, for example.
Obviously there would be a number of constraints in this service, as the Roland device cannot print colors on ANY geometry. However, there’s likely a very large number of objects that have at least a portion where images could appear.
Some applications could include:
- Artist signatures, with sequential print numbers
- Product labeling
- Fine details accenting the visual appearance of the object
- Instructional marks, like arrows pointing at a feature
- Precise coloration beyond that achievable by existing color 3D print processes
And there’s obviously more ideas possible once people start thinking about it.
The Roland representative thought this might be a good idea.
So, to those 3D print services who are likely going to get a call from Roland, my apologies!