We haven’t heard much from MCOR lately, but they’ve just developed a new feature that should save considerable post processing time.
The Irish company has been developing a low-cost, full color 3D printer, the Arke, which was announced some time ago. Since then they’ve been refining the design to allow for efficient manufacturing of the system for their worldwide network of distributors.
Their 3D printing process is unlike almost any other, as it uses paper – yes, plain old 2D paper – as its print medium. Their system lays sheets of paper on top of each other, with a sharp blade cutting a trace of the object’s contour at each layer – or paper page in this case.
MCOR transformed this technology into a full color device by simple pre-printing the appropriate colors onto the pages with standard inkjet technology prior to pasting and cutting by their blade system. The resulting print’s surface is then the colored edges of each layer of paper.
The system is interesting in that the costs of materials are quite a bit lower than in other systems where you must procure particular expensive plastics or powders. Here you simply use rolls of sheet paper at low cost. Plus the inkjet colors and inexpensive layer binder, of course.
If you imagine how this works, you would open up the machine after printing and remove what appears to be a solid block of paper. In fact, the object is “inside” the stack of paper, as it has been cut, layer by layer, from the residual paper. Your job at that point is to peel off the excess paper to reveal the object.
Sometimes this is very straightforward, and other times more challenging due to complex geometries. But now it’s going to get a lot easier with MCOR’s new Automatic Waste Removal (AWR) feature. You can see it in operation in this video:
What appears to be happening is that the majority of the residual paper sheets are pulled away during the print operation. Thus, when the machine finishes a job, you open the printer and see something like this:
The object has had the waste paper automatically removed, and the objects are more or less ready for immediate use. I suspect there may be a possibility for dipping them in a sealant to preserve color, if desired. In any case, some work is saved with this feature.
We’re told AWR works only on “certain” 3D models, and that makes sense. An object with a complex geometry might be tricky to automatically pull away discontiguous pieces of paper. But nevertheless, it would appear that it should be possible to at least eliminate the majority of the paper surrounding the exterior of many 3D models being printed in full color.
The price of the MCOR Arke with AWR is no doubt far less than some competing full color systems, such as the Stratasys J700 (both in purchase and material costs), as well as newcomers such as the Mimaki 3DUJ-553. The AWR feature makes it even more usable and lowers the cost of handling labor.
There are not many full color 3D printing options available, but MCOR’s is surely the least expensive.