Over the last few months, I’ve noticed that 3D printing technology, and the businesses that are based on it, are receiving a much higher level of attention in the mainstream business and technology media. Coupled with this is a noticeable expansion in the number of companies that are engaged in the provision of services to consumers based on 3d printing technologies.
The development of more affordable 3D printing hardware continues to gather pace, and the 3D printing concept is being expanded to materials beyond metal and plastics.
A perfect example of this latter trend is Mcor Technologies. This Irish-based company, founded in 2004 by brothers Dr Conor MacCormack and Fintan MacCormack, has developed 3D printing technology called the Mcor Matrix, that uses ordinary paper as the raw material for the creation of three dimensional objects. This company has received a wave of media attention in Ireland and elsewhere. The Irish Independent newspaper reported in December how:
The Mcor Matrix prints physical 3D models from digital data using A4 paper, water based adhesive and a tungsten carbide blade. Models have the appearance of a wood-carving and are “tough, durable and eco-friendly”. The final models can be treated to give them a smooth, shiny finish and make them more durable. The Mcor Matrix is currently installed in several universities in Ireland and the UK, and the company has received sales enquiries from Dyson, Nintendo, IBM, Stanford and Cambridge.
The Mcor Matrix’ consumables consist of ordinary A4 paper, adhesive and blade. It uses a special commercially available water based PVA adhesive, and the blade is made from cemented tungsten carbide. In an attempt to reduce the capital cost of the machine, it was decided at the conceptual stage to use blade technology instead of lasers.
The Mcor Matrix has a patented adhesive dispensing system that deposits very small dots of adhesive onto the paper substrate. It applies the adhesive selectively, depositing higher density on the part cross sections and lower on the waste. This enables easy weeding (separating off) of waste material. It then uses the blade to cut out the part profile.
The finished parts have similar tactile characteristics to a wood carving – perhaps not surprising given that paper is derived from wood. Media reports state that the price of a Mcor Matrix about USD25,000. However, the running costs of the machine are extremely low, at €0.01 per cubic centimetre of production – said to one fortieth of other leading 3D printing solutions.