The fact that regular office paper is neither expensive nor hard to come by helps make 3D printing more accessible to more potential users, MacCormack said. “Whatever paper you put into your 2D office printer, you can use in this machine,” and Mcor is targeting, not the enthusiast or hobbyist, but rather the professionals, including engineers, architects, and educators.
The Matrix 300 looks much like one of those big office copiers. A paper stack on the side feeds individual sheets into the printer, where a blade cuts a 2D profile, and each subsequent sheet is attached with a water-based adhesive.
In addition to its unique paper-based approach, Mcor is flexing its muscle with a novel pricing model. Instead of charging a set fee for the printer, the company is giving the printer away for free and generating revenue by charging for a print service plan that can be purchased for one, two, or three years. The one-year plan starts at $18,500 and includes all maintenance fees and unlimited printing. Mcor is offering the Matrix 300 and the service plans in Europe, and it will introduce the model to the US market this year, MacCormack said.
I was a bit dumbfounded when I first saw this photo. I thought, what does this have to do with the story. Then, it dawned on me. Very cool. I'd like to see more examples of objects that the Mcor Matrix 300 created using paper.
I felt the same, Jenn. I didn't really understand what the block had to do with the ordinary paper and what exactly that guy was doing at first. Once it become clear, it was pretty amazing. The idea of being able to produce fairly durable objects from ordinary office supplies seems pretty compelling. At least for rapid prototying applications--not so sure about using these paper-based parts, no matter how durable, for anything beyond design reviews and some modest testing.
When you finish, the waste goes in the paper-recycle bin. The model can go in there, too, when you finish with it. A nice tool for models but I'd like more information about tolerances. Many of the prototype printers that use plastics have good tolerances that let parts fit together and "operate." Does this type of paper-based prototype let users do that? I'd also like to know more about the technology and how the moving head cuts and glues the paper. Very clever.
I like your point about the recycling aspects of the printer, Jon. I'm not sure about exactly how the process works and there is little technical information on the site. Based on my conversations with the company, they say the printer can and is being used overseas for rapid prototyping of parts--in particular, they mentioned a medical device company using it for vaccum forming and some companies using it to prototype packaging. I'm not sure I see it in use for part prototyping that requires precise tolerances, however.
I can see this 3D printer turning up on one of those cable TV crime channels (Investigation Discovery) as being used in attempted counterfeiting. Must be very tempting to someone out there. (On the lighter side, I can see paper-based 3D printing taking origami into heretofore uncharted territory.)
I could see ths being used in the auto industry for tight packaging applications under the hood. It's one thing to see such applications on screen, it's another to be able to hold it in your hand and slide it down under the jumble of wires and other components.
TJ: Not sure about the rate or some of the other nitty-gritty details on the printing process. Your comment on the pricing is absolutely right. They are taking a page (pardon the pun) from the photo copier business and offering a three-tiered pricing plan to meet a range of usage needs, from occasional printing to multi-departmental, everyday use. Interestingly, several of the stories I've been working on lately have touched on this theme of service becoming recognized for its potential to deliver greater revenue and better margins than sales of the actual product given the razor-tight margins most industries face today.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.