Those who play video games are familiar with the concept of backward compatibility, hardware or software systems that can successfully use interfaces and data from earlier versions of the system or with other systems. This type of capability allows you to play classic games on new consoles, extending the life of older games and awarding players with a fantastically nostalgic experience.
What would this concept look like if it were applied to additive manufacturing? It may come in the form of 3D printers creating 2D prints, such as the 3D printed ball point pen mount that can be attached to printers to create beautifully drawn images. Or, it may look like 2D printers being able to make 3D printed creations. Wait…. What??? One company has recently emerged claiming to be working on that very idea.
Printder claims to be able to print 3D objects using any one of several common 2D printers. Just load your printer with their special paper and ink cartridges and your machine is ready to start 3D printing. Once your CAD file is ready, Printder’s software will slice it into layers, save it as a PDF, and then print it like any other file. Once the file is printed, place the papers in the Printder-provided paper tray and bake them in the oven. The baking process melts the ink and bonds the pages together. The final step is to place your print in water to dissolve the remaining paper and reveal the high quality 3D printed object. The site claims that objects with sizes up to 8.5″ x 11″ x 6′ are ale to be fabricated.
This concept is not a brand new one. Five years ago, Andrew Maurer, an engineer and inventor, had also attempted to bring the 2D 3D print concept to life, and a company called Mcor Technologies actually uses a somewhat similar process, minus the baking in the oven, and on a much larger scale.
Maurer, who has created other 3D printing gadgets such as the Smoke Signal, also tried to perfect this process by printing several cross-sections of the desired 3D object on paper. However, unlike Printder’s special paper tray, he wanted to use a heated clamp to press the sheets together once printed. Then, rather than dissolve the excess paper away, the paper would become brittle in the heating process and could be knocked off the 3D printed object. He experimented with dissolving the paper in water as well, but found that heating the paper affected its water solubility.
Maurer tried several iterations of this process and had difficulty finding paper or the proper ink that would print and bond correctly, as well as break away cleanly from the object once the heating process was complete. He brought the idea close to the patent application stage, but ultimately abandoned it due to an inability to find materials that met the required technical specifications.
3D printing from a 2D printer is a fascinating concept and would be an interesting development in the world of additive manufacturing. Although a viable process remains to be seen, hopefully Printder can prove to be the real deal.
What do you think? Is this a legitimate process? Could it work? Discuss in the Printder forum thread on 3DPB.com.