Besides the countless ways that 3D printing technology has changed and will continue to alter the landscape of manufacturing, it also has the capacity to improve and even save lives. In the process, the technology is proving a boon rather than a detriment to the environment.
That’s definitely the case where Mcor Technologies is concerned. This highly innovative, Ireland-based 3D printing powerhouse is at the forefront in manufacturing affordable, full-color, safe, and eco-friendly 3D printers. Founded by brothers Dr. Conor MacCormack and Fintan MacCormack, the company, which is headquartered in Dunleer, County Louth, Ireland, about 70 kilometers north of Dublin, produces the only 3D printers to use, says their website, “ordinary-A4/letter paper as the build material.” Mcor produces its Matrix and IRIS 3D printers, both of which are capable of printing using paper as the build material. Furthermore, it is paper that you can purchase at an ordinary office supply store, so we assume you can opt for the recycled paper.
Now Mcor has an opportunity to demonstrate how its technology truly can change–and save–lives. On April 24, 2013 unspeakable tragedy struck when an eight-story commercial building, Rana Plaza, in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,129 people and injuring twice as many. Searches through the rubble continued until May 13 when the final death toll was calculated.
The collapse of Rana Plaza was the result of a known structural failure in the building. The building housed apartments, a bank, several shops, and garment factories. Immediately after major cracks, which compromised the structure, were discovered, the shops and banks on the lower floors closed. However, the low-paid garment workers were ordered to return to their jobs the following day and the building collapsed during the morning rush hour.
Mcor Technologies was asked by Irish Design 2015, a national design and crafts job initiative to encourage enterprise and innovation, to replicate one of the original bricks from the Rana Plaza building. The brick was provided to Mcor by Arup, a global firm of consulting engineers, and they were charged with creating a replica using their unique, paper-based 3D printing technology. The Mcor Technologies brick is designated to be included in a capsule traveling to Irish embassies across the globe to showcase the work of Irish companies involved in craft and design.
The brick from the collapsed Rana Plaza was first 3D scanned using a handheld 3D scanner, which captured the every contour, every minute detail of the object. Next a file with printable polygons was created and directed to an Mcor IRIS 3D printer. Layer by layer, the replica brick was printed, using a process known as SDL (selective deposition lamination).
In the photograph at left, the original brick and the replica are shown. The fidelity of the replica (top) to the original (bottom) is truly remarkable.
This project emphasizes, aside from its humanitarian focus, the strength and durability of the Mcor 3D printed paper material and also the full-color capability of the technology. Indeed, while the Rana Plaza brick is crumbling, a terrible reminder of the senseless deaths that occurred due to the lack of structural integrity of the building, the Mcor Technologies brick is proven an excellent material for construction, among its many uses.
What do you think of this project? Is it similar to any other restoration endeavors you’ve heard of? Discuss in the 3D Printed Rana Plaza Brick forum thread over at 3DPB.com.