Paper-based 3D printing enables students who previously couldn’t afford to 3D print frequent use of professional 3D printing technology
“Learn to create. Influence change,” is the mantra of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, which is known for a rigorous, transdisciplinary curriculum in product design, transportation design, fine arts, environmental design and other creative fields.
Because this is a prestigious, hands-on educational institution, the nearly 2,000 undergraduates and graduate students have abundant access to tools and technologies for designing and making things. There are saws, lathes, laser cutters and a fleet of 3D printers both in model shops and the demo labs.
David Cawley, director of the college’s rapid prototyping and model shops, says that the school has about a dozen 3D printers. “3D printing is definitely on the rise across all disciplines,” Cawley says, “whether making car models, props for photography classes, characters for animation, fine art, or furniture.”
You would think that twelve 3D printers is sufficient. But Art Center College of Design students must pay for the 3D printer materials needed to produce their models. Because the plastics and powders used by many 3D printers are so expensive, many students couldn’t afford to use the 3D printers. They needed options for high-quality 3D printing at a low operating cost the students could afford. The school purchased an Mcor IRIS, the only 3D printer that uses ordinary copy paper as the build material.
The result? More students can 3D print more often. “The Mcor IRIS has extended our toolbox in so many ways,” says Cawley. “What makes it unique is a super low operating cost. Since the build material is ordinary paper, students can make, for example, custom rims and tires for a one-fifth scale car at $2 per cubic inch instead of the $6 it would cost with a plaster-based machine or the $20 it would cost with ABS plastic. That price differential makes a world of difference to students who want to try out more, perhaps bolder ideas than they could otherwise afford.”
The Mcor IRIS is also the world’s most colour-capable 3D printer, able to print in more than one million colours and in any pattern that a colour document printer can produce. The Mcor IRIS’s industry-leading colour fidelity is achieved by its unique use of the global standard International Colour Consortium (ICC) color map, yielding the most accurate, consistent and photorealistic colour in a 3D printer from file to part, part to part, and on undercuts and sidewalls.
Other 3D printers offer only a handful of basic colours that can be printed only in large blocks, or whose colours go drab when absorbed into plaster build material. Mcor IRIS’s colour advantage stems largely from its use of the material optimized for ink – paper.
“And when a student is making a model that should resemble a metallic painted finish, Mcor models – which are essentially reconstructed wood – are easier to sand, drill, prime and paint,” says Cawley. “This quality is just another way Mcor opens up new creative possibilities to Art Center students.”
Students have used the Mcor IRIS to print files of busts of famous people presented by the Smithsonian Institution. “These came out beautifully,” says Cawley. Avant-garde lamps printed with the Mcor IRIS combine stunning organic shapes with paper recycled from the printing process.
“In addition to low operating cost and unmatched colour, the green factor was a tremendous boost for the Mcor IRIS,” says Cawley. “It’s very green. In fact, we’ve put it in an office space because, unlike most 3D printers, it doesn’t spew dust or fumes. In addition, models can be recycled along with ordinary paper because they essentially are paper.”
As students learn about 3D printing and its ability to faithfully produce one-of-a-kind items far faster than they could be manufactured, they are also learning how to choose the right technology for each job. “And if the right machine is a 3D printer, it’s important to choose the right 3D printer,” says Cawley. “Students shouldn’t be putting all their eggs in one basket. They should be synthesizing what they know about each device’s strengths. The Mcor IRIS’s strengths include its affordability, greenness and colour capabilities. It’s serving us well in product design, transportation design and fine arts, and we’re only scratching the surface of its potential.”
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