Oct 16, 2017 | By Tess
Last year, we wrote about how Japanese electronics company Casio was developing a 2.5D printing technology which would allow users to easily print embossed, textured surfaces on paper. Now, Casio has finally unveiled its 2.5D printer, a machine called Mofrel, and recently demonstrated the novel technology at the CEATEC event in Japan.
While it is hard to define what 2.5D printing is—where exactly is the line between 2D and 3D printing?—Casio has taken up the name to describe its new Mofrel printer, which uses a multi-step printing process and special paper to create full-color, textured images.
The company says its 2.5D printing system will have applications in a number of industries, such as the automotive sector, where the printing can be used to create car interior prototypes, as well as the textile industry, as the printer is well suited for recreating patterns and textures of various materials, such as leather and fabrics.
How exactly does Casio’s Mofrel printer work? Firstly, the technology relies on a special type of paper which is made up of several layers, including a base paper layer, a foam layer, and a top inkjet layer. The foam layer is key to the process, as it contains thermally expandable plastic microcapsules which expand when exposed to heat.
In simple terms, once a user has a desired pattern and texture they want printed, they feed the paper into the Mofrel machine which prints said pattern onto the back of the page using an infrared and heat-absorbing black ink. Next, the paper can be reinserted into the printer (with the opposite side facing up) and the full-color print will be made.
The final stage is to apply heating to the back of the page, a step Casio calls “forming,” which causes the middle foam layer to expand according to the heat-absorbing grayscale pattern on the paper’s back.
Casio also points out that it is possible to vary the amount the foam expands simply by varying the degree of ink used in the grayscale print, though users shouldn’t have to worry too much about this step as Casio has developed a program which generates the grayscale data automatically based off the 3D design.
While the Mofrel 2.5D printing system may fall closer to the 2D side of printing technology, Casio’s technology still seems like a handy way to create texturally and visually realistic surfaces for prototyping purposes. We could even see the printer being used to create surfaces to be stuck on 3D printed prototypes to give clients an accurate picture of what a final product will look and feel like.
Posted in 3D Printer
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