Casio's Mofrel 2.5D printer can print realistic textures like leather & fabric onto paper

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

Maybe you also like:

Casio's '2.5D' Printer Opening New Dimensions of Printing

By now “3D printing” is a globally acknowledged term, but wait “2.5D printing” for sure sounds strange to ears. Casio demonstrated this Mofrel printing technology at CEATEC. The technology introduced gives a wide range of textures to regular looking printing sheets, before finishing with the final touches of a sixteen million color inkjet.

The printed models were surprisingly good and considerable. Even the patterns had great details added to them. The delicate stitch bumps, the puffiness of leather, roughness of the uneven surfaces, even the unevenness of the sewed patterns could be felt and was visible in the printed samples.

Copying of hard materials like brick, stone, wood, and ceramic is also possible, however, some of them needed an extra coating for luster and solidity.

Casio’s “digital sheets” is the secret element of this printing. They seem to be thicker than the normal paper sheets. The “digital sheets” have micro powder layer inserted in between the paper or PET substrate and the inkjet layer. The powdered particles are coated with acrylonitrile (a thermoplastic resin) and contain a hydrocarbon. The acrylonitrile and hydrocarbon combo expands on exposure to heat when the heat is removed the structure returns to its original form, hence the copied pattern is made on the printing sheet.

For controlling the texture construction, the pattern is first printed on the sheet’s top microfilm using carbon, later these infrared absorbing carbons target the heat on the wanted parts of the micro powder layer. Hideaki Terada, Executive Officer- Casio Digital Art Division said that the micro powders can expand up to 1.7 mm thickness. At present, the thickness is kept at this level to maintain steadiness. Although with some difficulty the thickness of 2 mm to 2.5 mm is also technically attainable. Once the pattern is attained the microfilm is taken off to print colors on the inkjet layer that is the textured surface.

A total span of 3 to 5 minutes is consumed for printing a regular A4 “digital sheet”, single side. An amount of $10 is the worth of each printed sheet. In comparison to normal printing sheets, these sheets may appear abrupt, but the variety of patterns possible with this technology are numerous. This technology is way too cheap and fast keeping in mind the technological miracles it’s offering.
A3 sheets can also be used for the printer. Double-sided sheets for both A3 and A4 sizes are also available but the prices are not known.

The cost of the current version of Mofrel printer is about $44,400 and will be offered as a B2B solution next year. It’s been said that some top electronic firms and automaker industries have already received an access to Mofrel and are using it for their R&D. Currently the price is a lot for normal consumers like us, but Terada has hinted about launching a consumer version, still, that would take one to one and half years’ time.

Also Read: China Approves HP’s Deal to Buy Samsung Printer Business