Zprinter 350 Full-Color 3D Printer

The Zprinter 350 from Zcorp disdains those monocolored 3D models in favor of full-color 3D printed objects. The company claims that it has the world's only full-color 3D printer doing rapid prototyping in color.


(Zprinter 350 full-color 3D printer)

Z Corp.s 3D printing technology leverages 3D source data, which often takes the form of computer-aided design (CAD) models. Mechanical CAD software packages, the first applications to create 3D data, have quickly become the standard for nearly all product development processes...

In addition to mainstream applications in mechanical and architectural design, 3D printing has expanded into new markets including medical, molecular, and geospatial modeling. Additional sources of data include CT/MRI diagnostic data, protein molecule modeling database data, and digitized 3D-scan data...

Here's a description of the Zprinter technology; 24 bit color is provided with four colored binders - cyan, magenta, yellow and clear - to print colors onto the shell of the object.

Z Corp. 3D printers use standard inkjet printing technology to create parts layer-by-layer by depositing a liquid binder onto thin layers of powder. Instead of feeding paper under the print heads like a 2D printer, a 3D printer moves the print heads over a bed of powder upon which it prints the cross-sectional data sent from the ZPrint software...

Once the layer of powder is spread, the inkjet print heads print the cross-sectional area for the first, or bottom slice of the part onto the smooth layer of powder, binding the powder together. A piston then lowers the build platform 0.1016mm (0.004), and a new layer of powder is spread on top. The print heads apply the data for the next cross section onto the new layer, which binds itself to the previous layer. ZPrint repeats this process for all of the layers of the part.

Z Corp. applies the proven 2D color inkjet methodology to 3D printing and produces the only 3D printers with 24- bit, full-color capabilities.


(Zprinter full-color 3D samples)

For those who remember waiting in line at the copier or printer, the wait time is a bit more for 3D printers. Zcorp claims a vertical build rate of about 1-2 inches per hour, depending on the part. But at $26,000, it's an amazing technology.

The first time I read about this idea was in a very nicely done popularization of this technology in All Tomorrow's Parties, a 1999 novel by William Gibson. Although the actual technology (whether you call it stereolithography or rapid prototyping) preceded the sf by more than a decade, the nanofax is still a pretty cool idea. Just imagine that you could walk into a tiny convenience store - and get anything you wanted.

"Nanofax AG offers a technology that digitally reproduces objects, physically, at a distance. Within certain rather large limitations, of course. A child's doll, placed in a Lucky Dragon Nanofax unit in London, will be reproduced in the Lucky Dragon Nanofax unit in New York-"

From Zcorp; see also their Z Corporation 3D Printing Technology white paper (pdf).

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/19/2009)

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