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An Interview with Conor MacCormack, Co-Founder and CEO, Mcor Technologies
January 6, 2015
As 3-D printing as an industry has continued to grow and flourish, so have the people who work and define it. We recently had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Conor MacCormack, who founded Mcor Technologies along with his brother, Fintan MacCormack in 2005, who have created products that are both eco-friendly and print and full color. Perhaps one of the most unique things about their technology is the build material: ordinary business-A4/letter paper which results in what their website calls “durable, stable and tactile models”. Below is the transcript of our interview which was conducted via email.
1) How and when did you decide to get into 3-D printing? What is it from your background that led you to this point?
2) When was Mcor founded and has the company ever done any other type of 3-D printing?
3) What was it that led you to 3-D printing with paper in the beginning? What in particular interested you about paper as the media?
Additionally, the Mcor paper-based process is green: When you’re finished using the model, it can go directly into the paper recycling bin to be reconstituted as paper suitable for use in your next project.
4) What can you tell us about the process and equipment that you use for printing (without giving away your trade secrets)? Is your equipment something you have developed, or have you licensed it from other people?
We have developed our printers ourselves. Our process is described below:
Generating the Digital File
3D printing starts with a 3D data file. Mcor 3D printers support the universal industry standard file format for 3D product designs, STL, as well as OBJ and VRML (for color 3D printing). All mainstream 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software products, including free programs such as SketchUp, produce STL files. Completed designs offered for download are typically presented in STL, as are files produced by scanning a physical object.
Mcor 3D printers include control software, called SliceIT. SliceIT reads the digital data and slices the computer model into printable layers equivalent in thickness to the paper used as the build material. The software also enables you to position the part, or several parts, within the 3D printer’s build chamber. SliceIT works on any standard PC running 64-bit Windows (XP, Windows 7 or Windows 8) with hardware requirements of 8 GB memory, 100 GB hard drive, 1 GB Graphics Card, 2 network cards (one for the printer), connected directly to the 3D printer.
Mcor also offers an additional piece of software, called ColorIT, which is used in conjunction with SliceIT to apply color to the 3D digital files. ColorIT can open numerous file formats: STL, WRL, OBJ, 3DS, FBX, DAE and PLY. Once the file is within ColorIT it can be checked for integrity to ensure it’s a waterproof manifold, however the main function of ColorIT is to apply colors to the digital files prior to slicing in SliceIT.
Once the color has been applied, the model is exported as an WRL file which is then imported into SliceIT for preparation for building.Printing the Object
The first sheet of paper is manually attached to the build plate. The placement of the first sheet is not important, as the first couple of pages are attached as a base layer before the actual part cutting begins.
Once the blade depth and the adhesive levels are correct, the doors are closed and the machine is ready to accept data from SliceIT.
From the PC and within SliceIT, the user selects print and the 3D printer starts to make the part.
Mcor printers print 3D models using a process called Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL). The first thing that happens is that a layer of adhesive is applied on top of the first manually placed sheet. The adhesive is applied selectively. This means that a much higher density of adhesive is deposited in the area that will become the part, and a much lower density of adhesive is applied in the surrounding area that will serve as the support.
A new sheet of paper is fed into the printer from the paper feed mechanism and placed precisely on top of the freshly applied adhesive. The build plate is moved up to a heat plate and pressure is applied. This pressure ensures a positive bond between the two sheets of paper.
When the build plate returns to the build height, an adjustable Tungsten carbide blade cuts one sheet of paper at a time, tracing the object outline to create the edges of the part.
When this cutting sequence is complete, the machine starts to deposit the next layer of adhesive and the whole process continues until all the sheets of paper are stuck together and cut and the model is finished. After the last layer is complete, the part can be removed from the build chamber.
If you’re using the Mcor IRIS full-color 3D printer, there’s one more step. Before any cutting, the Mcor IRIS pre-prints the color outline of the part on each page in the appropriate color combinations using a modified 2D color inkjet printer that sits in the IRIS stand. Mcor’s patented water-based ink permeates the paper, preventing any white edges on the part. A barcode is also printed on each page to ensure the pages are in the right sequence. The pre-printed stack is then inserted into the 3D printer, which initiates the process described above. If a page missing, the IRIS will pause to let you print a replacement. This process also fully colors the undersides, overhangs and sidewalls of models, which means you could recreate the ceiling and roof of the Sistene Chapel (at scale) in a single build.
5) What are build sizes for printers and the objects that you are printing? Is it mainly small objects, or can you print larger ones too? How scalable is your tech?
6) What colors are possible with your printers?
The Mcor IRIS is the only 3D printer to include the global standard International Color Consortium (ICC) color map. The ICC color map ensures that the 3D printer will accurately produce industry-standard colors as presented in a photographer’s, engineer’s or designer’s photograph, CAD model, scan or illustration. Without the ICC profile, 3D printers translate incoming colors to machine-specific ones, introducing unintended changes in the 3D printed color along the way.
7) Do you have a particular target audience or industry in mind with your current 3-D printing options?
8) Once again, without giving away too much, what other future applications or industries are you hoping to engage with down the road?
9) In your mind, given the wealth of 3-D printing technologies and devices out there, what makes yours stand out from the crowd?
10) Given the explosion in the industry, what do you see from it in the next 5-10 years? Will it continue to become more crowded and do you think we will reach a point where it becomes commonplace for everyday consumers to have a 3-D printer in their house?