Over the past year Mcor, pioneers of full-color 3D desktop printers, have been working with Honda to manufacture car parts. To find out more 3DPI caught up with Mcor CEO Conor MacCormack. In this interview he reveals more about projects currently in development with the car giants Honda, and his plans for the future of their 3D selective deposition lamination (SDL).
Above gif image shows the SDL process performed by the Mcor ARKe 3D printer.
For those unfamiliar with 3D paper SDL, MacCormack describes it as process where ‘We lay down a layer of adhesive. Pull in the next layer of paper. Stick them together. Then we cut out the profile. We jet out the ink to build in the color, and then repeat.’ The technique can be seen in the moving gif image below, a full-color object is then effectively excavated from what looks like a typical block of A4 copy paper.
Gif image shows the excavation of a hammer 3D printed on an Mcor paper 3D printer
vai: McorTechnologies on Youtube
As a novel application, MacCormack remarks that people who visit Mcor at tradeshows are often surprised to find that their objects are made of paper. Mcor representatives explain the process, people are impressed, but then they ask: what would you use it for? This is the question Mcor are answering through their collaboration with Honda, hoping to highlight SDL’s industrial capabilities, and feed the demand for carbon fiber car parts.
Like any component manufacturer, Honda use a lot of molds and dies. There’s been a lot of work by people trying to get carbon fiber into 3D printed plastics, but it still has a long way to go. The way companies are really utilizing 3D printing and carbon fiber is to speed-up manufacturing the molds. Conventionally molds are metal CNCed because if you were to make a mold in plastic it wouldn’t be able to withstand the temperatures and pressure needed to fabricate a part. But this process is still quite time consuming and costly.
Mcor’s paper molds are the cheaper and quicker alternative, with a surprising tolerance for pressure. It’s the old trick of being able to rip a page of the Yellow Pages, but if you were to try tearing the whole book in half it would be impossible. After printing, Mcor’s paper molds are capable of withstanding temperatures up to 135 degrees centigrade – temperatures that would typically melt a 3D printed plastic. Honda have also been exploring SDL paper parts for windtunnel tests, as MacCormack explains;
70% of paper is air, so they impregnate it with a resin. When the resin is added the paper takes on the properties of that material, so it can almost turn into plastic when you use a plastic type resin.
The end result are paper parts that perform the same, if not more smoothly than Honda’s plastic parts. When asked about his predictions for the future of Mcor, MacCormack mentioned how he sees the company as primarily on the R&D side of manufacturing, with founding the ‘next big thing’ as their biggest drive. He also speculated on the future funding opportunities for the company. Their latest ARKe model was released early in 2016, and it has been a success;
With the Iris we were producing 100s per year, with the Arke we’re now pushing into the 1000s, so it’s been a big deviation for us. The manufacturing of the printer has been moved over to Flex, formerly Flextronics, a $24billion company, and they’ve [taken] a real strategic interest which has been an affirmation for us. Funding wise, we’re not looking at the moment, but it is something we could be looking at when going into the new year.
The ARKe is a 3D printer that injects color directly into the process, as opposed the original Iris that used pre-printed or multicolored paper. In the spectrum of additive manufacturing technologies, color printing is something of a revolution as no other printers can get the same range that is provided by ink. MacCormack added that in the coming years we can expect to see the evolution of their ARKe technology, in printers that are smaller, lower cost, and maybe even larger – as large parts, printed in color are a rarity. At 3DPI we look forward to hearing about the first 3D printed paper car, and seeing Mcor fulfil their colorful goals.
Gif image shows some of the various custom options of the Mcor Arke 3D printer.
If you liked this interview with Mcor CEO Conor MacCormack, you can sign up to our newsletter here for daily insights delivered directly to your inbox.
Featured image shows a range of Mvor full color prints, via: McorTechnologies