The latest case study from Mcor struck a personal chord with me — the subject of which is an inventor and artist that is native to the Mediterranean island of Malta and using Mcor 3D printers to develop his work. My parents took me to Malta many times throughout my childhood and I choose to return there as often as I can as an adult with my own children — they love it too — my parents spend half their lives there now and have many friends around the island. It is one of the world’s smallest countries, at just 122 square miles with a landscape that is both stunning and stark. It’s climate, coastline and truly welcoming inhabitants make it one of my most favourite places in the world and I get to write about it in the context of my favourite subject. A happy, if self-indulgent, moment. Apologies!
The 3D printing inventor in question for this story, though, is Charles Aquilina, bestowed with technical acumen that he applies to furniture manufacturing, fine art and architecture — all three are dominant across the island and in homes. Every time I go I wonder about the cost & logistics of shipping furniture home — it is gorgeous — and don’t get me started on their kitchens! Anyway, Malta’s furniture manufacturers’ association recently asked Charles to investigate the value of 3D printing in developing better furniture designs faster.
He told Mcor: “Though modest in size, Malta is bold and innovative in vision. Traditionally, furniture manufacturers work from two-dimensional design drawings. We’ve discovered that manufacturers can save time and money, and improve the quality of their products by supplementing drawings with 3D printed prototypes. Not only are manufacturers better able to find flaws earlier, they also get a better feel for the final product. That way, they can propose improvements leading to more comfortable, elegant furniture and higher customer satisfaction.”
Charles is on call to many of the island’s furniture manufacturers, ready to produce 3D printed prototypes on demand using paper-based Matrix 300+ from Mcor Technologies, a material that works well for his applications. “Paper is sustainable, recyclable and far more affordable than other 3D printing materials,” he says. “The models are incredibly durable, detailed and pleasant to touch.”
In Malta, there is also high demand for statuary — boy, is there ever, and just in case you were wondering, that is me above, in Mellieha next to one of the many statues. Charles has created a host of statue prototypes using a 3D scanner to scan clay models and incorporate the data into his 3D design software, Autodesk 3ds Max. The resulting digital model drives the creation of the physical one.
“These statues are a way to honor the patron saints of each village, especially around their respective feast days,” he explains. “With a 3D printed prototype created on the Mcor Matrix 300+, the customer or architect can see how the statue will look in the home or garden and request modifications before the final product is made. The customer is happier with the outcome, which is good for the artist and architect, not to mention the family who will live with it for centuries.”
Architects also turn to Charles for 3D printed architectural models that traditionally would have been handcrafted. “3D printed models take one-tenth the time of handcrafted ones and display far more detail and accuracy,” says Charles. “I’m working on models for a big hotel in nearby Libya and another real estate development whose model is 1 meter by 1 meter square. I’ll simply glue several models together to achieve that size, which is easy because Mcor models are ultimately made of paper.”
Another process that takes extra time is painting architectural details onto a model. That’s why Charles is considering purchasing the Mcor IRIS, full-colour 3D printer that offers the industry’s greatest colour capabilities. The IRIS prints in more than one million photorealistic colours simultaneously, adding a crucial fourth dimension of realism to a model of a home, building or development.
“There are so many exciting things 3D printing with paper can do, and I’m always considering new possibilities,” says Charles. “I don’t think we’re even close to hitting our limits with the technology, and Mcor is helping us expand what we can achieve every day.”
And now, rather than writing my next article, I am very tempted to start researching our next trip ….