Casio has developed a 2.5D printer that enables designers to create textured samples that mimic material finishes including leather, embroidered fabric and wood.
The Mofrel printer relies on ‘digital sheets’ – a material that feels like thick paper and features a layer of micro-powder made from liquid hydrocarbon and thermoplastic resin. When exposed to heat, this combination expands to create a raised texture that is retained once the heat source is removed.
There are three printing stages. First, the pattern is printed onto a microfilm in greyscale using carbon. The infrared-absorbing properties of this ink help to focus where the heat should be directed, with darker areas indicating a higher surface. Second, the heat is applied, and finally the microfilm is removed and colour can be applied using the Mofrel’s 16-million-colour inkjet.
It takes just three to five minutes to produce an A4 sheet, costing about $10 each, and enables a precise finish with textures of up to 2.5mm. Although not yet affordable for large-scale production, Mofrel provides an ideal solution for designers and architects looking to efficiently visualise ideas during prototyping. Casio aims to launch a B2B version of Mofrel next year, with the potential for consumer availability by the end of 2019.
As prices become more affordable, 2.5D printing could soon be found in wider applications beyond the design industry. In-store product customisation, 3D-printed photographs or tactile solutions for people with visual impairments are all possibilities.
See Ultramodern Making: Latest Advances for 3D & 4D Printing and Shape-Shifting Materials for more developments.