Mcor Technologies’ new ColourIT software adds full-color onto 3D printed models

Full-color 3D printing is difficult to achieve as current technologies impose many limits, especially with regard to resolution. One of the most capable full-color 3D printer lines is the 3D Systems ZCorp ZPrinter series. So when the Staples marketing people oddly announced that select Staples stores would use the Mcor IRIS for the pilot full-color 3D printing service called Easy 3D, it made sense. Though it’s a subtractive process, the IRIS uses paper as its print material. Specifically, A4 sized paper, which Staples has plenty of.

mcor 3D printingThe IRIS works though some process like the following: a sheet of paper is laid down, an adhesive ink is sprayed in the silhouette of a cross section of the 3D object, and the outer rim of that ink is photorealistic color; a carbide blade cuts the silhouette out and the process is repeated. The output is a solid chunk of paper that must be pulled and picked apart with an X-Acto knife. It’s a delicate process. I’m not sure if moving parts are possible, and objects with deep cavities could be a task in post processing. Still, what it can do looks impressive. The ink is non-toxic and paper is cheap and recyclable, so the process is affordable and eco-friendly.

And what it can do just got better. Mcor recently released ColourIT to complement the SliceIT application; ColourIT applies 1 million+ colors to objects before they’re sliced. The new software is compatible with standard file types — STL, WRL, OBJ, 3DS, FBX, DAE, and PLY. The IRIS is quite affordable to own and operate, as leasing is just around $16,000 per year for the Free D plan, and that includes unlimited consumables. It can be purchased outright for about $48,000. The most affordable color ZPrinter costs about half that but it offers only 64 colors. I don’t know how much the high end ZPrinters cost, which means it’s a lot. If an additive process is important to you, then the IRIS probably won’t be your choice of 3D printer. But if you really want all the colors of the rainbow, there’s the IRIS.

Source: MCOR press release

  • This article contains several factual errors. Mcor’s Selective Deposition Lamination(SDL) process is additive, not subtractive. And, the process of “weeding” the prototypes from the block of paper does not require any sort of knife, blade or chemical. It is very easy since the amount of adhesive that the printer selectively deposits on the “supporting paper” is much less than the adhesive around the part and cross-hatch cuts in the support area are made during the cutting process. Weeding is easily done just with your hands and a simple pair of household tweezers. See videos showing this in Mcor’s YouTube channel. Moving parts are indeed possible, as was demonstrated at last week’s Inside 3D Printing show in NY. The ZPrinter with nearly comparable color capability costs about $60K, more than the IRIS, and the IRIS parts are one-fifth the cost of the ZPrinter and any other technology. The IRIS offers more colors than the ZPrinter and better color fidelity given the paper medium and unique ink used.

    • Cameron

      As far as on the Z plane, it’s additive, as only enough paper is deposited to cover the height of the object. Having to remove the object from a block of paper does make the process subtractive though, because the removed paper can’t be used in the next print.

  • Hi Cameron, That definition would classify all of the 3D printing technologies subtractive since you must also remove parts from support material in various forms for every 3D printing technology. That’s not how additive technology is defined however and is inaccurate in the industry. Additive refers to successive layers being built up and added to form the part, which is the case with Mcor technology, as well as several other 3D printing technologies.

    • Cameron

      Support materials are very minimal in other 3D printers, and the additive process definition allows for that minimal material. ZPrinters use powder, so there’s no support material. Cutting from a block, whether it’s CNCing metal or slicing paper, is a subtractive process.

  • Cameron, I’m afraid that’s incorrect. ZPrinters do use a support, it’s the powder from which it is built, just as Mcor’s support is the paper from which it is built. Other technologies have support as well. That said, Wikipedia’s definition of additive manufacturing technology is: “The term additive manufacturing refers to technologies that create objects through a sequential layering process.” Additive Manufacturing does not have to do with supports or how parts are removed from supports. The sequential layering process is indeed the way Mcor’s SDL technology works. Nothing is cut away in our process. The profile of the part is outlined with a carbon tip blade on each sheet of paper – the part is not cut out of a block of paper. Droplets of adhesive are selectively applied (not sprayed), more in the area of the part, less in the surrounding area – another sheet of paper is added and bonded to the previous sheet – and the process continues additively until the part is built up and complete. We have several videos on Mcor’s YouTube channel that detail the process, as well as a white paper. If you would like to speak directly with the inventor of this technology, Dr. Conor MacCormack, I would be happy to arrange that call.

    • Cameron

      The powder that’s used in ZPrinters is indeed the support material, and it can be reused in subsequent prints. Unless I’m missing something, the part is removed from an A4-sized stack of paper that’s been cut by the machine, which you also referred to as a block: “…the process of “weeding” the prototypes from the block of paper…”

  • That’s correct, but the removal of the part from the paper or powder after printing (post-processing), and the recycling capabilities of the powder and the paper, don’t have anything to do with the definition of additive manufacturing, as it’s defined by Wikipedia and the industry. The term Additive Manufacturing refers to the creation of “objects through a sequential layering process,” (this all happens prior to any post-processing) which is the way Mcor’s process works. The Additive Manufacturing user group, of which Mcor is a part, considers the technology additive.

    • Cameron

      For me, how much materials are lost through the build process is factored into whether or not a technology is additive. Ultimately, consumers have the final say, and if it’s not additive enough for them, it doesn’t matter how it’s defined by the industry. With other 3D printers, there’s no predetermined size of output that’s going to come out; with the IRIS, an A4-sized stack/block of paper will be used for every print. That difference is of importance to many of our readers.

  • Cameron, I think it’s important that people understand the industry-accepted definition of additive manufacturing, which is the definition I/Wikipedia provided, and which is used by the Additive Manufacturing Users Group.

    Separate from that is the issue of the number of parts that can be created with an A4 or letter-sized sheet of paper. Parts can be nested in the Mcor IRIS, so several parts can be built simultaneously – the same or different parts. All of the unused paper, as well as the part itself, can be fully recycled. Mcor parts are by far the lowest cost to print in the industry and offer more colors than any other 3D printer. They require no infiltration following printing and are not fragile.

    My comments on your article were not meant to further promote the IRIS, but rather to correct several factually inaccurate statements made about Mcor technology in the article. It’s important for the readers to be presented with factually correct information, and then they can make more educated decisions based on their application needs.

    • Cameron

      An understanding of the industry-accepted definition of additive manufacturing does not negate my understanding of the definition of subtractive as defined generally according to physics. I personally see the IRIS as using additive and subtractive processes.

  • It might come down to a lack of a clear understanding about our technology, which doesn’t meet the accepted definition of subtractive manufacturing, any more than the other additive technologies do. Again, just want to be sure your readers have accurate information. I’m going to sign off from this thread, but I invite you to learn more by having a call to discuss the technology with its inventor. If interested, please email me: [email protected]