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Under the Hood

Massivit 1800 Pro

After using FESPA Global Print Expo 2019 as its platform for launch in Europe, Massivit introduced the impressive 1800 Pro. Brian Sims opens up the doors into the world of 3D printing

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3D printing can be used to create engaging and interesting retail signage

A three-dimensional wonder

Since 1440, when Johannes Gutenburg revealed an automated development to the Chinese technology of printing in doing so produced the world’s first printing press, it could be said he lit the fuse on a number of processes that have come under the umbrella term, ‘printing’.

The word ‘print’ comes from the Latin, premere, which means to press. From the early wood block printing of the Tang dynasty, for many years printing was primarily the process of pressing an impression onto a substrate.

Throughout this intervening time, there was never an idea the output of any of printing devices would be anything but two dimensional. In fact, a number of the printing processes rely on the inks to be absorbed into the substrate and we pride ourselves on the fact the printed materials are ‘flat’.

Realistically, this had not changed even into the mid-eighties when solid ink printing was invented allowing entry level colour printers for home computers to be available to all. 

However, in recent times, things have changed and the term ‘printing’ has literally taken on a new dimension, a third dimension. 3D printing is now a mainstream technology and is breaking through into media markets.

To the traditionalist, seeing 3D objects as the outcome of the printing process is not really printing, but regardless of the purist view, the world has adopted a name for this technology which is not going to be shaken off.

New technologies can be a little like the Emperor’s new clothes when it comes to understanding what sits behind it and how it works, so maybe I am going to be stating what is taken as common knowledge, but for clarity here is some background behind 3D printing.

New technologies can be a little like the Emperor’s new clothes when it comes to understanding what sits behind it and how it works

Current day

3D printing is one of a number of new technologies that are covered by the umbrella term, Additive Manufacture (AM). The premise of AM is a polar difference from typical manufacturing processes where you remove material to produce the desired component; with AM you actually add material (hence the process title) and as such you have no waste.

There are a number of AM processes that use different techniques and materials and it important to know the limitations of each. Selective Laser Sintering, Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Selective Laser Melting (SLM) are all types of AM that are typically used for metals and components that are needed to be durable and subject to loading. But if you want a cheaper and quicker outcome of an AM process, then 3D Printing is the process needed.

3D Printing was invented in 1984, a French group of engineers had started to file a patent for the process of layering materials to produce a three-dimensional shape. They coined the name stereolithography, but due to the ‘lack of business perspective’ it was not taken further and the patent application was dropped.

The scale of projects created using 3D print can be impressive

In America only three weeks later, Chuck Hull (an engineer in the 3D Systems Corp) filed his patent for the same process of using ultraviolet light to cure photopolymers. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is of no surprise the advances in 3D printing have been matched with the increasing changes in computer technology. 3D printing is not possible without a computer; the bedrock of the process is to produce a virtual three-dimensional object on a computer and then ‘slice’ it into very small layers. Once you have produced your model and slicing profiles, all you do is reproduce the slices one on top of the other by the use of some form of applicator head in your 3D printer.

3D Printing uses two basic processes, binder and material jetting with the latter being the most commonly used in today’s 3D Printers.

Where binder jetting uses powders and binding agents with the build platform lowering as the product is constructed, material jetting builds from the base up and layers a UV cured photopolymer material in as small a layer of 0.1mm at a time, until the product appears literally before your eyes.
The Pro

One of the leaders in the field of material jetting is Massivit and recently at FESPA, it released to us the 1800 Pro, which is by any form or discussion, a very large 3D printer.

The Massivit 1800 Pro was launched at FESPA 2019

We are all accustomed now to being able to purchase a 3D printer from the internet that will provide a small but perfectly formed chess piece or equivalent. When you consider what the 1800 Pro is capable of, these pale into insignificance.

The size of the product it quite outstanding, a final product is possible as wide as 145cm and as high as 180cm, this is the same size as an average person. The workspace is akin to a very large cupboard, the size of such cannot be understated.

The 1800 Pro uses a patented gel called Dimengel which is cured by the use of UV LED light (in the case of the 1800 Pro) and is a rapid curing polymer. It has good strength properties but more importantly, you can produce life-sized point-of-sale or any marketing object, in a number of minutes.

The Massivit 1800 Pro combines the Dimengel material along with something called Gel Dispensing Printing (GDP) to produced supersized products.

The Massivit 1800 Pro combines the Dimengel material along with something called Gel Dispensing Printing (GDP) to produced supersized products

The supersized cannot be understated, the products from the Massivit Pro 1800 are huge, man-sized. They can be produced in a number of resolutions the same as traditional 2D printing, but in 3D the object grows with unbelievable speed.

From the Massivit 1800 Pro’s large workspace, it is quite remarkable that from an empty space, these life-size and in some cases over life-size 3D hollow objects can be produced. To bring them to life a little paint is needed to add to the realism, but the ability to produce objects that are as close to the size of you and me, is quite remarkable.
Whether you agree this technology of printing or not, you must agree that the graphics industry has taken on a new dimension.

Brian Sims principal consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu

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