The term "3D printing" is familiar, but "2.5D printing" is something else and it could be a game changer for designers of all ilks. Casio have announced a system they call Mofrel printing technology which is capable of creating a range of textures on ordinary looking paper sheets and colour printing with a 16 million colour inkjet. The process allows for the mimicking of leather and fabrics and a range of other surfaces and allows designers to produce rapid prototypes in around five minutes.
This process is known as 2.5D printing because the maximum depth of profile is restricted to 1.7mm. It involves a multi-step process which begins with custom sheets of material a few millimeters thick, each sheet comprising layers of PVC and PET materials. The Mofrel printer applies a grey scale pattern onto the sheets, with darker portions defining higher areas. Heat is then applied to the sheet, focused on the darker areas. The core of the sheet reacts to the heat and expands, creating requisite depth and texture replication. A thin membrane is then peeled off revealing a white printable surface.
Samples presented at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) were surprisingly convincing with surprising detail including uneven surfaces and the subtle bumps of stitches and even the coarseness of embroidered fabrics. Hard materials like wood, stone, brick and ceramic can also be mimicked to varying degrees.
When the equipment ships next year, the Mofrel Printer will sell for approx US$40,000 and printing material will cost approx US$9 per sheet.