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Canon aims to make impact in 3D printer market

Peter Sayer | Oct. 16, 2015
Canon is talking up a 3D printer it has in development, but it could be two years -- or more -- before it's ready.

The printer Canon is developing uses a new printing method involving lamination, employees at the expo said, without providing further details.

An animation in a Canon promotional video appears to show it printing the layers of an object separately, then joining them together -- unlike existing fused deposition devices, which print new layers directly on top of existing ones.

Milne wouldn't comment on the lamination. The printer will be about as tall as him, around 1.8 meters, he said, and will print in resin, with water-soluble supports. 

It's hard to gauge from those clues what the device's print volume could be: the largest output sample presented, consisting of two toothed wheels, was 50 millimeters in diameter and 12 mm high. The pieces looked almost as though they had been injection molded. They weren't as glossy and slick as, say, an Apple iPhone accessory, but you could easily imagine them turning smoothly inside a machine requiring some precision, such as an inkjet printer.

Precision and surface finish are two features Canon says the printer will improve on, reducing the need for secondary processing of printed objects.

Canon also claims it will be able to print a wide variety of materials, including polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyoxymethylene (POM) or acetal, polyamide (Nylon), and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), the polymer used to make Plexiglas or Lucite. Its printed samples included materials colored black, white, red and blue, and materials it said have high stiffness, transparency, elasticity, flexibility or impact resistance. If it's able to print a single object composed of several of those, then short-run or custom manufacturing could indeed be in for a shake-up. Researchers at MIT have already created a one-off 3D printer that can build with ten different materials at once.

By the time Canon's printer is ready for market, though, it's likely that 3D Systems and others will have come up with new ways to print too.

 

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