The majority of my professional research revolves around 3D printing and 3D scanning bones. At our current institution Dr. Greg and myself received a grant to buy a 3D printer. I must admit, I’m pretty spoiled when it comes to 3D printers. I’m too arrogant to use a Maker Bot. I want accuracy and realism. I want something our grant couldn’t cover. No surprise there to the scientists in the room.
ZCorp was bought out by 3DSystems and they discontinued their fantastic $12,000.00 model (of course they did) 3D printer I did all of my graduate work with. Boo. So I had to look elsewhere for a printer. I came across this new, smaller 3D printer that uses PAPER. Cool, right?
So we decided to go with the Mcor ARKe for $25,000. It’s a ‘desktop’ 3D printer that weighs well over 200lbs and cannot sit on your desk.
We purchased the printer through the only US dealer, Solidifab, great guy. He’s helped us a lot. But, I am less than impressed with Mcortechnologies.
This printer is brand new. I understand things happen, but we ordered OUR printer in January of 2016 and have yet to receive it. Obviously I do research and needed this printer for student research over the summer. So our dealer was awesome, drove down, and let us borrow his ONLY model. We pretty much checked out the beta version of the printer. Now we impatiently await the delivery of ours, which has been pushed back to this January after a failed June, July, August, September, and November ship dates! Well, it better get here by May. That’s all I have to say about that.
Most of my research deals with 3D printer and scanning accuracy. Here’s some links to my articles:
Anyways, here’s my review of the Mcor ARKe paper 3D printer.
The printer is VERY sensitive to its surroundings. It must be a cool room above 60% humidity, on a sturdy level surface for it to function properly. It is made out of simple motors and uses simple materials. This makes repairs pretty easy.
It prints on rolls of paper that resemble old fax machine paper and binds the layers together with a diluted Elmer’s glue. The instrument to cut the paper resembles a round scalpel which you have to manually adjust. If the blade is too long it will destroy your print because it will cut through multiple pieces of paper. If the blade is too short it won’t successfully cut your paper making post processing extremely difficult. The final piece is the magnetic print platform. This must be manually aligned on the elevation platform. If it is not properly aligned the weight plate and the platform will get stuck together ruining your entire print.
So, how does it print?
First you must edit your STL file in their in-house software called Orange Peel. This lets you set adjust the file and place it properly in the print bed. After you save it you must export the file to your jump drive and put that in the printer. Inside the touch screen menu you select your print job. After selecting the print job the machine begins.
First it elevates the platform with magnetic print bed and lays down glue. This takes about 5 minutes or so. DON’T LEAVE! You must wait for this process to finish. Once it finishes the machine will notify you. Then you roll the paper over the top of the platform and adhere it on the waste spool on the other side. Press the play button and the machine will start. It presses the paper down onto the print bed and starts your model.
THIS TAKES FOREVER! The printer is extremely slow compared to what I’m used to. A fossil that took 45 minutes on the Zprinter takes 8 hours on the ARKe. Might as well do it at the end of the day. The machine does not tell you how much paper it uses (it wastes a lot). If it runs out, you replace the spool but you can see the lines.
Once the printer is finished, the platform will lower and you’ll be presented with a paper block. It’s just like the Easy Bake Ovens from our childhood. =)
Once you take your easy bake print out, remove the block from the magnetic print bed. Then you’ll need to devote time and patience to widdle away all of the excess paper while not destroying your model. We use dental picks and peel layer by layer. Sometimes it does remove a few layers of your model but not enough to destroy it.
The model is really weak after you widdle it away. You must seal it with the diluted Elmer’s glue or superglue. The models are really light weight, but you can see each layer of paper and all of the little squares cut into the model.
Here are some of the things we printed:
Pros: Cheap 3D Printer
Prints in full color
Easy to repair if damaged
Cons: It takes over a year to receive
It must be in the perfect environment to work
You can see layers
Post processing is time consuming
It takes a long time to print something small
Wastes a lot of paper you can’t reuse
Overall it’s pretty exciting. We’re the only college to have this printer currently, still didn’t save my job. But, it is what it is. I enjoy the printer, it prints ‘good enough’ to make teaching models and I’m sure other weird things people want to print.