Making 3D Printing Easy At The Staples Copy Center

Mcor Technologies and Staples are teaming up to provide 3D printing services via the online Staples Office Center service.

This announcement comes from Mcor, the company behind the Iris 3D printer. Unlike just about every other 3D printer, the Iris doesn’t squirt plastic onto a bed or glue powder together – it makes its models out of sheets of paper. You probably won’t be ordering working steam engines or other heavy-duty engineering models from the Staples copy center, but this system does allow for high-quality full-color models to be created very, very easily. You can see a few examples of what the Mcor Iris can print after the break.

Unfortunately, unless you live in Belgium or The Netherlands, your local Staples won’t be installing a 3D printer in their copy center anytime soon. For those of us outside these countries, we’ll have to wait until services like Shapeways and Ponoko figure out how to make their business model include a brick and mortar presence.


37 thoughts on “Making 3D Printing Easy At The Staples Copy Center

    1. I can’t be bothered to do the math rite now but I saw a video on YouTube where a suit was saying that the machine costs about 10Euros do to 6 cubic liters compared to 600 Euros for comparable machines (presumably industrial scale)

      1. If he wasn’t just making up inflated (deflated?) numbers, the Internets says that 6 liters = 6000 cm^3. That’s come out to around $13.07 for 6000 cm^3 or $0.002 per cm^3. Assuming I’m not mangling the math here, that sounds either unrealistically low or an incredible game-changer for 3d printing costs…

    1. I had the same though, all that waste material is likely shipped or presented to the customer and tossed in the garbage rather than being recycled. while Staples might have a working recycling program for this device everyone else will more than likely just toss the scrap, considering the platter size is two side by side stacks of A4 paper that’s a lot of waste in a 6 cubic meeter space even if you just use one ream of paper for a small model.

      1. Ideally, if they’re providing this as an online service, they’d be using custom software to combine orders into batch prints so that they would waste a minimum of paper.

      2. Note: two stacks of A4 paper is just one stack of A3. Or 4 A5 or 8 A6 etc…

        It is how the standard works. Besides, paper is cheap and easy to recycle. Some filament materials cannot be recycled at all.

          1. I’m fairly sure it’d go through fine, particularly if the glue is water-soluble. Paper recycling smashes the paper into pulp anyway. It is a shame to see all that waste though, it’s something I’d like to see them fix.

            The major disadvantage here from plastic / metal printers, is that it doesn’t seem like it could make mechanisms, and thin parts of your models would be fragile. So it looks like it’s limited to making novelty stuff, gifts, the sort of thing you’d see in greeting card shops.

    2. For that particular small model, just use a smaller stack of paper, cut off a corner of an A4 stack. You’d just need some sort of clamp to centre it in the machine’s work space. I’m sure it’s something they could fix up easily enough.

  1. I think the only main advantage here is the color capabilities of the model. The paper material won’t last for any real application, but the quality of the color is something I have never seen on any other 3D printer. It certianly could have a niche.

    1. I don’t know, it works for “dry” surfaces like bone and stone but for everything else you need a clear coat or a resin dip, then its pretty much only useful as a decorative object or rigid part =/

  2. 3D printer + 3D photobooth = mini busts for creeping out friends and family.

    The pet industry could make a killing with a setup like that, everyone loves their pets and they could get a miniature model of them to cherish forever.

    1. I’d pay money for that. Heck even if it was a send-away service. Stand or sit in the booth; preview rotating model on a screen; 3 weeks later full color 3D model at your doorstep.

  3. Did I hear someone say ‘paperless office’ a few decades ago? That’s a whole lot of wasted tree for every print. I think I prefer powerbased printers for fairly open ended material development and efficiency.

      1. Exactly! In fact, if you really believe CO2 is the root of all evil, then you should use lots of paper products, and not recycle paper, because trees eat the most CO2 in the first 10 years of their lives. Old-growth trees mostly just look pretty.

        An order for more paper is an order for new trees to be planted.

          1. From Wikipedia:

            “Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the United States), tapioca roots, chips or starch (mostly in Asia), or sugarcane (in the rest of the world).

            ***It can biodegrade under certain conditions and is very difficult to recycle***.”

          2. Do we need to recycle PLA if it’s from a renewable source? If it starts to pile up, grind it up and put it into baby food. Or use it to pave roads or something.

        1. Why confuse matters by bringing old growth trees into it? Is anybody really making paper from old growth trees these days? If so then why? There’s not that much left! I would think if someone was cutting old growth down at all (i do wish they wouldn’t) they would make long planks or long + wide sheets as such things from continuous wood (not ply) is rare and valuable!

          I would think that paper pulp would be more likely to be younger trees, re-plants from the last time the same area was cut and/or scrap (branches and stuff) from the bigger, older ones.

  4. This is astounding.
    The material is actually cheaper than ABS, and the company appears to intend on keeping it that way and probably using the price point to own everyone else. They estimate $.014/cc, or about $0.22/sq in, compared to about $0.30 for hobby ABS. Honestly, this IMHO this idea’s a winner. I’d imagine the ink may be some nonsignificant cost, however. Remember, this also has built-in support build material. This whole process is probably patent-blocked by now, but honestly, it would have been cooler for the hobby 3d printing movement to work on paper rather than ABS. Check out their videos: The quality is actually quite impressive.

    Seriously, guys, don’t get caught up in the old silly ‘don’t waste paper’ nonsense. It makes sense not to waste, but if you’re 3D-printing, ABS and other plastics almost certainly do more permanent environmental damage than paper does. It’s recyclable, and at this point I’m pretty damn sure the paper industry realizes that if it didn’t continuously manage and replant the trees its cutting down, it wouldn’t be around for too long. Trees are inherently a renewable resource. Cutting them down, replanting them, and recycling or composting any waste is orders of magnitude less harmful or problematic than what happens in the lifecycle of an ABS product.

    Regardless, there’s no question in my mind that the bottom line cost of this process is considerably lower than plastic. There’s obviously processing cost involved, but think of wood. If you haven’t worked with wood before, a 2x4x8′ costs about $3 from the local HD, and has dimensions 1.5″x3.5″x96″ or 504 cubic inches. That’s $.005 per cubic inch. Takes almost two orders of magnitude of processing cost to get to the cost of ABS per square inch.

  5. Is it just me, or does this seem like they are just making the process of custom shaped post it notes cheap enough for doing 1-off versions? I don’t see how this is any different than, say having an apple-shaped post-it pad. (Yes, I do mean a 3D apple, not just the outline)

    1. Where can you buy such a thing? I don’t think it exists, except in forms with some sort of symmetry. If it does, it may be milled out, which makes it not extensible to additive machining techniques. Manufacturing-wise that’s much different from how you make a 2D-sliced apple post it pad. For one, this would mean you’d need a different die for every single layer, which is prohibitively expensive, even in quantity. Second of all, the standard post-it-note manufacturing method doesn’t have any means of dealing with support material for different design types. LOM actually has been around for a while, but evidently it was a major bust the last time around, partly because practically speaking it was exceptionally difficult to remove any of the support / unused material, and never got off the ground. Plus no one figured out color (you still need a special ink that shows up on the sides of the cut material). Mcor evidently figured out the solution to the support material by also selectively adding adhesive in different densities depending on whether or not it’s support (you still need adhesive throughout each layer to maintain accuracy, but not too much that it gets difficult to remove support)

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