3D printing takes a step forward

Not that long ago, model makers took about a week to turn Timberland 2D CAD drawings of shoes into 3D representations in wood or foam

. Now they can 3D print them in 90 minutes, at a cost of around $35 each, instead of a staggering $1,200 (£600).
“Time and money aside, the problem with the old approach is that a 2D CAD drawing left too much to the imagination,” says Toby Ringdahl, computer-aided design manager in the company’s footwear product development and engineering group. “When the prototype was finally ready, it wasn’t what people imagined. But a week is a long time to wait for a new iteration.”
The company then chose a ZPrinter 310 3D inkjet printer system from Z Corporation and, in 2005, invested in a Spectrum Z510 System, which provides 24-bit colour and 600 dpi resolution.
“Unfortunate surprises are eliminated,” states Ringdahl. “We can now quickly do innumerable iterations and variations, and the designers and marketing managers can really be sure the product is what Timberland is expecting and what people on the street are demanding.”
The lower-cost ZPrinter 450, has, incidentally, been named one of the 15 ‘Revolutionary inventions of 2007’ by entrepreneur.com. The website says: “This technology could have significant impact on many different industries that rely on models and landscapes.”
The printer is available in the UK from Rapid Techniques.

Tom Shelley

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