Sign & Digital Graphics

December '19

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • December 2019 • 57 "The most successful place for the technology will be in creative environ- ments, because conceiving the future widgets and 'gottahaves' can generate great rewards," he says. "We have built our reputation on one-off, hand-crafted solutions to design challenges. Once the skilled artisan gets past the mind- set of limiting creation to traditional, old-school tools and processes, a world of possibilities opens up to apply your brand of creativity to." Even better, design elements can be scanned and digitally manipulated to be modified and rescaled, allowing a shift from a labor-intensive single piece to scalable, infinitely adaptable future proj- ects, with very low overhead. And while most of his pieces still require consider- able manual processing and hand finish- ing to replicate metal or wood surfaces, 3D printing opens wildly creative avenues for sign makers One of the biggest technological revolutions to occur in the printing world means shops have the ability to craft totally customized prototypes, three-dimensional displays or hybrid advertisements for clients. Zank believes the next generation of printers might even do that for you. "Again, technology appears to be the solution, as newer equipment is minimiz- ing post-processing such as sanding and cleaning up," he says. "With the onset of full-color printing, we are getting closer to a detailed finish product emerging from the easy-bake 3 D printing oven." There's the sales pitch of 3D print- ing's promise. So how does one actually get involved in 3D printing? On the more practical side of things, consider the options provided by a tabletop 3D printer. Michael Maxwell, senior man- ager of business solutions with Mimaki USA, says shops can start to learn to make small parts or decorative items with an inexpensive, consumer-styled machine from a big box store for as little as $150. "However, if a user wants to get into more detailed applications and start producing sign-capable prints such as thermoforming molds, which is capable on the Mimaki 3 DFF-222 printer —then they should expect to pay more than $2,500," he says. In addition to being more adaptable on size of output, professional-level equipment can also be used to integrate 3 D printing into your existing processes and equipment, Maxwell adds. On the much bigger end of the scale, smaller printers can also partner with some of the 40 North American operators of Massivit 3D's industrial-scale 3D printers, which can craft full-sized figures in just a matter of hours. Major names such as fashion firm Louis Vuitton have used 3D printing to build pop-up display tents, with almost instantaneous results.

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