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Staples to provide 3D printing service

Staples’ new service uses the paper-based Mcor Iris printer, capable of full-color 3-D prints. 

Pretty soon you’ll be able to print your 3-D projects at the local Staples.

A new service called “Staples Easy 3D” will allow customers to upload their designs to Staples’ website, then pick up the printed objects at their local office supply megastore, or have them shipped to their home or business — not unlike the photo- and document-printing service the company already offers.

The project was announced today at Euromold 2012 by 3-D printer manufacturer Mcor Technologies, who is partnering with Staples to provide its new Iris printers for the service.
The Iris printers employ an innovative method to generate objects, using reams of paper that are cut and printed while being stacked and glued together. This technique allows for a high-resolution layer thickness of 100 microns, similar to that of the MakerBot Replicator 2, but not quite as fine as the 25-micron capability of the Form 1.

The new printers also incorporate the ability to add photorealistic coloring — something that more common plastic printers can’t yet achieve. But while the glued paper is said to have a wood-like hardness, the arrangement of the layered paper grain will require special consideration for certain design layouts (this can affect other types of 3-D printers as well). And while the company says it is able to be drilled, tapped or screwed, its material properties are unknown compared to traditional materials like real wood or steel.

Still, the move by an established corporation to offer 3-D printing further legitimizes the adoption of the rapidly growing field by the mass market. Similar services currently exist, being offered by companies like Shapeways and Sculpteo, but this is the first to be made available from a chain retailer.

Staples Easy 3D will launch in the Netherlands and Belgium in the first quarter of 2013, and will be rolled out to other countries shortly afterword. No word yet on pricing or when it will reach the United States.

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