Thursday, December 28, 2006

News: Parsons is Home of the Coolest Printer, Ever

Written & Photographed by Matthew Mann

The new printer at Parsons—the Z-Corporation Spectrum Z510--looks something like an alien egg incubator, or a bread maker. In a way, it's a little bit of both: it converts digital drawings into three-dimensional objects using starch. (The results, unfortunately, are not edible.)

"It uses a regular ink-jet printing head," Dave Marin, a goateed product designed instructor, told [i]Inprint[i]. "The rest of the parts are manufactured by Z-Corp."

The process takes several hours, Marin said. "Most people just leave it on overnight and come back in the morning to pick their pieces up."

When they come out of the "printer," the preliminary 3-D renderings are fragile and dusty. They are used to make molds for the final products.

The Z510 can't do everything; I wanted it to build a copy of myself, but it couldn't. Still, it has some useful applications. Marin displayed a number of Z510 "prints" at Parsons, most of them student projects. The pieces included squirt bottles, large models of ball bearings, speaker cabinets that look like sumo wrestlers and giant calculators.

Just don't expect to see it gracing college dorm-rooms anytime soon. The manufacturers suggested retail price: $49,900.

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