By Olivia Cahoon
Three-dimensional (3D) printing allows manufacturers to create life-sized prints that amaze crowds. This type of exposure strengthens business and draws in new clients. Behind the scenes, 3D print technology puts product development and manufacturing on the fast track by reducing reprints and mistakes. Businesses embrace the innovation of 3D printing.
Above: METROPOLE 3D used a Massivit 1800 3D printer to create a life-size replica French comic book character, Corto Maltese.
First in France
METROPOLE 3D, an event management and 3D printing company of Paris, France, emerged from the union of two companies with a background in digital printing and finishing expertise. Both originally offered digital print on various materials and in a number of formats as well as mold machining and manufacturing.
“It was time to start a new project, take 3D modeling to a new dimension,” says Denise Zanet, associate director, METROPOLE 3D.
METROPOLE 3D now manufactures polyester lamination pieces directly with 3D printing technology. In addition to wide format 3D printing, the company offers advertising, digital printing, and sublimation services.
With five workshops and 105 employees, METROPOLE 3D’s staff boasts expertise in areas from computer assisted publications to installation. From a 5,500 square meter work area, the company mainly offers its services to France and neighboring European countries.
METROPOLE 3D’s clientele includes automotive industries, airports and transit facilities, exhibition parks, local businesses, museums, outlets, shopping centers, and theaters. “Being the first French out-of-home print house to offer 3D printing is an incredible competitive advantage. It enables us to provide something truly unique to customers while adding a new dimension to our business,” offers Zanet.
With 3D technology, the company often creates wide format prototypes and product reproductions. Zanet believes 3D printing offers the ability to produce attention-grabbing, larger-than-life displays in a short period. “We transform the way high-level themed projects are created, particularly in hospitality, architectural sectors, and the art market,” she explains.
To promote its 3D services, METROPOLE 3D maintains a constant influx of visits from returning clients and prospective clients. They need to first see the technology in action to know and understand the possibilities of implementing 3D printing into campaigns and activities.
Massivit Gel Technology
In 2016, METROPOLE 3D purchased two Massivit 1800 3D printers. The Massivit 1800 allows users to print personalized objects, localize objects to scan, and create illuminated displays. The printers feature a maximum size of 5.9 feet in height, 4.9 feet in width, and 3.9 feet in depth.
The Massivit 1800 prints up to 14 inches per hour. It includes optional dual-object printing for printing two different objects in parallel. Its print speed plays a key role in accelerating METROPOLE 3D’s production turnaround time—enabling the company to consistently meet customer deadlines.
The devices feature a touchscreen printer controller and a vacuum print table with printing liner for easy handling.
A hybrid technology, the Massivit 1800 includes a gel-like photosensitive polymer dispensed layer by layer and then cured. The company uses Massivit Dimengel. During the printing process, the gel is dried by UV lamps positioned near the printhead.
Dimengel allows for the printing of supersized lightweight objects. It is a proprietary photo-polymeric acrylic gel with UV-sensitive properties that allow rapid layering and curing using low energy UV light. After curing, 3D printed objects are immediately ready for handling without the need for post-curing or post-processing. Objects printed with Dimengel are receptive to various types of finishes.
Massivit Smart is Massivit 1800’s proprietary software for 3D file preparation. It enables scaling, rotating, slicing, and support generation for stereolithographic files. The software outputs a ready-to-print file for the printer that’s optimized for selected print modes.
Zanet credits demand for 3D printing from multiple industries for the company’s decision to purchase the two printers. “Combining the most efficient production workshop in digital printing on the French market with the highest performance expertise in assemblage, polishing, varnishing, and painting of prototypes and models for confidential sectors such as aeronautics and automobile, allows us to vision this new market with very big expectations,” she says.
With the Massivit 1800, Zanet believes METROPOLE 3D can answer all 3D demands and projects. “We are able to build anything in a very short time. Strengthened by both expertise and work capacity, we have the ability to touch the sky,” she offers.
Replicating Pop Culture
In 2017, SNCF Gares & Connexions and CASTERMAN approached METROPOLE 3D for a life-sized statue of comic book adventurer Corto Maltese. Popular in French culture, Corto Maltese is a character in a series of novels from writer Hugo Pratt. The client’s goal was to capture the audience’s attention and create conversation for the novel’s 50th anniversary.
METROPOLE 3D used Dimengel with the Massivit 1800 to print the life-size Corto Maltese. Massivit’s patented Gel Dispensing Printing technology is a balance of print engine movement speed and algorithms to 3D print supersized objects.
The model was divided into eight pieces to create one sitting Corto Maltese, wwhich was 52 inches tall, 44 inches wide, and 25 inches in depth. The company had three weeks to install the product, which required additional finishing after installation. “We also had to decide how to adapt the shape of the model to the 3D printing process because we wanted Corto Maltese to resemble the fictional character as much as possible,” says Zanet.
Finishing the 3D print job included polishing the sculpture, lacquering, and spray painting for a life-like appearance in addition to gluing and sanding.
The 3D job was completed in 200 hours including 25 hours to create the 3D files, 70 hours of printing, and over 105 hours of modeling. The 3D printed Corto Maltese was exhibited at the Gare de Paris in Austerlitz, France until October 2017.
According to Zanet, the clients were very pleased, amazed, and thankful for the 3D printed Corto Maltese. “It’s a feat to realize the project was completed in such a short amount of time with high-quality and magnificent rendering,” she explains.
The use of 3D printers in wide format applications is accelerating across industries and countries. Advancements in 3D print technology, like those from Massivit, allows print providers and manufacturers to create life-sized objects with fast turnarounds and little error.
Nov2017, Industrial Print Magazine