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Printers Add Dimensions

Printing firms are shaping up products, adding new forms to print, and premedia processes, to make production stand out and engage consumners. What began years ago with pop-ups and thermography, has morphed into new techniques for adding value, impact and engagement to print. A host of new offerings is showing up on the market, including more complex dangling and bobbling retail shelf-talkers, inline lenticular lens printing using UV curing systems, and ever bumpier layered coatings. Now printers are reaching further to plumb the potential for adding more dimensions to printing. Even virtual ones are appearing, with Topps Cards, Paper Johns Pizza, and Popular Mechanics employing "augmented reality" printing that makes webcam- enabled laptops present sites mirroring printed items held before them, but with multiple dimensions. Hallmark Cards, among the nation's largest printers and print buyers, will host an evening event when Delcam hold its ArtCAM User Group Meeting in Kansas City in late September. Hallmark Cards, one of the largest ArtCAM users in North Americarapid prototyping devices—essentially on-demand printers for making samples of products. The Hallmark evening is followed by two days of workshops on the latest versions of the software.

Delcam will show its 2010 version of ArtCAM. The application is used for packaging prototypes and for signmaking. "This new version is set to further increase the use of ArtCAM in the three-dimensional world,” says Ed Powell, product manager for Delcam, which has its U.S. office in Salt lake City.

Shapeways is another company developing and marketing 3D printing to the U.S. The company, a spin-off of Philips Electronics, harnesses designers through a community website to create items for short-run dimensional printing using its engines. NextGen Research, in a new market study “3D Printing: Rapid Prototyping," projects the market for 3D printing systems, services and materials will grow at nearly 5% to reach $782.6 million by 2013. “While it initially was used mainly for product prototyping, 3D printing is starting to penetrate markets that can take advantage of the capability for highly customized, short-run manufacturing," says research analyst Christopher Montaño.

Rehovot, Israel-based Objet launched its Connex35 in Chicago last week. It is the company’s second rapid prototyping system that allows product developers and manufacturers to simultaneously print multiple materials with different mechanical and physical properties. Modeled after Objet’s Connex500, said to be the only other 3D printer in the world with this capability, the Connex350 debuted June 22-26 at the inaugural Time Compression Expo and Conference in Chicago.
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