What is Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL)?

Selective Deposition Lamination Mcor ARKe

In last week’s blog post we discussed Blueprinter’s Selective Heat Sintering (SHS) technology and how it offers something different to Fused Filament Fabrication and Stereolithography 3D printers. This week, we’ll be discussing another unique 3D printing technology called Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL).

Selective Deposition Lamination offers something completely different to traditional 3D printers – you don’t print with plastic, powder or resin. Instead, you print with paper.

That’s right – there’s no expensive polymers to speak of. You print with the stuff an office printer does.

The SDL process itself was invented in 2003 by Dr. Conor and Fintan MacCormack, who are brothers. The MacCormacks wanted to address the soaring prices of 3D printers and their materials, so they set out to create a 3D printing process with a low operating cost. The result was Selective Deposition Lamination, and their vision to make 3D printing accessible to all was achieved in the co-founding of Mcor Technologies.

Mcor Technologies have three 3D printers – the Mcor IRIS, Mcor ARKe and Matrix 300+ – all of which utilise Selective Deposition Lamination. The IRIS was the world’s first full-colour 3D printer while the ARKe was the world’s first full-colour desktop 3D printer. The Matrix 300+ can only print white 3D models.

What is Selective Deposition Lamination?

Selective Deposition Lamination refers to a paper-based 3D printing process in which sheets of paper are cut and bonded together to form a 3D object. So rather than being made from plastic, 3D models are made from paper.

How does Selective Deposition Lamination work?

SDL uses paper and glue to form a 3D model. The process works like so – the first few sheets of paper are attached to the build plate to form a base layer. The 3D printer then deposits adhesive selectively to the top paper sheet with a thicker deposit around the area that will become the support material. With the adhesive applied, another sheet of paper is then fed into the build chamber where it is bonded to the base layer. An incredibly sharp blade then cuts the piece of bonded paper to the shape of the digital file. Once cut, adhesive is then applied to the cut sheet before another sheet of paper is fed into the printer. This process is then repeated hundreds of times until the model is finished.

So where does ‘full-colour’ 3D printing come into the mix?

In the case of the Mcor IRIS and Mcor ARKe 3D printers, there’s one more step to the print process. The IRIS and ARKe both feature Mcor Technologies’ patented ink system, which utilises inkjet technology to permeate every layer of paper with black and CMYK ink. The layers are inked prior to any cutting or bonding. The ink itself is water-based and environmentally friendly. The IRIS can print full colour at a colour resolution of 5760 x 1440 x 508 dpi while the ARKe can print full colour at a colour resolution of 4800 x 2400 DPI in X, Y and 254 in Z, or up to 508 in Z with 50GSM paper. The Mcor IRIS uses standard A4 paper as the build material, while the Mcor ARKe uses a proprietary roll of paper as the build material.

What are the benefits to SDL over other 3D printing technologies?

The main benefit is cost. Paper costs significantly less to purchase than ABS, PLA, HIPS, nylon, thermoplastic powder, resin or any other print material. Mcor Technologies’ decision to use standard A4 paper and letter paper in the IRIS keeps costs incredibly low, and a roll of paper for the ARKe costs very little. The second main benefit to SDL over other 3D printing technologies is the ability to create 3D models in full colour, as with the IRIS and ARKe. With a traditional 3D printer, you are limited to using one colour or perhaps two or three colours when printing a model. Sure, you can finish and paint these afterwards, but this increases the processing time and in turn, cost. SDL 3D printers create full-colour 3D models fresh off the print bed. Here’s an example of a full-colour print created by the Mcor IRIS:

Mcor examples

And here’s one created by the Mcor ARKe:

Mcor example 2

Okay, just one more – this time a hammer printed with the IRIS:

Mcor Hammer

As you can see, the level of detail possible with Selective Deposition Lamination is incredible. These parts look like they have been expertly finished and painted, but they haven’t. These parts were printed as they are.

As incredible as this is, though, Mcor Technologies are continuously improving their patented SDL process so that users can create evermore lifelike 3D models and parts. It really does make us wonder where this process will be in ten years time. We suspect the results will be mesmerising, and we can’t wait to see how this technology progresses.