Jul 11, 2016 | By Tess

You’ve heard of 2D printing and you’ve heard of 3D printing, but have you heard of 2.5D printing? If not, Japanese electronics manufacturing company Casio is hoping to enlighten you with their latest technology in development. The company’s aptly named 2.5D printing technology falls somewhere in between standard paper printing and 3D printing technologies and is being designed for a range of purposes, including education for the blind, tactile learning, tactile mapping, and dynamic graphics.

If you’re still wondering what 2.5D printing is, let me explain. While the Casio 2.5D printer looks similar to a standard commercial ink-on-paper printer, it is actually capable of embossing images, patterns, or letters onto the paper it prints on using a novel (and surprisingly simple) heat-reliant process.

Essentially, the paper that the 2.5D printer prints on is composed of a number of layers, one of which contains thermally expandable plastic microcapsules that expand when exposed to warm temperatures. To achieve the embossed effect, the printer uses infrared and heat absorbing black ink on specific areas of the paper (determined by your design), which then expand under a halogen lamp (up to 90 degrees Celsius). The texture patterns can be varied as well, as the darker the patterns are, the more embossed they become when exposed to heat. The paper can rise as much as 2mm.

In addition to the expanding properties of the paper, the Casio 2.5D printer is also equipped with more traditional inkjet print heads which allow the user to print color images and graphics overtop the embossed figures and symbols. Currently, Casio’s printer is capable of printing on A3 or A4 sized paper.

Casio’s innovative technology could have wide applications in the field of education for the visually impaired as their 2.5D printer could be used for not only printing Braille quickly and efficiently, but also for printing tactile images for students to benefit from. According to the company, the 2.5D printer could be used to capture the details of human anatomy, to create tactile maps to familiarize students with their neighbourhoods and with different topographies, to create images of animals with different textures and shapes, and to create graphs or business charts with tactile properties.

While Casio’s 2.5D printing technology was recently showcased at the Design Engineering and Manufacturing Solutions Expo in Tokyo, there is no word yet on whether the printer will be commercially released or when it might be available. We’ll be sure to keep a close eye on further developments of the company’s 2.5D printing technology.



Posted in 3D Printer



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