TechnologyHighcon Beam with 3D Modeling
The Highcon 3D Modeling capabilities in conjunction with the Highcon Beam digital cutting and creasing machine introduce 3D production and manufacturing to converters, printers, and trade finishers wanting to extend their business. The Rapid Layer Manufacturing technology takes any standard STL file and automatically slices the model into layers to be cut, according to the thickness of the substrate used.
Instead of working for weeks or using other 3D technologies with material cost that can reach tens of thousands of dollars, Highcon's machine builds large scale masters, molds and patterns for a fraction of the cost compared to any other 3D vendor, and most importantly in minutes rather than days.
Highcon technology can use easily available and paper-based substrates with a low price tag. They can even use printed paper that is the waste by-product of other processes in their business. An offset printing press, for example, can require a large number of sheets (100-500) as "press make-ready" for each new print job. Under specific conditions, the waste output of the press can be reused as the basis for 3D models with a positive effect not only on the business but also on the environment. Thinner paper allows for more accuracy and finer details but slows down the process. Thicker paper dramatically shortens the production time. However, unlike in printing, the surface of the substrate is irrelevant as the sheets are stacked to create the model. The grade of paper and top coating layers, which usually impact the substrate price, are not a consideration.
The real innovation in the application of this technology is the combination of the precise digital cutting of the Highcon Beam, which has three 1,000 watt lasers that can cut up to a top speed of 5,000 B1/42-in. sheets an hour, with the Variable Data Cutting module, sold together with the Beam, and the 3D Modeling option. Variable-data printing has been around for a long time, but variable-data cutting is relatively new and turns a technical process into an opportunity for differentiation. Variable-data cutting can transform simple products into premium ones by adding customization and personalization. Variable-data can be used to cut not internal cutouts but rather layers. With the addition of the 3D Modeling module, which translates a standard STL file into layers, the result is digital data sent to the Highcon Beam in the form of hundreds or thousands of individual files.
The Highcon Beam can process all these files to produce large models or molds within minutes, which would take hours, if not days, using current 3D printing applications using polymers. The end result is the ability to perform 3D production, rather than 3D prototyping, at far higher speed and much less cost.
In comparison to existing 3D printing technologies like FDM, PJ, SLA or SLS, the Highcon Rapid Layer Manufacturing technology that is behind the 3D Modeling option is 15 to 50 times faster and material costs can be up to a 100 times cheaper. Also existing 3D printing technologies hardly ever reach the size of models or molds that can be produced easily and quickly on the Highcon Beam, so this opens up a whole new world of applications.
The range of applications for Highcon's 3D modeling capabilities is wide with uses for point of purchase, stands, display, furniture, tooling for composites materials, masters for concrete and plasters castings and patterns for vacuum forming. Complex 3D models can be used to highlight products and appeal to consumers for promotional purposes as a supplement to other brand activities including packaging for high-end and premium products.
Once a 3D model has been produced and removed, the remaining waste paper (the negative of the product) can be used as a mold or as a master mold for larger volume production. In this way, the process utilizes 100 percent of the raw material, and designers can also create a single prototype of the product from the final material (like concrete) before producing the final mold.
There are several applications of model production that require a mold. Two specific examples are carbon fiber products or decorative architectural concrete elements.
With Highcon 3D Modeling, a paper mold can be produced quickly, with dramatic reduction in time and cost. Complex structures and textures can be created that are impossible in any conventional molding technology or in any known additive manufacturing technology. Fine details and smooth surfaces are achieved, when required, by very little post-processing. The bench in this image is around two meters long and could simply not have been produced by any other current 3D printing technology.