• ZPrinter 450
Z Corp.
www.zcorporation.com -- Maximum build size is 8 by by 12 inches 
-- No support structures on finished models 
-- Automatically recycles excess powder 
-- No-touch automatic binder and snap-in powder cartridge 
-- Noise-suppression keeps printer quiet while in operation 
-- Color applied with two standard ink-jet print heads 
-- Environmentally safe build material 
-- Two to four layers per minute 
-- Layers range from 0.0035 to 0.004 inches thick, depending on user preference
    ZPrinter 450
    Z Corp.
    www.zcorporation.com
    -- Maximum build size is 8 by by 12 inches
    -- No support structures on finished models
    -- Automatically recycles excess powder
    -- No-touch automatic binder and snap-in powder cartridge
    -- Noise-suppression keeps printer quiet while in operation
    -- Color applied with two standard ink-jet print heads
    -- Environmentally safe build material
    -- Two to four layers per minute
    -- Layers range from 0.0035 to 0.004 inches thick, depending on user preference
3-D ink-jet printers, like the new ZPrinter 450, from Burlington, Mass.-based Z Corp., use a high-performance composite powder alternated with a gluelike binder to slowly build up models layer by layer. The user has a proprietary print driver, called ZPrint, installed on their computer desktop. It parses a standard .stl file into a series of layers, or horizontal slices that can be built up by the plasterlike powder in the printer. Once inside the printing chamber, the layers of powder and binder build up, and two standard ink-jet printer heads apply ink to the perimeter of each layer, so that the model builds up in full color. With another proprietary program called ZEdit, the user can import image files to provide simulated texture—such as images of paving tiles or roofing materials. The result is a faithful model of the original 3-D drawing, with a materials cost of between $2 and $3 per cubic inch.

  • DesignMate Cx
Contex
www.contex.com
-- Maximum build size is 10 by 14 by 8 inches 
-- Models are made from highperformance composite material, fused with a binder solution deposited via four ink-jet print heads (a total of 1,216 jets) in cyan, magenta, yellow, and clear 
-- User-selected layer thicknesses range from .0035 to .008 inches 
-- Build speed is two to four layers per minute 
-- Accepts .stl, .vrml, and .ply file formats as input 
-- Uses proprietary Contex print driver software 
-- Compatible with Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional
    DesignMate Cx
    Contex
    www.contex.com
    -- Maximum build size is 10 by 14 by 8 inches
    -- Models are made from highperformance composite material, fused with a binder solution deposited via four ink-jet print heads (a total of 1,216 jets) in cyan, magenta, yellow, and clear
    -- User-selected layer thicknesses range from .0035 to .008 inches
    -- Build speed is two to four layers per minute
    -- Accepts .stl, .vrml, and .ply file formats as input
    -- Uses proprietary Contex print driver software
    -- Compatible with Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional

“Cost has become big factor,” says Kevin Lach, vice president of marketing for Z Corp. “The cost of something is going to drive how you use it. If [a model] is going to cost several thousand dollars, you're not going to try a lot of things. If it costs 50 to 100 dollars, and it's already in your office, then it fosters creativity.” Another benefit to the powdered printing process is that in the ZPrinter 450, several items can be printed at once, stacked together so that they fill the print chamber. An extra layer of powder between each piece means they are completely separate once it comes time to remove them from the machine.