Research staff at digital printing technology firm EFI™ have developed a new technology and framework for 4D printing. EFI's new 4D VUTEk® printer combines photopolymer additive inkjet printing with a concept-stage EFI Fiery® digital front end (DFE) running PrintFlow® scheduling software to control time coordinates.
While many other technology companies are exploring ways to enter the 3D inkjet printing market, EFI decided to leapfrog the competition and be the first to market with 4D printing technologies, utilizing bi-directional control of time elements in four-dimensional space.
"The new 4D VUTEk printer is a breakthrough product not only for its ability to print high-quality solid objects, but for the innovative workflow we have built around it," said Guy Gecht, EFI's CEO. "While we have always offered leading-edge tools to help businesses avoid printing errors, on complex production jobs, mistakes are often unavoidable. The new 4D VUTEk printer is the first product that will actually allow the user to go back before the error is made to re-print a job correctly."
Developed in a previously undisclosed special lab in the basement of EFI's new Silicon Valley headquarters, the 4D VUTEk printer allows operators to adjust their chronological position during printing. Backwards movements present the ultimate money-saving feature, as they give users the ability to discard erroneously printed jobs in the space-time continuum and start over as if the incorrect print job never took place.
Users who master the printer's 4D design and production process can exponentially increase their productivity by loading their final print job design to the 4D VUTEk print engine and then moving ahead chronologically to immediately retrieve their printed products. Once retrieved, the 4D VUTEk automatically takes the user and the printed products back to point of job submission, eliminating all the production time associated with the job.
"This new technology will not only fundamentally change the market for inkjet printing of solid objects, it addresses emerging technical requirements in the digital printing industry," said EFI Senior Research Scientist Emmitt Brown, leader of the company's 4D VUTEk printer development team. "The key breakthrough was reaching a point of high-speed processing where a job is processed before it is even submitted."
The first installation of the 4D VUTEk printer is expected to take place on April 1, 2015 at New Zealand-based Look Forward Printing. "Although I expected a lot from EFI as a company that is dedicated to making printing more competitive and productive, I was very impressed when I saw a demonstration of the new 4D printer," said Look Forward Printing's CEO, Thomas Foolery. "My customers are excited about the prospects of timeless print submission in every point of time."
Prices and general availability of the new EFI 4D VUTEk printer have not been disclosed.
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