Like a proud parent taking a child to their first day of school, Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor Technologies, last week at CES showed off his company’s latest entry in the 3D printing market: a full-color desktop model.
MacCormack revealed some of the inner workings of the Mcor ARKe to me at the annual technology trade show in Las Vegas. Despite being a desktop 3D printer, the ARKe is pretty darn husky at almost three feet wide. Still, it is a new product line for Mcor, which had until this point only made industrial-size 3D printers that each weigh more than 300 pounds.
With the ARKe, the company took a few cues from 2D printing, MacCormack said. “We always wanted to make a desktop equivalent of our printer,” he said. “The whole vision of our company was to make a printer that would go in every office, and every classroom, and eventually into people’s homes.”
Mcor is headquartered in Dunleer, Ireland and late last May established its U.S. headquarters in Taunton, MA. The company also has offices in San Jose, CA.
Mcor has a different approach to 3D printing, using paper as the material its machines build with rather than the plastic filaments and composites typically used by other 3D printers. Chasing the dream of widespread adoption of 3D printers has meant coping with a few barriers to entry, MacCormack said. Industrial-caliber printers are price prohibitive; the Mcor Iris, for instance, costs $50,000. After raising funding, Mcor went to work on developing its desktop version, he said, to pursue more potential customers. “It’s completely new architecture.”
Full-color printing is not new for Mcor, but putting it all into a smaller 3D printer is a fresh step for the company. Part of what makes the ARKe different from its bigger brethren is it has a 2D printer integrated inside to help produce the look of its creations. “With the last machine, we had an Epson machine that preprinted the sheets,” MacCormack said.
The new design allows for highly accurate images, he said. Further, MacCormack said the ARKe’s print heads are comparable to inkjet printers, with cartridges that can be swapped out easily. Instead of standard sheets of paper, which Mcor’s other printers use, rolls of paper feed the ARKe, he said, to improve reliability. “With sheets of paper, you have to try and pick up every individual sheet,” he said.
By introducing the ARKe, Mcor is aiming at a rather tough niche where desktop 3D printers from the likes of Formlabs, based in Somerville, MA, and MakerBot Industries in Brooklyn are still trying to win mainstream appeal. They, and other 3D printing competitors, were also on the show floor at CES.
Formlabs introduced its Tough Resin material last June, which lets users 3D-print load bearing objects, within certain limits. Last fall, Formlabs also introduced its Form 2 printer that offers bigger build sizes.
MakerBot, meanwhile, has been trying to get its mojo back. Last year, it closed all its retail stores, and it has been cutting down its staff. The company did still make its way back to CES, including being part of a promotion for the SyFy cable network’s new series The Expanse.
Desktop 3D printing has not been a slam dunk for anyone yet. Mcor is not exactly trying to jump from customers who are primarily hobbyists to the general public as some other companies have attempted. The ARKe costs just under $9,000—which puts it a bit out of range for the typical consumer. MacCormack said education and corporate customers make up his initial target clientele for the new printer. “We have already taken in 2,500 unit preorders in the last six weeks,” he said, which were handled confidentially through dealers. That translates into $22 million in revenue, MacCormack said. “This is a transformative moment for Mcor.”