As much as we try to move toward more of a paperless existence with our utility bills and bank statements, many of us still keep multifunction inkjet printers at home for a variety of reasons. And it’s also true that 3D printers, once the expensive vestige of enthusiastic hobbyists, are getting cheaper and more refined all the time. Then, out of the blue, Casio Mofrel technology comes out of nowhere to introduce us to 2.5D printing. What?

Over at CEATEC Japan, Casio demonstrated this new printing technology that can effectively mimic a wide range of textures. It’s not quite 3D printing, in that you won’t be making custom lens caps and scale models of the Eiffel Tower with this. Instead, you get to experiment with a precision-printed raised surface.

The samples that they had on hand included brick, stone, wood, ceramic, embroidered fabric and even leather. You could really feel those “subtle bumps on stitches,” said Richard Lai of Engadget.

The concept of two-and-a-half dimensions of anything leaves a lot open to interpretation. In gaming, you could talk about how 2D sprites are used to mimic a 3D environment, like in the original Doom. You could also talk about how 3D models may be utilized in a game that is mostly restricted to a 2D plane, like Street Fighter IV.

With Casio Mofrel technology, you can’t use just plain old paper. Instead, you have to invest in what Casio calls “digital sheets” that involve a micro powder. The idea is that the powder is coated in acrylonitrile (a thermoplastic resin) that expands when exposed to heat and retains its shape when the heat is removed. Then, you add color via an inkjet to deliver the final result.

A standard A4 sheet takes between three and five minutes, and costs about $10. The printer, targeted at B2B customers, sells for about $44,400. While the texture is limited to 1.7mm of thickness for now, going as high as 2.5mm could be possible with some difficulty. This is clearly targeted at businesses for cost-effective rapid prototyping, but just like 3D printing, 2.5D printing with Mofrel could becoming a consumer thing in the not too distant future.

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