New multimaterial technology allows a much wider range of 3D print manufacturing
Stratasys has unveiled the world’s first multi-material colour 3D printer. Costing $330,000 (£200,000), the device features a unique ‘triple-jetting’ technology which combines droplets of three basic materials.
As the name suggests, the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer allows for a wide variety of colour printing using flexible rubber and plastic multimaterials, as combinations of the three normal printing colours (cyan, magenta, and yellow) are blended together to produce any combination needed, similar to a standard computer printer.
This ability to achieve the characteristics of an assembled part without assembly or painting is a significant time-saver, as it means that manufacturers will no longer need separate print runs and painting. The process will also help manufacturers visualise concepts of designs earlier, allowing for more in-depth evaluation before committing to manufacturing, meaning they should be able to develop and bring products to market faster.
“Stratasys’ goal is to help our customers revolutionise their design and manufacturing processes,” says Stratasys CEO David Reis. “I believe our new Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer will transform the way our customers design, engineer and manufacture new products. In general and with the Connex technology in particular, we will continue to push the envelope of what’s possible in a 3D world.”
The company sees its colour 3D printing technology becoming widespread in the automotive, consumer, sporting goods and fashion industries, but the range of colours and materials available could mean that its usage becomes further spread. One customer already named by Stratasys is cycling equipment manufacturer Trek Bicycle, who will use the technology for the assessment and testing of accessories such as bike chain stay guards, handlebar grips or helmets (like the prototype pictured above) prior to actual production.
“The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer changed the way we manufacture at Trek, augmenting our traditional, time-consuming CNC processes with fast, iterative and realistic prototyping and functional testing,” says Mike Zeigle, manager of Trek’s prototype development group.
Stratasys is already a well-established figure in the growing 3D printing industry, having bought the pioneering Makerbot, which showed its fifth generation of 3D printers at CES. The company is aiming to move 3D printing away into homes and small businesses by releasing cheaper machines, with its Makerbot Mini going on sale in the spring for just $1,375.