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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

3D Printers Rule at SolidWorks World — Part 2

 
February 20th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Last time we covered the introduction of the the MarkForged Mark One that can print parts with carbon fiber filament. This time around we’ll discuss the Stratsys Objet500 Connex3 3D printer that can produce multi-material/multi-color parts.

Before the conference officially commenced, Stratasys formally introduced its new Objet500 Connex3 3D printer. For a pre-event event, it was well attended by those interested in Stratasys’ new 3D printer.

The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer features a unique triple-jetting technology that combines droplets of three base materials to produce parts with a myriad combinations of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials, as well as color materials — all in a single print run. This ability to achieve the characteristics of an assembled part without assembly or painting is a significant technological achievement and time-saver.

Connex3 uses a print block with eight print heads — two for each material, including supports. This technique leaves six print heads for three model materials. The print heads deposit material droplets in a pre-defined pattern to create combinations from as many as three base materials. The patterns yield digital materials that are more than just a simple blending of the base materials.

Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 3D Printer Introduction

Engineers at beta user Trek Bicycle (Waterloo, WI) are using the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer for assessment and testing products like bike chain stay guards and handlebar grips prior to actual production. “The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer has changed the way we manufacture at Trek, augmenting our traditional, time-consuming CNC processes with fast, iterative, and realistic prototyping and functional testing,” said Mike Zeigle, manager of Trek’s prototype development group.

“Now we produce bicycle parts that look and feel like production parts. We are particularly excited about 3D printing our models directly in color. This gives our designers the ability to graphically display color contact pressure map data on rider contact parts like seats and grips,” added Zeigle.

Stratasys Booth Tour at SolidWorks World 2014

Similar to a 2D inkjet printer, three color materials – VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYellow – are combined to produce hundreds of colors. These color materials join Stratasys’ range of PolyJet photopolymer materials, including digital materials, rigid, rubber-like, transparent, and high temperature materials that are able to simulate standard and high-temperature engineering plastics.

The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer also features six palettes for new rubber-like Tango colors, ranging from opaque to transparent colors in various shore values to address markets such as automotive, consumer and sporting goods, and fashion.

The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer is based on Objet Connex technology that has been around a while (keep in mind that Objet and Stratasys are now one company). Well-suited for over-molding with digital ABS and complex multi-material parts, the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer is designed to create models, molds, and parts that match the characteristics of production parts.

It 3D prints models and parts with the color, durability, and surface finish of end products. This includes excellent mechanical properties, such as tensile strength, elongation at break, and multiple hardness shore values, which simulate high performance thermoplastics. It also allows overmolding using durable digital ABS materials and introduces new Shore A values for digital ABS, ranging from A27 to A95 – a major factor for manufacturing consumer products.

With a relatively large build envelope (19.3″ x 15.4″ x 7.9″), the Objet500 Connex3 color multi-material 3D printer can run print job with about 30kg of resin per cycle. As with other machines using PolyJet 3D printing technology, the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer prints as fine a resolution as 16 micron layers for models with excellent surface finish and fine detail.

Parts we saw being produced at the conference were of surprisingly good quality with little or no secondary operations required. The colors available were also very striking, and the range of material possibilities was impressive.

With the introductions of the two new 3D printers at SolidWorld , it appears, and not insignificantly, the technology and its potential are poised to take this market to a new level. The introduction of these two new machines showed that the 3D printing industry is again growing and improving by leaps and bounds, and not just relatively small incremental steps.

The Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 3D printer is available now at a price starting at around $190,000. Some materials are available for it now, while the flexible materials in color are expected to be commercially available in Q2 2014.

More information about the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer is available at: http://www.stratasys.com/Objet500Connex3.

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