Stratasys Intros First Multi-Material Color 3D Printer

Stratasys’ Objet500 Connex3 can print with three materials at once, from flexible to transparent plastics, and produce hundreds of colors.

Stratasys has introduced what it says is the first 3D printer capable of simultaneously printing with three different materials and a number of colors, saving users from multiple print runs. The result, says the company, is the ability to produce parts with “virtually unlimited combinations of rigid, flexible and transparent color materials as well as color digital materials,” as well as a significant time savings.

The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer, like a 2D printer, is able to use three color materials—cyan, magenta and yellow—to create hundreds of color options. It also features six color palettes for new rubber-like colors that can range from opaque to transparent, enabling it to better address markets such as automotive, consumer, fashion and sporting goods.

The Objet500 is able to print using a number of PolyJet materials. These include transparent plastics, which are ideal for medical applications or form and fit testing of things like eyewear; rigid and opaque plastics, ideal for sales and marketing exhibition models, silicon molding and more; Polypropylene, ideal for reusable packaging, automotive components and snap-fit applications; rubber materials, ideal for creating soft-touch coatings or non-slip surfaces; high-temperature plastics, for hot-air or hot-water testing or models that require either a perfect surface quality or must endure in strong lighting conditions; and a Digitial ABS family of plastics, which is ideal for, among other tings, mobile phone casings or engine parts.

“I believe our new [printer] will transform the way our customers design, engineer and manufacture new products,” Stratasys CEO David Reis said in a Jan. 26 statement. “We will continue to push the envelope of what’s possible in the a 3D world.”

Stratasys customer Trek Bicycle has trialed the new printer, and manager Mike Zeigle says it’s changed the way the company manufactures its bikes.

“Now we produce bicycle parts that look and feel like production parts,” Zeigle said in a statement. “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. We’re thinking of doing the same thing with [stress data] on structural bike components.”

3D Printing Goes Mainstream

Stratasys is the parent company of MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based creator of personal desktop 3D printers. MakerBot has announced an initiative to get a 3D printer into every school, and at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, it introduced its fifth generation of printers: the Z18, its largest printer to date (priced at $6,499 and able to print items 18 inches tall); a faster new desktop Replicator ($2,899); and its first compact desktop 3D printer, the Replicator Mini ($1,375).

Microsoft has committed to selling MakerBot printers at an increasing number of its retail stores, and has created a MakerBot 3D Printer Driver for its Windows 8.1 software suite.

In late December 2013, IDC announced that 3D printing has transitioned from niche to mainstream and forecast tenfold growth from 2012 to 2017.

On Jan. 27, Dell announced that it will offer MakerBot Replicator 3D printers and scanners as part of its portfolio of solutions for small and midsize businesses.

Andy Rhodes, executive director of Dell Precision workstations, said in a statement that Dell strives to give startups, designers and engineers the tools they need to succeed. With the addition of the Makerbot products to the Dell portfolio, he added, “Our customers can now bring their innovative prototypes to life much more quickly and affordably.”

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