3D printing, now in living colour!

By combining three colors, the Stratasys printer offers a palette consisting of hundreds of shades

Industrial 3D printer manufacturer, Stratasys, has announced what it called the world's first multi-color, multi-material printer capable of making objects of hard, soft and flexible polymers.

Stratasis' Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer features a triple-jet technology that combines droplets of three base materials to produce parts with virtually unlimited combinations of rigid, flexible and transparent colour materials in a single print run.

Previously, manufacturers could print multi-colorued parts using many different materials and assemble them after completion. Stratasys' new printer ushers in an all-in-one technology that speeds production by combining the materials at the print head.

"This ability to achieve the characteristics of an assembled part without assembly or painting is a significant time-saver," Stratasys said in a statement. "It helps product manufacturers validate designs and make good decisions earlier before committing to manufacturing, and bring products to market faster."

Stratasys' Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer and supporting material bays.

Trek Bicycle in Waterloo, Wisc. is currently beta testing the Objet500 Connex3 printer for creating accessories such as bike chain stay guards and handlebar grips prior to actual production.

Mike Zeigle, manager of Trek's prototype development group, said the multi-material printer changed the way the company manufactures, augmenting its "traditional, time-consuming CNC processes with fast, iterative and realistic prototyping and functional testing.

"Now we produce bicycle parts that look and feel like production parts," Zeigle said. "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."

Stratasys offers three colors in the new printer that are similar to 2D inkjet colors: VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYello. By combining the colors at the printer head, the Objet500 Connex3 can produce hundreds of shades.

A bike helmet 3D printed on the Objet500 Connex3 in one print job using VeroCyan, VeroMagenta, and VeroYellow material

Stratasys has for years had a range of photopolymer materials, including digital materials as well as rigid, rubber-like, transparent and high-temperature materials to simulate standard and high temperature engineering plastics. The company said a new "flexible" color polymer is also a first for the 3D printing industry.

The Objet500 Connex3 printer also features six palettes for new rubber-like Tango colors, ranging from opaque to transparent colors in various shore values use in the automotive, consumer, sporting goods and fashion markets.

"The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer produces models and parts using photopolymers in vivid colors so you can create colorful models from investigating concepts to pre-production pilot runs," said Igal Zeitun, Stratasys' vice president of product marketing and sales operations.

Stratasys said the Objet500 Connex3 is ideal for high-capacity production. Print jobs can run with about 30 kilograms of resin print cycle. The new printer can produce objects with layers as fine as 16 microns in thickness for fine detail.

Multi-material, multi-color shoes printed on the Object500. The outside of the shoes are hard, while the inside material is flexible

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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