Stratasys has unveiled the world’s first multi-material 3D printer, capable of printing in a full color range.
3D printers are not new, color 3D printers are not entirely new, and multi-material 3D printers – while uncommon – are not new. But all three together is something that hasn’t ever happened before. Not, that is to say, until the Connex3.
Announced today by the industrial 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer is a development of the company’s previous Connex printers, which used two jets to print in materials of various rigidity.
By using three jets instead of two, the Connex3 is able to print in an almost limitless combination of rigid, flexible, and transparent materials. Furthermore, by combining the three colors VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYello, Stratasys’ new printer is able to produce hundreds of color shades.
“A single machine will do everything. You can literally get hundreds of colors and hundreds of material formulas out of this one machine. They can mix together,” said Stratasys spokesman Joe Hiemenz. “You can build a part that’s solid plastic and rubber and transparent and various colors all on the same build. This is like no other machine before.”
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The usefulness of normal 3D printers is limited by their ability to create objects of only a single density or color. For manufacturing purposes, it is far more useful to have a printer that is able to vacillate between them, in order to preview complicated concepts before rolling them out to production.
Before now, it has been possible for manufacturers to produce parts in various materials, and assemble them into a finished prototype afterwards. Stratasys notes that the Connex3 will save a significant amount of time by rolling all the necessary materials into one print job.
The printer is able to produce layers with 16 microns of precision, allowing it to produce prototypes of very fine detail.
According to Hiemenz, the Connex3 printer will sell for about $330,000 when it is put up for sale during the second quarter of 2014.