Updated 23 May, 2013, 8:16 pm IST
Tech2 checks out the Connex350, world's only multi-material 3D printer
| by Karan Shah
During our recent trip to Chennai, we got the chance to spend a couple of hours with the world’s only multi material 3D printer – the Objet Connex series. Based on the different tray sizes, the Objet Connex series is classified into the Connex260, 350 and the Connex500. We had a brief hands-on with the Connex350 and to put it in a nutshell, we were amazed with the sheer brilliance of this 3D printer. To know our thoughts and more on this, read on…
The massive printer
Effectively slicing the notion that great things come in small packages, the Connex350 is one massive jumbo jet printer with equally jumbo capabilities. It uses PolyJet printing technology to conjure up 3D objects from virtually nothing, well almost. The printer utilizes model and support materials to print 3D prototype objects. Just as InkJet printers today utilize a combination of three primary colours – RGB – to create a vast spectrum of colours, the Connex350 uses its model and support materials to create over 60 materials, including up to 51 Digital Materials. Each of these materials can be customized with different and distinct mechanical and physical properties. The nature of the final material is variable - from rubber to rigid, opaque to transparent, and standard to ABS-grade engineering plastics can be obtained via the Objet Connex series printers. The tenacity and elasticity of every single material used in the prototype can be adjusted based on the needs of the user.
A look at one of the world`s most sophisticated 3D printers
Here’s a small brief on how the Connex350 works. Using any CAD software, the designer creates his 3D model prototype and sends it to print. Based on the details specified by him, the printer uses the adequate amount of material for printing the required object. Starting off with a support layer, the printer starts ‘making’ the object in the x, y and z axis. The object is printed with the material based on the user’s discretion. Upon completion of printing, the support material can be washed off to give you your final object. The minimum thickness to print currently is 0.6mm. No extra workstation is required; just you, the printer and some CAD skills. The operation in itself is pretty feasible and easy. All the user requires is some CAD knowledge and the rest is managed by the printer. In our brief hands-on, once the print command was sent, there was very little work at the user’s end, which included removing the printed objects from the tray board and putting them through a jet spray machine to remove the support material. The entire printing job was neatly handled by the printer.
With living hinges
For effective printing and better time management, various small objects can be printed at one go in the same printing cycle. With these printers, complex geometries are possible. For example, as can be seen in the images, the keychain consists of a living hinge, giving the user a full feel of the fit and the form of his object. It’s also important to note that this effectively eliminates guesswork from the professional prototyping procedure.
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