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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for March, 2014

Custom Printing: Stratasys Prints 3D in Vivid Color

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Stratasys has just redefined 3D custom printing with the introduction of the only 3D equipment that prints in vivid color using multiple materials.

To grasp what this means, let’s pause for a moment and jump back in history to the 1980s, back to the genesis of desktop publishing. After coding type for years on dedicated typesetting machines, I remember how exciting it was to look at a large monitor and see magazine pages laid out in columns in PageMaker. Back then, the monitors displayed only black and white images—literally. There were no levels of gray and no color.

Then someone invented large grayscale monitors that could display shades and tones. And then they invented large color monitors. The images were breathtaking. I’m not sure whether it was their novelty, or their promise of being incredibly useful, but in a short time, these monitors became essential for our work.

Two Articles About the Stratasys 3D Objet500 Connex3

I had a deja vu, a visceral memory of the breakthrough in color desktop publishing in the 80s when I read two articles about Stratasys today. “Stratasys Launches Multi-Material Color 3D Printer” on www.pcmag.com (by Stephanie Mlot, 1/27/14) and “A 3D Printer Which Combines Colors with Multi-Material 3D Printing” on www.jeccomposites.com (by Stratasys, 1/30/14) both explain exactly why the new color 3D custom printing technology completely redefines additive manufacturing.

To reference the Stratasys article (“A 3D Printer Which Combines Colors with Multi-Material 3D Printing”), the Objet500 Connex3 “combines droplets of three base materials to produce parts with virtually unlimited combinations of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials as well as color digital materials—all in a single press run.”

What this means is that one or a few people with this equipment can quickly produce complete objects without needing to generate, paint, or assemble their component parts. This reduces the time needed to complete a job as well as the staff and materials needed to do it.

The Objet500 Is Ideal for Creating Prototypes

For prototypes, it can’t be beat. Moreover, since the Objet500 uses multiple materials, you can produce prototypes that not only look like the final product but also feel and behave like the real thing. This is because the Objet500 can use “rigid, rubber-like, transparent, and high temperature materials to simulate standard and high temperature engineering plastics” (“A 3D Printer Which Combines Colors with Multi-Material 3D Printing”).

As an example, the www.jeccomposites.com article references Trek Bicycle in Wisconsin, a company that uses the Objet500 to produce bicycle chain stay guards and handlebar grips prior to the final production run. Designers can match the “color, durability, and surface finish of end products” (“A 3D Printer Which Combines Colors with Multi-Material 3D Printing”). In this way manufacturers can more accurately assess the products before committing to final production. They can catch flaws and make better-informed design and production decisions.

You Can Print in Multiple Colors

An object can also be produced in any color (or in a number of colors), since the Objet500 uses VeroCyan, VeroMagenta, and VeroYellow to simulate hundreds of hues. When you think of the monochromatic materials used prior to this juncture in 3D custom printing, you can imagine the effectiveness of a prototype that looks exactly like the final product.

Why This Matters

Basically, according to Igal Zeitun (vice president of product marketing and sales operations at Wisconsin’s Trek Bicycle), the Objet500 Connex3 “[enables] you to dream up a product in the morning, and hold it in your hands by the afternoon, with the exact intended color, material properties, and surface finish” (from “Stratasys Launches Multi-Material Color 3D Printer”).

What makes this game-changing is that parts produced on the Objet500 not only look like the final product, but they also feel and behave like the final product. And you can produce them quickly.

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