Stratasys at TCT Show
TCT Show had a few firsts this year including Start Ups, Maker Meetups and new machines. Two of those machines were from 3D printing giant Stratasys as the company’s recently revealed, Objet 500 Connex 1 and Connex 2 3D printers were spoke about for the first time in the UK at the TCT Show in Birmingham. We spoke to Simon Brandon, Stratasys Marketing Manager for the UK to find out what this new technology means for the future of 3D printing.
“We have the Connex 3 which launched earlier this year as the world’s first multi colour multi material system,” explains Simon. “What we’ve launched in the last few weeks is the Connex 1 and 2 which are a way up to the Connex 3. Those take the multi material abilities of the Connex systems at three different levels depending on what users need - not everyone needs the full multi colour multi material system.”
Stratasys works with two primary technologies that formed when Stratasys and Objet merged last year. These include PolyJet systems from the Objet side which is UV cured inkjet and from the Stratasys side they have FDM systems.
“What we tend to get is new products coming out with both sides,” Simon explains. “They’re more and more being used for different applications now.”
The machines produce different kinds of prints suitable for various applications. Using three samples, Simon demonstrated the difference in textures and styles that the printers produce.
“What the Connex 1 can do is use different materials in the print build so it can layer material on the top or in the same print bed. The Connex 2 does that plus can mix the materials together to make digital materials," says Simon. “You can mix different proportions so you get different material properties to make them more or less flexible and get exactly what you want. You get an exact material properties that you would get in and end use part. Then of course the Connex 3 which does all that plus colour. So its just allowing people to choose the right level for them”
Connex 3 multi-material, colour 3D printer at TCT Show
These advanced systems have very obvious benefits for prototyping as they can produce prints that resemble the exact properties of an end use part allowing for more accurate and effective manufacturing. There are two distinct uses that Stratasys think the machines will be beneficial to.
“The first one is for advanced prototyping," Simon claims. “You’re talking to the big names who need this level of rapid prototyping so when they make something it is going to be as close as possible to the end use part. The beauty of the PolyJet system is it’s a really nice surface finish so it’s really close to the end use part. It’s the most precise system around. The second thing that they will be used for is direct digital manufacturing. So a whole new area for prints and actually working towards end use parts but also lots of applications along the way. Seeing customers using them in innovative ways and coming back to us and saying ‘look what we’ve found’, our research teams are finding different ways to use the process. It’s a nice collaborative thing that the community can work together with DDM.”
3D printing already offers substantial benefits to manufacturers in terms of reduced costs and production times but with developments in full colour printing and digital materials, it opens up the technology to an even wider forum.
“'Ten years' everybody talks about the 3d printing industry, maybe ten years into the future there will be factories that just have a row of 3D printers which will be absolutely fantastic but we’re not there yet. We’re finding lots of niche applications for it. At the moment it’s the little areas where Direct Digital Manufacturing is making a big difference so we might have these amazing factories that have got rows of 3D printers in but its taking the steps to get in there. We’re on the curve of innovation so it’s getting there. Now people are thinking ‘what can we do with this stuff?’ I think it’s going to really start taking off over the next few years.”