ClearCorrect, one of the nation's leading manufacturers of clear aligners, recently announced a partnership with Objet to develop improved orthodontic offerings.
Among other operations, Objet 3D printers will improve the quality and efficiency of ClearCorrect's production of plastic models for each step in a patient's treatment. By combining Objet's additive manufacturing technology with ClearCorrect's thermoform processing, doctors and dentists can receive plastic models along with the clear aligners themselves. This way, in the event that the clear aligner is lost or damaged, the replacement process will be faster and less expensive.
Avi Cohen, head of medical solutions for Objet, said of the partnership, "We expect this cooperation will increase overall manufacturing productivity and by bringing together the ClearCorrect system and technology with Objet's 3D printing systems, we shall achieve top results for the benefit of users worldwide."
As this collaboration highlights, 3D printing is becoming increasingly useful in the dental world. According to Industrial Laser Solutions, 3D printing has recently been used to improve the milling process for the production of dentures. While traditional methods result in costs of approximately $26 per denture, additive manufacturing can cut this cost in half, to $13 each.
As 3D printing becomes more widespread, users are developing a range of unique applications for the technology. Recently, for example, Co.Design reported that a pair of programmers had customized a 3D printer to help users create self-portraits. The user simply holds a pen in a relaxed grip while a mechanical table moves, so the user creates the drawing without any effort.
Now, Geek.com reports that a group of U.K. 3D printing enthusiasts have found another unique use for additive manufacturing: icing cakes.
An improved method
As the news source noted, a number of videos feature devices that extrude frost and dough for cookies. However, in most of these cases, the process is "outside-in," which means that the printer passes in concentric rings toward the center of the confection. Such a process, while effective, is extremely slow.
This new printer, developed by a group called the CNCDudez, features a "punch and extrude" method. Within a matter of seconds, the device can write a legible message on a cake with icing.
Geek.com notes that it is possible that this or a similar method will become useful in the home and, perhaps more notably, in bakeries, as bakers may signficiantly increase their production volume with the technology.
Food for thought
Food seems to be a rising focus for 3D printer modifiers. Recently, TG Daily reported that Mark Manriquez, a graduate student at New York University, used the technology to create the "BurritoBot." By using an iPhone app, a user can specify the ingredients and condiments he or she desires, and the BurritoBot will essentially print out a burrito to those specifications.
Through a few modifications, a pair of Brooklyn-based designers have created a 3D printer that can help the user to draw a self-portrait, Co.Design recently reported.
According to the news source, Blind Self Portrait (the name of the custom 3D printer) works in conjunction with a laptop camera. One of the creators, Kyle McDonald, developed a computer vision algorithm for drawing facial contours, while his partner, Matt Mets, created a table that moves beneath the user's hand. By doing so, the table effectively guides a pen, drawing the image created on the computer.
For the machine to work, the news source noted that users must close their eyes and relax their arms. The 3D printer does the rest.
The device can be used by anyone, regardless of artistic skill level. The news source noted that when the project was first demonstrated at the monthly Slapdash exhibition, users included young children and experienced artists. While the end products do not qualify as masterpieces, they are almost certainly more advanced and accurate that what many individuals can produce independently.
The creators said they chose to focus on a 3D printer for making self-portraits "mostly for the irony," according to Co.Design.
While most discussions of 3D printing revolve around the industrial or scientific applications of the technology, it has also been used extensively in the creative world. Earlier this year, Daniel Hilldrup used Objet 3D printers to create "Fragments in Time," a project featured in the London Pride Festival of Art Design, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 60th year on the British throne.
Hilldrup explained that his work is "often influenced and motivated by technology."
In October, London will host the 3D Printshow 2012. Described as "a group exhibition space for conceptual artists and designers to showcase unique work," the event will also feature a unique audience-participation element. According to the Telegraph, attendees will have the opportunity to have their bodies digitally scanned and 3D printed.
According to Kenny Hogarth, the show's organizer, the show's purpose is to introduce people to the 3D printing process, including scanning existing items to make replicas and using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create 3D blueprints that are subsequently printed.
The news source reported that one of the technology firms attending the conference specializes in scanning and printing. Among its previous projects was an effort to scan the decaying sculptures that sit atop the roof of Blenheim Palace, in order to preserve them. According to John Beckett, managing director of this firm, the company will set up devices that can scan an individual in five seconds at the 3D Printshow 2012. These scans can then be used to print a model of the person.
Trade shows display technology's potential
While the 3D Printshow 2012's attendee scanning and printing facilities will likely cause a stir, this will be far from the first time that a trade show was used as a platform by 3D printers to demonstrate the capabilities of their technology.
Earlier this year, for example, the RAPID show was held in Atlanta, Georgia, and featured a variety of 3D printing advancements. Perhaps most notably, numerous vendors worked together to create a 3D puzzle cube, the pieces of which were scattered throughout the venue. Technabob highlighted the puzzle pieces created by Objet 3D printers. According to the source, Objet's pieces were extremely detailed and included miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower, human hands and more.
Researchers at KTH Microsystem Technology are working to develop a means of using computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing to produce micro and nanostructures, which may greatly improve innovation opportunities in the future.
Currently, the production process for silicon micro- and nano-sensors is extremely involved and specialized. It requires a clean-room laboratory and, due to the integrated-circuit manufacturing technologies in play, is only cost-effective when hundreds of millions of each device are created. Both of these elements make the design and production of silicon micro and nano-sensors the sole domain of major manufacturers and research firms.
KTH researchers believe that CAD and 3D printing may provide a way to circumvent this limiting system.
"[The silicon structure] could be made very easy, flexible and cheap compared with today's manufacturing processes. All you'll need is a 3D printer and someone to draw the structure in a drafting program on a computer," said Frank Niklaus, associate professor at KTH Microsystem Technology.
According to Niklaus, if successful, this project could lead to a similar revolution as the one that affordable computing created for mass innovation in information technologies. Amateurs and professionals at smaller firms will be able to design and produce their own nano-sized devices, leading to an invention explosion.
If so, silicon micro- and nanodevices would join a number of other technologies that have experienced innovations thanks to 3D printing. For example, Bloomberg Businessweek recently profiled Scott Summit, who uses the technology to develop custom prosthetics. Thanks to 3D printing, Summit's creations are personalized to appeal to individual tastes and are far cheaper than traditional models.
In recent weeks, there have been many news stories of unique, advanced applications for 3D printing technology. Earlier this month, a mechanical engineer used Objet 3D printers to create an extremely small car with functional components. Only 1.5 cm in length, the car features doors that open and close among other moving parts.
Developments such as this demonstrate the complexity and accuracy that 3D printing can deliver.
The same could be said of a YouTube video currently gaining attention on a number of technology-related websites.
An enlightening film
The YouTube video, uploaded by "BusyBotz," features time lapse photography documenting the 3D printing of an extremely detailed bust of the character Yoda, featured prominently in the Star Wars series of films. According to the video, the model is printed in layers of 0.1 mm thickness.
In approximately five hours, BusyBotz's personal 3D printer created an accurate, detailed sculpture of Yoda.
"It’s almost as if Yoda simply materialized from the surface of a desk," wrote Drew Bowling of WebProNews, discussing the time lapse video.
3D printing and toys
For some time now, 3D printing has been used for the production of toys such as action figures and dolls. In addition to the level of detail demonstrated in the YouTube video, perhaps the most notable advantage of 3D printing for this purpose is how well it allows customization. In traditional toy manufacturing, the cost of producing a limited number of a particular model is prohibitive. The only way for a business to earn a profit is to produce a large number of a given toy, limiting customization.
3D printing, on the other hand, does not have this issue. There is no price difference between producing a large and small batch, because the technology does not utilize injection molds.
In the past, one of the biggest limitations to 3D printing was a lack of material options. Recently Objet, one of the world's leading developers and producers of 3D printing technology, has taken significant strides to overcome this obstacle.
Growing material range
The company announced that it now offers a total of 107 materials for its customers to choose from when using Objet 3D printers. Of these, 39 are new and what are known as "digital materials." Digital materials are composites of primary Objet materials. These composites account for the majority of Objet's offerings, and allow for a greater variety and capacity of printing projects than ever before. The materials' properties vary in terms of rigidity, flexibility, color and transparency.
"Considering that we had half this number just a few short years ago, this growth in material choice confirms our commitment to consistently deliver new and enhanced material properties to our customers," said Objet Ceo David Reis.
In addition to the new materials, Objet also announced upgrades for its rigid black and high temperature materials.
In addition to increasing the availability of printing materials, Objet also recently released two printers that can incorporate multiple materials into a single project. The Objet30 Pro is a desktop printer that can utilize up to seven different materials at once. This includes clear transparent and high temperature material - a first for a desktop printer, according to the company.
The Objet Connex500, larger than the Objet30 Pro, can also produce more complex objects. This device can incorporate as many as 14 materials into a single part. According to the company, this makes it ideal for designers and engineers who work with complex or assembled products.
3D printing has undergone major changes in the past few years. Recently, venture capitalist Josh Wolfe, writing for Forbes, highlighted the extent of these changes, as well as the new applications that have developed as a result.
As Wolfe noted, one of the key benefits of 3D printing is the fact that complexity is virtually free. In traditional subtractive manufacturing, a significant amount of loss whenever an item is created is inevitable. Such is not the case with additive manufacturing. Even more notably, customization is easy with 3D printing, as production costs are not dependent on mass scale.
In the past, these benefits were largely limited to industrial manufacturers and specialists. According to Wolfe, however, recent years have seen the democratization of 3D printing. As computing power has exponentially increased, millions of individuals now possess the technology necessary to create and modify 3D printing designs.
Additionally, the cost of 3D printers themselves is plummeting. Wolfe noted that machines that once would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars can now be purchased for approximately $15,000, and certain desktop 3D printers cost as little as $1,000.
One last example of the evolution of 3D printing cited by Wolfe is the expansion of available materials. Formerly, 3D printers could only use a limited range of plastics. Now, however, 3D printers can use a broader range of materials.
Perhaps the most notable example of these last two points is the latest line of Objet 3D printers, the Objet30 Pro. This printer, despite being small enough to fit on a desk, can incorporate as many as seven different materials of varying colors and properties in a single project.
As many industry observers are now aware, there are virtually endless possibilities when it comes to 3D printing. Almost every day, a new report demonstrates the capabilities and potential applications of the technology.
Most recently, reports surfaced demonstrating the rapid prototyping abilities of 3D printing, as well as a creative, one-off approach to the process.
Idea to prototype in a day
Eric Doremus, a civil engineering student at Roger Williams University and intern at R&D Technologies, recently highlighted how his company used Objet 3D printers to go from concept to design to prototype in a single day.
For this project, the group decided to create a Frisbee-like flying disc. Members began by sketching out the dimensions, materials and colors of the disc. Then, using 3D software, the group created a digital file. Following this file's directions, the Connex 3D printer createed a prototype disc in approximately four hours. After the support material was removed with a water jet, the disc was ready for use.
As Doremus noted, this creation was possible largely because of the Connex 3D printer's unique ability to print different material shades and properties simultaneously, whereas most 3D printers are limited to a single material per project.
A 3D printing-esque project
While Doremus and his coworkers used 3D printing for a relatively common purpose, another student has created a 3D printing-like device that is significantly less conventional. TG Daily reports that Marko Manriquez, a graduate student at New York University, recently developed a machine he calls the "BurritoBot." Essentially, this device allows the user to enter prefered condiments and toppings into an iPhone app, and the machine then dispenses the ingredients in a manner similar to 3D printing.
As the news source notes, there is a significant possibility that devices like this will one day be commonplace in restaurants.
Earlier this month, Discover Magazine reported that a group of additve manufacturing fans have made it possible for anyone with a 3D printer to create his or her own version of a number of sculptural masterpieces. This group went to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and used 3D capture software to scan 34 sculptures. They converted these scans into digital designs for 3D printing and shared them on the website Thingiverse, making the blueprints available to the public at large.
Recently, Virginia Postrel of Bloomberg addressed this development and considered the potential implications.
One of the most apparent applications of a project such as this is education.
"If you’re an art teacher who can get your hands on a MakerBot, you can now create a section of the Met that you can have in your classroom to inspire your students," said Bre Pettis, the co-founder and chief executive officer of a leading 3D printing firm, as well as a former middle school art teacher.
As 3D printing becomes less expensive and more widespread, schools and other educational institutions will be able to make accurate replicas of art masterpieces available to students who would otherwise never have the chance to view the real sculpture.
One area of potential concern with projects such as this one is intellectual property rights. While not an issue when it comes to ancient artwork, copyright does factor into more recent creations. As Postrel noted, this could potentially lead some museums and other institutions to have a negative reaction to this use of the technology.
However, according to Postrel, the response so far from museums has been extremely positive.
"It’s really exciting to see people taking such an interest in our collection," said John Giurini, assistant director of public affairs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Not that long ago, interest in 3D printing was largely limited to the technology and manufacturing sectors. Now, 3D printing is rapidly approaching the mainstream. Popular news outlets regularly cover the latest and most impressive applications of the technology, emphasizing the general consensus that 3D printing is poised to have major effects on our lifestyles in the near future.
The Daily Mail is the latest publication to highlight the consumer benefits of 3D printing. According to the news source, the technology will soon allow individuals to design and create shoes in the comfort of their homes.
According to the news source, 3D printing for shoes has already arrived, and will soon become less expensive and more mainstream.
Jane Monnington Boddy, a director for a market analyst firm, told the Daily Mail, "This will revolutionize wardrobes. It really is the future of fashion."
As the news source noted, users will simply log on to a website that sells designs and purchase digital blueprints. In many ways, this is similar to the way consumers currently purchase mp3s and e-books. Once the file has been downloaded, the user can produce the shoe using his or her personal 3D printer.
While the technology has not yet become sufficiently common enough to allow for widespread footwear printing at home, 3D printing has a history of use in the shoe industry. Adidas , for example, uses Objet 3D printers to improve its product design process. With 3D printing, the company can create prototype models much faster than it could with traditional methods, allowing it to reach the final product concept earlier than would otherwise be possible.
"Thanks to Objet, models can now be evaluated and accepted within just one or two days, so we are saving four to six weeks of work as compared to our previous mold-making process. Our internal customers really appreciate this incredibly short delivery time," said Steffen Scherer, prototype creation technician at Adidas Group.
Recently, The Australian highlighted the sculpting capabilities of 3D printers. The news source noted that computer-aided design (CAD) programs can be used to create digital models that 3D printers can then produce. Additionally, programs now exist that can develop a 3D printing file based solely on a user-uploaded image.
These models have a wide range of practical applications. For example, numerous architecture firms use Objet 3D printers to create replicas of buildings before beginning construction, a method that is much faster than traditional model-building.
There are also innumerable uses of the technology that, while not as immediately pragmatic, offer significant educational or artistic value. This latter use was recently demonstrated when a number of 3D printing aficionados used the technique to recreate a number of sculptural masterpieces.
3D printing the classics
Discover Magazine reports that a group of 3D printing enthusiasts visited New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and, with the help of curators, used 3D capture software installed on their phones to scan 34 sculptures.
According to the news source, these scans were then converted into 3D blueprints. The group uploaded these blueprints to design-sharing website Thingiverse, giving other 3D printer users the opportunity to create their own versions of these masterpieces.
Among the sculptures available on Thingiverse are "Indian Girl" by Erastus Dow Palmer, "Leda and the Swan" by Jacques Sarazin and "Luisa Deti" by Ippolito Buzio.
By using the blueprints provided, users have started to print their own versions of these sculptures. Depending on the model of 3D printer used, these versions range in terms of size, color and material. Some are miniatures small enough to fit comfortably on a desk. Others, however, approach full-size.
One of the most exciting recent developments in the field of 3D printing is the move toward increased access to the technology. While they were once used exclusively for major manufacturing purposes, 3D printers have now become small and affordable enough for amateur enthusiasts to purchase. The latest Objet 3D printers, like the Obet30 Pro, for example, are small enough to fit comfortably on a desk, yet are capable of printing with up to seven different materials.
However, while this and other, similar developments are undeniably indicative of the progress being made by the industry, it would be a mistake to assume that the future of 3D printing will be entirely focused on home use. 3D printing still plays a major role in the manufacturing sector, and is forecast to continue to do so into the future.
This point was recently highlighted by IBISWorld's annual report on the world's fastest-growing industries. This report, according to U.S. News and World Report, is based on absolute revenue growth for the past decade, along with expected growth for the next five years.
Coming in at number six on the IBISWorld report is 3D printer manufacturing. As the report notes, 3D printing has the potential to streamline the manufacturing process for products in a variety of industries. As examples, the report identifies jewelry for fashion designers and building models based on blueprints for architecture firms.
The report states that the 3D printing industry has experienced an average annual revenue growth of 8.8 percent over the past 10 years. For the next five years, annual growth is expected to rise to 14 percent.
At the recent RAPID trade show in Atlanta, a number of 3D printing companies contributed to the creation of a 3D puzzle cube. Among the participating companies was Objet. Using their cutting-edge 3D printers, Objet was able to create puzzle pieces that were so small that they required a magnifying glass to see in detail. These items, approximately the size of a human finger, featured representations of various objects, such as skeletal hands, enclosed in translucent material.
As impressive as these creations are, Objet 3D printers may have outpaced themselves with their latest production: an incredibly small model car featuring moving parts.
A working model
Recently, David Sun, a senior mechanical engineer at a California medical diagnostics and products firm, used his Objet Eden 3D printer to create a tiny model car. According to Objet's blog, the car is only 1.5 cm in length, making it comparable in size to a human fingernail.
Notably, the car, despite its diminutive size, features numerous movable, working parts. The model features a ring with a wall thickness of 0.014 cm. The car's door pins measure 0.015 cm, and the doors can open and close on a hinge. Additionally, the wheels of the model vehicle spin.
3D printing and car toys
While this may be the smallest car ever produced via 3D printing, it is not the only time the technology has been used in the creation of car toys. Nimrod Racing, a Budapest-based designer and manufacturer of R/C car components, uses Objet 3D printers to improve its products. According to Adam Novak, a designing engineer at the firm, the company needed to reduce the weight of its cars. 3D printing allowed Nimrod Racing to replace metal parts with plastic components without sacrificing precision.
The 3D printing industry has a long history with the medical industry. For years now, the technology has been used to improve a diverse range of medical operations. Objet 3D printers, for example, are used by MetroHealth Medical Center for complex medical procedures. By creating three-dimensional templates before operating, surgeons can better prepare themselves for various procedures.
Recently, however, 3D printing has offered an even greater contribution to the field of surgery.
3D printing and facial reconstruction
Wired reports that earlier this year, Belgian surgeons used 3D printing in the course of successfully performing the nation's first full-face transplant.
In order to plan and perform the operation, a team of 65 surgeons and doctors was assembled at Ghent University Hospital. According to the news source, the medical team, led by Phillip Blondeel, worked closely with a 3D printing company to develop models that could be used to prepare for the surgery.
The news source reports that engineers scanned the patient's face with a CT scanner, then used custom 3D software to create a virtual model. This digital representation was used to print anatomical models that were later used as reference points during the operation.
The patient was able to speak six days after the operation, a recovery time that exceeded the medical team's expectations.
A 3D printed jaw
Last year, 3D printing played a critical role in another intensive operation. According to the BBC, engineers in the Netherlands developed a 3D printed jaw implant made out of titanium powder. The implantation was successful, and the woman who received the jaw implant returned home after only four days.
In recent months, creators have used 3D printing to produce a variety of amazing items. The most recent Connex family of Objet 3D printers, for example, have been used to create extremely detailed models of Formula-1 race cars and the character Master Chief from the video game series Halo. At the recent RAPID trade show, a company unveiled a 3D printed bikini.
As The Vancouver Sun recently highlighted, many in the industry believe that far more innovative 3D printed creations are on the way.
Technology easing access
The report noted that there are currently about 50,000 3D printers in service around the globe, being used for a wide variety of purposes, from jet plane parts to clothing. The technology can be found in universities, colleges, high schools and even elementary schools.
As prices drop and 3D printers become more ubiquitous, many problems that exist today will vanish, according to the report. For example, if a person is driving in a small town and his car breaks down, he will no longer have to wait to receive whatever car part he needs. Instead, the local mechanic will be able to print out a version of it, using downloaded CAD designs.
Leo Stocco, a CAD designer, indicated he believes that soon individuals will be able to download CAD designs the same way they now purchase digital music and ebooks, then print out the item using a personal 3D printer.
3D printing to expand innovation
In addition to increasing access to various items, the proliferation of 3D printing technology will likely also allow innovations to come from virtually anywhere and anyone.
Joe Himenez, public relations manager for a 3D printing company, noted that there are millions of users of CAD technology around the world, and each one will have the potential to develop new 3D printing designs that can be disseminated via the internet.
Objet is widely recognized as one of the world's leading innovators in the field of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Objet 3D printers are used by manufacturers and individuals across the globe. Recently, the company announced that, in order to better serve Japan, Objet will soon establish a permanent presence in the island nation.
Objet in Japan
Objet first began to serve the Japanese market in 2003. To facilitate distribution, it partnered with Fasotec, a union that has remained until the present day. In recent years, demand in the region has increased, as has the complexity of requests. To better provide the people and industries of Japan with cutting edge 3D printing technology, Objet has decided to form a joint venture with Fasotec to better establish itself in the nation. With a more permanent presence, Objet Japan can offer local support and provide for the complex requirements of the market by accounting for unique local situations and demands.
"Japan is one of our key strategic markets. The local establishment is our commitment to invest in geographies that offer strong growth potential," said Gilad Yron, managing director of Objet AP.
He added that Japan is a particularly important market for the 3D printing industry due to its many technologically innovative companies that can benefit from Objet's offerings.
Founded in 1998, Objet has offices around the world, including the United States, Europe, Hong Kong and India. As this recent announcement illustrates, the company is committed to continued expansion. Earlier this year, Objet revealed that it had signed an agreement with CIM Co, a Mexican company specializing in computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing, as well as rapid prototyping and 3D printing, in order to establish a stronger presence in the Mexican market.
3D printing has the potential to transform a large number of industries and products. Many of these fall definitively on the practical side of things. For example, in recent months, researchers and entrepreneurs have used additive manufacturing to produce pharmaceutical drugs, prosthetics and many other pragmatic items. Other developments are more suited for entertainment or novelty, such as custom 3D printed chocolates or action figures.
Regardless of the specific application, though, details are a key element in producing successful 3D creations. And as a recent show demonstrated, Objet 3D printers have achieved an impressive degree of precision.
The micron level
Technabob reports that Objet's Connex500 printer was recently used to create prints so small that they require a magnifying glass to truly appreciate. Featured at the recent RAPID show in Atlanta, the pieces represented Objet's contribution to a multi-vendor 3D puzzle cube.
Despite being an industrial-strength 3D printer, the Connex500 can produce items at a 16 micron resolution. Approximately the size of a human finger, these creations feature detailed, accurate representations of the Eiffel Tower and a human hand, among many other models.
As the news source notes, many 3D printed creations tend to have jagged edges or blurry features. The ones created by the Connex500, however, are extremely detailed and precise.
Multiple materials key
To a significant extent, the level of detail and accuracy apparent in these creations was achievable because Objet's Connex500 printer can utilize up to 14 materials in a single print job. Consequently, Objet was able to create translucent blocks surrounding opaque 3D objects, which may contain multiple materials themselves.
One of the greatest challenges 3D printing is currently grappling with is the limited number of materials available for the technology. For many years, 3D printers were limited to using ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a polymer known for its durability. While ABS is sufficient for many projects, others require additional or alternative materials.
Recently, Objet announced the release of its latest desktop printer, the Objet30 Pro. This Objet 3D printer can produce projects incorporating up to seven different materials, expanding the creative possibilities.
Now, researchers at McGill University have developed a method for further expanding the material options for 3D printing.
Printing with ice
Since 2006, professors Pieter Sijpkes and Jorge Angeles have been working on developing methods for constructing objects out of ice. Among the possibilities they have explored, and are now enjoying success with, is 3D printing. According to PCWorld, the researchers created a machine that dispenses water with potassium chloride brine, which has a lower freezing point than water. This mixture acts as scaffolding for the ice.
When the printing process is complete, the researchers put the item in a warm environment, where the brine melts, leaving behind an ice sculpture.
A number of applications
According to the project's official page, Sijpkes and Angeles' method and machine may have applications in a variety of areas. Most notably, it may contribute to commercial and industrial part modeling. While 3D printing can dramatically reduce the costs associated with prototyping, the prototypes themselves can still represent a significant expenditure. Ice, on the other hand, is virtually cost-free. Using this method, then, manufacturers and designers may be able to create an ice prototype, which is then used to produce high-quality metal copies.
Several weeks ago, Objet announced the release of its Objet30 Pro, a desktop printer capable of using seven different materials in a single job. Objet's latest product goes even further. As several news sources have recently reported, the Objet Connex printer can produce objects using up to 14 different materials in a single creation.
A sophisticated machine
As PCWorld notes, most commercially available 3D printers can only use a single material per print job. While this is sufficient for certain projects, it is also limiting. To produce complex creations, it is often necessary to use materials of varying strengths, flexibilities and colors.
The Objet family of Connex 3D printers makes this degree of complexity possible. Objet notes the Connex 3D printers can use more than 60 materials. Printable materials range in malleability and feature a number of translucent and opaque color options. Users can create items with flexible joints, as well as other advanced movement capabilities. Additionally, the Connex printers create layers of 16 micron thickness, allowing for extremely fine details and surface finish.
Multitude of applications
According to PCWorld, applications for Connex 3D printers extend well beyond the basic rapid prototyping that is common among most other 3D printers. For example, the news source suggests that Connex 3D printers can be used to create skeletal models for medical purposes. Additionally, in a video demonstrating the capabilities of their printers, Objet states that the Connex 3D printer can aid in the production of complex toys and special effects for films and television shows.
PCWorld further hypothesizes that since the printers are easy to use, it is possible that doctors will be able to print bone models of x-rays in the near future.