Stratasys Ltd. has introduced an advance in 3-D printing that allows designers new freedom to manipulate colors and other properties in the products they create in CAD files.
At the Solidworks World trade show in Dallas, Stratasys unveiled its Creative Color Software to attendees on Feb. 1. The new software was developed for Objet Studio software and Connex3 printers manufactured by Stratasys. These professional-grade machines are priced at $150,000 to $275,000 and work on the PolyJet process, similar to inkjet printers for documents.
“This is a big leap,” said Barbara Arnold-Feret, technical product group manager of 3-D technology reseller Engatech Inc. of Houston. “It makes the finished product look real.”
The Connex3 can print three different colors, or materials, in the PolyJet process. The new software allows the user to specify color or material changes within an element. Previous software only allowed manipulating color between elements in a CAD file. With Creative Color Software, a user can specify color or property gradations on a micro scale so that the gradations look continuous to the naked eye and not pixelated. Each printed dot is 16 microns thick and the printer lays down 6 million of them per minute.
Statasys emphasized color freedom in its launch of the new software but designers have a lot more power than that if they want to change properties within elements of a printed part. Since a Connex3 printer can lay down three different materials, the user can change impact resistance, for example, within an element.
The Connex3 feeds on liquid acrylic prepolymer that is printed and UV-cured into a 2-D solid in the printer. Printed layers build up to create a 3-D finished part. Three different acrylic prepolymers can be chosen, each with a different balance of properties, to feed the printer. By manipulating which acrylic is printed on a micro scale, property changes within an element can be gradual or abrupt, as determined by the user in the software.
Arnold-Feret said the jargon for such property manipulation is “digital ABS,” meaning ABS-like properties such as impact resistance, heat resistance and flexural modulus can be manipulated on a micro scale. DABS is not a really new concept — it was available in a more limited form with an earlier generation of Connex printer that could print two different materials, but the new software and Connex3 allows lot more flexibility.
The new software means users can import Adobe Photoshop files to get logos or other features into the element for product differentiation. Stratasys and Adobe co-developed the Creative Color Software.
Arnold-Feret said Stratasys's new software is unique and developers and sellers of the technology had a hard time keeping it under wraps until its Feb. 1 debut.
“It's a ground-breaking change,” she said.