Objet Ltd. has released 39 new digital materials for use with its Connex 3D multi-material printing systems. The materials are tougher than their predecessors. They also offer a wider range of shore scale values and are resistant to high temperatures.
Bruce Bradshaw, Objet's US marketing director, told us that the high-end Connex 3D printers print multiple digital materials, each a custom blend of two out of 17 possible base materials.
High-temperature materials are sometimes brittle, and strong materials are not always heat-resistant. Before, when you made a 3D-printed prototype, you had to make a tradeoff between strength and temperature resistance. With digital materials, you can take the best characteristics of each and combine them digitally, for example, to get a high-temperature-resistant material that's also strong.
New digital materials for Objet's Connex 3D printing systems offer improved toughness, a wider range of shore scale values, and resistance to high temperatures. They also come in new shades of gray. (Source: Objet)
Engineers now can include up to 14 digital materials with different properties -- rigidity, flexibility, opaqueness, transparency, ABS-like qualities, different color shades, and high-temperature resistance -- in the same model. This makes it possible to simulate very precise material properties that most realistically match the prototyping stage to the end product. (A video on the next page shows a classic car model printed with multi-material 3D printing technology.)
Blending materials on the fly lets the Connex system put certain combinations in specific areas of the model to get different values of a given material property, such as different shore values for a range of softness and flexibility. Engineers select the values they want, including shore values and tensile and tear strength. This could produce a rigid steering wheel with a soft cover.
Thanks, Nadine. Actually, it's more than visual resemblance: with different material properties in different parts of the model that more closely resemble the product, the model does a better job of simulating form, fit and especially function.
"Digital materials" is Objet's term. As Bradshaw is quoted as saying, they are combined digitally, meaning via computer--preprogrammed--during printing, versus making parts of a prototype separately, and mechanically combining them after printing. The point is that engineers can program the printer to print different material property combinations in different parts of the model, as Objet describes on the page at the link we gave in the article.
Objet has really done a great job pushing a variety of materials for their 3D printers, thus upping the utility of how they can be used. My question is what exactly makes a material "digital"? I get the ability to mix and tune the properties so that they can mimic more traditional materials. But how is that done in a digital fashion? Is there some sort of software algorithm that handles the finetuned mixing or is it a property in the material itself?
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
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