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?
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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