The design consultancy group Design Reality is excited, as creative minds with access to 3D printing ought to be with the capabilities of multi-material printing displayed by Objet 3D printers. Objet, once an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), is now a brand under its parent company, Stratasys following the merger last year. While the business family tree may be convoluted and growing more branches seemingly by the week, the engineering possibilities continue to abound as evident in the successful 3D printed respirator.
With the Objet 260 Connex, Design Reality printed a prototype respirator with rubber seals, a transparent visor and rigid fasteners. The Connex boasts five different materials: transparent rigid, rubber-like, transparent general-purpose, rigid opaque, and polypropylene-like. Containing up to 90 digital materials that can be spontaneously manufactured, the small printer (tray size: 260x260x200 mm) manufactors space beyond its printed objects. The printer takes advantage of polyjet printing by utilizing layers of liquid photopolymer in the tray then curing them with UV light. With additional gel-like material, complicated geometrical patterns and overhangs pose no problem. The details about the printer can be found with a cursory websearch for Stratasys 3D printers. However, the interview reveals what kind of future 3D printing may usher.
The time it takes to print the respirator greatly reduces lead time. In fact, time and space continue to be the frame around the finished product. Since the printer takes up a small corner of a room, newfound space may be allocated to creative endeavors instead of mechanical production. The open space of the manufactoring rooms mirros the open space of possibilities engineers may yet pioneer in 3D printing. Spatial liberty combined with expanded time may actually be the real groundbreaking production. The respirator will save the lives of those exposed to chemical and airborne dangers and will serve as another breakthrough under 3D printing. And if our hours are truly relative, we progress at light-speed as we collect recently freed time.