At FormNext in Frankfurt, Germany last month, Stratasys announced two exciting developments: GrabCAD Voxel Print software for the J750, and a partnership with e-Xstream. Both announcements will add new capabilities to Stratasys’s existing 3D printing offerings, and offer exciting potential for the future of the technology.
When designers create a mechanical component that will be 3D printed, it is nearly impossible to know how that component will perform until it is printed and tested. While trial-and-error and a user’s experience are valuable tools, they are not the most cost-effective way to create components and optimize a design. Stratasys aims to solve this issue through their partnership with e-Xstream by developing software to run simulations on 3D models that will be printed. E-Xstream has been producing a software product called Digimat that simulates the mechanical properties of objects with non-linear strength properties with precision for years. Through the new partnership, we will gain new insights into how high-end materials behave while being 3D printed, leading to cleaner-looking prints and stronger end-use parts. Through increased simulation capabilities, users will be able to know if a part will withstand the required forces without printing and testing, saving substantial time and material cost.
Polyjet technology sets Stratasys apart from any other companies in their industry. The ability to blend colors and materials of different properties is unmatched by any other 3D printing technology. Until the release of GrabCAD Voxel Print, the full colors and textures printed on the J750 were limited to only the outside skin of 3D models. The interior of the parts was restricted to a single material, ordinarily a white rigid plastic. While the models look beautiful their functionality was questionable. This changes with the development of GrabCAD Voxel print, giving users the ability to create intricate sub-millimeter combinations of rigid and flexible materials with the range of shore and hardness values available on the Polyjet platform. This capability opens unimaginable opportunities for material science research, which in turn will drive applications for highly-engineered materials.
Using unique precise combinations of polymers, users will be able to create objects that behave differently than ever before. The possibility exists for simulating wood with plastic, 3D printing fabrics that move and behave like woven textiles, and printing objects that change shape predictably when exposed to change in temperature or moisture. Perhaps one of the most exciting applications for GrabCAD Voxel Print is in the medical field, where the J750 has been used for years to create surgical models for practice surgeries and educational training models. The added capabilities to blend and selectively place materials may result in surgical models that are identical in physical properties to real organs. This will in turn cause surgery times to drop, and create well-trained medical students without needing to rely on costly cadavers for training. This advancement has tremendous potential to impact the status quo in numerous industries, and only time will tell what innovations will stem from using the new software.
Stratasys continues to drive 3D printing technology and add value to their existing products through strategic partnerships and new products. Through their partnership with e-Xstream, we have taken a big step forward in the feasibility of using 3D printing for end-use mechanical components. GrabCAD Voxel Print opens endless possibilities for material science research that could impact a number of different industries and products.