Encounter with Connex the 3D Printer

Everyone has a first time for everything, and today was my first encounter with a 3D printer. Keep in mind I’m neither a designer nor engineer, so thanks for indulging me in my excitement.

I must confess that I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my mind around what is a “3D printer”. I’m coming from a Xerox perspective where ink gets jetted onto paper to print out text, images and occasional gag items like your hands.

After having seen some “printed” things, I’d argue that this is rather about producing objects, or as the professionals would say, prototyping objects. Replace ink jets with resin-spewing nozzles (200 per material I’m told), connect your CATIA or other CAD data to a machine like the Connex by Object, and then you let Connex purr away until it spits out items like:

This elegant decorative bowl:


How about a translucent head containing an anatomically correct brain?


Or a jaw fully equipped with teeth (notice those gorgeous roots):

Why not a gear thing-a-ma-bob to keep your fidgety fingers busy?

I find it particularly cool that with a lot of resin dots, each approximately .04 mm in size (think hair follicles), 3D printers like Connex can spew out complex, mechanically functioning objects. It’s almost like the dots are cells, but without the intelligence.

What a great way to quickly test your design concept. See if the object in question does indeed fit into your pocket, is easy to manipulate, etc.

I was hoping the resin used is biodegradable, but we’re not there yet. Maybe next year?

Many thanks to Object and their reseller from MG2 Systems who took the time to answer my questions and let me cart his “printed objects” around Devcon until I found the right photo spot. I did feel a little odd toting around the head/brain.

More to come from Devcon soon. Check out #DSDEVCON09 on Twitter if you’d like to see what people are tweeting, and please jump in the comments section if you feel inspired.

Best,

Kate

P.S. Here’s a snazzy video of Connex herself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLurb3SQ9pA