One of the questions we pondered when Stratasys announced their Connex3 color 3D printer line was, “exactly how does one easily create color 3D models?” Now that question seems to be answered.
Stratasys seems to have broken through one of the significant barriers in color 3D printing, which is the method of instructing the printer on the color materials used in each section of the 3D model.
Previously, this was a burdensome process, as each independent color had to have its own complete, solid 3D model. That’s right: if you wanted a print with say, 100 different sections of color, you literally had to separate out those 100 sections into independent STL shells. Even worse, you had to painstakingly assign a color material to each segment, and don’t rush in case you make a mistake!
Another problem with this approach was the issue of gradients, which essentially cannot be done, as you had to select discrete colors for each model segment. This meant that for many color prototypes, the print didn’t really match the intended colors of the final product.
Now that’s changed quite a bit as Stratasys has announced a deal with Adobe to enable this process to occur much more smoothly.
Specifically, they’ve released new software: “Stratasys Creative Colors Software”, which as you might have guessed by now is powered by Adobe’s 3D Color Print Engine. The new software offers a direct “design to print” workflow that eliminates most of the tedious work previously required. Here’s how they describe it:
By incorporating multiple gradient colors, patterns, and textures, combined with the 3D printer’s multi-material capabilities, a model produced on the Objet Connex3 can have the same look and feel as the final intended product, vastly reducing product development times while increasing product quality.
Our thought on this development is that it is quite important, as it demonstrates a way to very easily produce complex colors with a 3D printer. Color has been quite challenging on both the hardware and software side, with the Connex3 being one of the few that offers true color 3D printing hardware capability. This announcement brings up the software capability to match the hardware.
We suspect that this software alone will supercharge the use of Connex3 units worldwide, making them able to produce prototypes of color products not imagined previously.
While the new software will now be bundled with all Connex3 shipments from Stratasys, there’s more: the company also announced that Adobe Photoshop CC users will have a way to transmit color 3D models directly to Stratasys Direct Manufacturing using a very similar process. In other words, if you’re able to create a color 3D model in Photoshop CC, you should be able to quickly obtain a real color print of it direct from Stratasys.