How Trek Bikes uses the Objet500 Connex3 Printer for Prototypes
Kyle Maxey posted on March 26, 2014 |
Multi-color printer can blend rigid and rubber-like materials into a single print

The Connex3-500 is a multi-color printer that can blend rigid and rubber-like materials into a single print.  It's based on the Stratasys Connex technology that delivers quality prototypes with as many as 46 colors in a single print.  This flexibility in materials and colors makes it well suited for  prototyping consumer goods.


The Connex3 System at Trek Bikes:

According to Mike Zeigle, Manager of the Prototype Development Group at Trek Bikes, "the Connex3 has dramatically reduced the company's lead-time for product prototyping. Trek's engineers used to wait in a 2-week long queue for design revisions."  With the new Connex3's and its expanded Material Cabinet, parts can be printed both day and night.

Additionally, the Connex3's color printing technology has given Trek's engineers the ability to organize design revisions by color.  By creating a color-coded revision history engineers can quickly look back through a product's design history to makes sense of even the most subtle changes.

According to Trek's Engineering Technician Lupe Ollarzabal, ordering replacement materials and scheduling maintenance for the company's Connex3 system is relatively easy given the large number of Stratasys product suppliers.


How does the Connex3 Work:

The Objet500 Connex3 produces parts by combining materials inside the 3D printer to create a variety of composite materials. While previous Objet printers have used 2 materials as their base, the new Connex3 system adds a 3rd material that adds color to the mix.

With 10 separate color palettes, the Connex3 can combine its Vero (rigid) line of materials with a variety of colors to create vibrant, rigid prints.

Similar to older Objet models, all Connex3 materials are UV curable to prevent adverse crazing and model deformation. All builds can be supported with a non-toxic material that is washed away with a water jet.

To create a print, the Connex3 deposits consecutive layers of UV curable resins onto its print bed. Immediately following the deposit of material, a UV light attached to the machine's print head passes over the material to cure the model.  This process is repeated until the desired model is created.

Like all Objet machines, the Connex3 creates very accurate parts with exceptional detail.  However, because the system uses a liquid resin, keeping the machines print head clean is an absolute must.

With a large palette of colors the Connex3 can bring models to life and allow designers, customers and product managers to accurately see how a finished product will look and feel.  The Connex3 can print massive objects without supervision or exchanging material in the middle of a print thanks to its expanded material reservoir.


Quick Facts

Manufacturer: Stratasys

Model: Objet500 Connex3

Material: Vero opaque materials, Tango rubber-like materials, Digital ABS

Color: 46 Colors

Build Envelope: 500 × 400 × 200 mm (19.7 × 15.7 × 7.9 in.)

Layer Thickness: Horizontal build layers down to 16 microns (0.0006 in.)

Axis Resolution: X-axis: 600 dpi; Y-axis: 600 dpi; Z-axis: 1600 dpi

Printer Dimensions: 1400 (w) x 1260 (h) x 1100 (d) mm (55.1 x 49.6 x 43.3 in.)

Printer Weight: 430 Kg (948 lbs.)

Material Cabinet Dimensions:
330 (w) x 1170 (h) x 640 (d) mm
(13 x 46.1 x 26.2 in.)

Material Cabinet Weight: 76 Kg (168 lbs.)

Recommended Uses: Prototyping, Physical FEA Reviews, Hands-on Product Performance Reviews

Primary Industries: Consumer Goods Designers

Machine Price: $330,000


Who Should Use the Connex3:

The Objet500 Connex3 system is best suited for consumer product designers who need hands-on rapid prototyping for product design reviews and customer input sessions.  

"Prototyping has become part of the design process, and that's even more true now with the Connex3" says Zeigle. "If you don't prototype it can lead to problems down the line."  Rather than having to rely on a single material to tell the story of a multi-material product, the Connex3 allows designers to blend rigid, rubber-like, clear and opaque materials into a single print.


Why Wouldn't You Use the Connex3:

While the Connex3 is an excellent system for creating prototypes, product demonstrators and some one-of-a-kind parts, its materials and print speed make the printer less than ideal for large run or end use products.

Additionally, although the Objet500 Connex3 does allow for multiple colors to be printed in a single model, adding colors to a print can be a time consuming task. To add multiple colors to a build, users have to divide their model into separate sections with a single color assigned to each segment.  Once split, the model can be imported into Stratasys' print management software where colors can be assigned to each section. 

Even with these additional steps, we expect the Connex3 to be at the top of the wish list for consumer product development teams. 

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