Ready to take your designs to the next level? Objet Connex machines are a great aid because some of the printers have the ability to print in multiple materials and colors at the same time. This allows you to produce parts with varying durometers of rubber, different colors for text inlays and accents, live hinges and overmolded parts. This opens up countless doors, especially in the Consumer and Commercial Goods industries.
There is a right way to set up parts for printing like this, and below I’ve outlined step-by- step instructions on how to do so.
First, start off with your part or assembly. If the object you want to print is already in an assembly, great! You can skip these first few steps. I like to keep a multi-body part in most things that I design. Consider this Part Bezel here: the multi-body part keeps the relationships between the solid bodies, so if I change a thickness or width, the entire thing will rebuild appropriately. However, you can see that there are two separate solid bodies that are touching: the rigid plastic panel and the rubber overmolded bumper around the edge.
Step 1: Separate each body into a separate part file
This part has two solid bodies. Navigate to the feature tree and select one of the bodies. Next, click on the body and choose to insert body into new part file. Do the same for the overmold body. They are saved separately, and now we have two separate part files, each with one body.
Step 2: Make assembly from part, assemble bodies
Next, take the separate bodies and create an assembly. Import both bodies into the assembly, and use assembly mates to break them into the correct orientation.
Now that the bodies are aligned correctly, save them as an STL file. Pay close attention to the saving process in the pictures below.
Step 3: Save assembly as separate STLs
Click Save As, and choose STL from the drop down menu. But WAIT! Before you hit save, you must click the “Options” button below.
It is absolutely critical that you uncheck “Save all components of an assembly in a single file.” This is also a good place to alter your STL quality. The “Angle” slider will determine how fine your STL mesh is. The lower the degree, the better the quality, but the larger the file size. If you are having trouble with SOLIDWORKS crashing during STL saving, try increasing this number.
Now, you should have two separate STL files for the two bodies. This is important because the STLs have a common orientation and position in 3D space.
Step 4: Import into Objet Studio
For this example we will be using a Connex 260V printer. The two materials being used are Tango Black+ and VeroWhite. TangoBlack+ is a black colored rubber-like polymer that works well for flexible objects, touch pads and overmolded features. VeroWhite is an opaque rigid resin material. As seen in the red box, both materials loaded into the machine. The bezel bumper will be made from the TangoBlack+, and the panel will be made of rigid VeroWhite.
With this, Objet Studio recognizes that the two parts are coming from the same assembly, so it will orient the parts to maintain the same position in relation to each other. Below is a photo of the two parts brought into Objet Studio in the correct orientation.
Due to the software default, both bodies are scheduled to print in VeroWhite material. We change the color and material property of each body individually by clicking on the part we want to change and then selecting the correct material on the upper right side of the toolbar.
As planned, I selected the bumper piece to be made from TangoBlack+ and the panel is VeroWhite.
And that’s all there is to it! You can hit build and voila! This same process and be used for large assemblies to create stunning prints, such as in the figure below. Being able to combine multiple colors and materials into a single part inside the printer is an exciting prospect for many designers and engineers looking to produce better models and prototypes with greater functional and aesthetic features.
Want to learn more about multi-material 3D printing? Check out our Multi-Material Desktop 3D Printing On-Demand Webinar!