Leveraging Stratasys Objet 500 Connex to Advance Multi-material 3D Printing

3D-printed multi-material components

The month of May brought an advanced 3D printer, the Stratasys Objet 500 Connex, to the Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3D Materials (SHAP3D) lab in IPB. “We are extremely excited about bringing this state-of-the-art 3D printer to IPB and leveraging it to accelerate our multi-material printing research,” says Professor Anson Ma, SHAP3D UConn Site Director. The printer works by jetting and combining different print materials with high precision, thereby achieving a wide range of physical properties through changing the digital print design.  This printer also complements the advanced prototyping capabilities that already exist at IPB’s Proof of Concept Center (POCC), directed by Joe Luciani.

Now armed with this powerful printer, Prof. Ma and team aim to expand the choice of materials that can be printed using this machine. Of interest are functional materials with excellent mechanical, thermal and electrical properties. Another topic of interest is to develop in-situ metrology for monitoring the print process in real time and ensuring the quality of 3D printed parts. This is especially important for high performance applications, such as aerospace, where the printed parts must meet stringent requirements. Ideally, all the printed parts must be qualified as they are produced, termed “born-qualified.” Prof. Ma’s long-term ambition is to develop autonomous 3D printers that are intelligent, through working closely with machine learning experts like Prof. Qian Yang from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UConn.

In addition to aerospace, the auto industry, and other major manufacturing sectors, organizations that will benefit from the SHAP3D research include 3D printer manufacturers and material suppliers. As the SHAP3D team continues to expand the material selection and improve the robustness of 3D printing, more application opportunities will open up. Professor Ma is eager to get started, although he cautions, “before we can run, we need to learn how to walk.” With the addition of the Objet 500 Connex, the SHAP3D team will be sprinting soon.

Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3D Materials (SHAP3D) is an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) funded by the National Science Foundation to catalyze the technological development of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing.  The partners are University of Massachusetts at Lowell (UML), University of Connecticut (UC), and Georgia Institute of Technology (GT). Established in July 2018.