With a couple of hours to spare on a hot August afternoon I decided to have a go at printing a shoe sole on our new Objet260 Connex multi-material 3D printer. Here are the 6 steps I went through to produce my final model - taking just under 2 hours from start to finish:
Step 1 - I produce the shoe sole design on my CAD system. I want to produce a model with a rigid transparent sole and rubber-like treads to closely match the look and feel of the real thing.
Step 2 - I export the CAD file to an STL file and then import the STL into the Objet Studio ready for printing. I then arrange how I want the shoe to be oriented on the build tray and which materials I want to assign to each part of the shoe. In this case I designate Objet TangoBlack rubber-like material to the tread shell and Objet VeroClear - a rigid transparent material to the sole shell.
With other prototyping technologies the two different shells - the treads and the sole would have to be printed seperately and then glued together by hand. Not so with the Objet260 Connex! Both shells - with their different material properties are printed in a single piece with no post-gluing required and no extra manipulation of the CAD files. All of this saves me a substantial amount of time and effort.
(Note that there's space on this tray for many more shoe soles or any other 3D models - and you don't have to be limited to the same material mix! You can mix up different material versions of various parts and print them on the same tray - all at the same time.)
Step 3 - Print! Print! Print! (See the UV light on this Objet260 Connex machine which cures the Objet materials as each layer is deposited on the build tray.)
Step 4 - I then remove the completed model - encased by the support material.
Step 5 - I wash the soluble support material away in the waterjet.
Step 6 - Presto! I hold and test my finished multi-material shoe sole prototype just two hours after working the design on my CAD screen! If a designer is not happy with the final model it's simplicity itself to tweak the design and print again.
In a single day you can go through many design and testing cycles that would have previously taken days or weeks to achieve using conventional prototyping methods. This is a true force multiplier for designers, engineers and manufacturers everywhere who want to build better products and get them to market faster in today's ever-more competitive business environment.
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