There’s been a surge of office-friendly 3D printers hitting the market recently, mostly driven by a shift in the economics of outsourcing prototyping. Until recently, it was more cost effective for small design firms to outsource their AM prototyping because the full-color 3D printers were so expensive. Stratasys, being one of the few companies selling full-color 3D printers, was fully aware of this accessibility issue and has released the J55 as a more affordable full-color printer for small businesses.
We know that the risk and time involved with traditional prototyping simply doesn’t work anymore, yet there’s no room for compromise on design. Designers can and should do a lot more prototyping in-house, from initial concept modeling to highly realistic final prototypes. It’s just been a matter of bringing enterprise quality to a design shop’s price point and workspace. And now we’re there. Tim Greene, Research Director for 3D printing at global research firm IDC
The J55 is powered by the same PolyJet technology found in their bigger machines, though it holds five material cartridges as compared to seven. By mixing those colors, it can produce 500,000 colors, including 2,000 Pantone colors and a range of skin tones. The GrabCAD Print software allows users to easily color match 3D models in a matter of clicks. It can also accurately simulate the appearance and texture of many materials, such as wood, fabric, leather, and glass, and opaque and transparent materials can be used in the same object. That enables designers to create prototypes that accurately reflect the final product, a useful ability when presenting to investors. And doctors and surgeons can make anatomically-correct models for clearer communication with patients and other medical practitioners. With a layer height of 18 microns, users won’t have to worry about losing any details.
To make the J55 office friendly, Stratasys engineers focused on several important features.
- Compact – Taking up just over four square feet, the J55 can fit in any office.
- Large print volume – With an impressive build size of 1,174cm2, it has one of the highest tray-size-to-footprint ratios.
- Quiet – The J55 operates under 53 decibels, which is about as loud as a refrigerator.
- Odor-free – It’s equipped with a ProAero Air Extractor that filters particles and smells so it’s safe to use around colleagues.
- Ease-of-use – No mechanical calibrations are required, and the workflow is as simple as design, import, and print.
- Cost – Starting at $100,000, the J55 is half the cost of the previously-most-affordable option.
One of the biggest design changes to the J55 is that its build plate is circular and rotates during printing. This reduces some of the mechanical motion, which reduces the noise and improves build volume efficiency. “We developed this innovative new 3D printer to truly transform the product development process for product designers and engineers everywhere. Not only does the J55 fit the budget of virtually any product design team, but the quality of the parts you can 3D print are best in class. It’s so simple that anyone can set it up and use it, and it’s so quiet you’ll forget it’s running,” said Omer Krieger, Executive Vice President of Products at Stratasys.
One of the demonstration pieces that Stratasys produced to show off the new printer is a prototype earbud where the product, the charger, the user manual, and the packaging were all 3D printed on the J55. Being able to do all of that in-house with only one machine would be a real value add for many small and medium enterprises.