Stratasys updates J850 Techstyle

Stratasys took the opportunity of the ITMA textile show to demonstrate a new version of its J850 TechStyle printer, which has switched from mercury lamps to an LED array.

The J850 is a polyjet printer that jets a resin material that is then polymerised by exposure to ultraviolet light. As with most 3D printers, it builds up an object one layer at a time, jetting the resin for each layer and curing it before dropping the next layer on top, continuing until the object is finished. As each layer is cured, the build tray is lowered to maintain the same distance to the printheads. The process is reasonably fast and can produce very fine detail and highly realistic models. However, the finished parts don’t generally have the sort of strength and robustness that most functional parts require so the polyjet printers are mostly used for making prototypes or testing concepts. 

Stratasys has created several iterations from its polyjet printer range for specific applications. As the name implies, the J850 TechStyle is aimed at the textile industry and can be used for printing to garments, such as cotton or denim clothing, and accessories such as handbags. Stratasys had to adapt the build tray to be able to hold the fabrics flat in place and it comes with interchangeable trays so that users can prepare the next job whilst printing. It can handle fabrics up to 560 x 460mm and from 0.1 to 3mm in thickness. It can produce resin layers as thin as 27 microns. 

Enrico Toson, senior segment marketing manager for Stratasys, explains: “The materials are liquid resin that are jetted over the fabric and are then polymerised to become solid. It’s a mechanical adhesion between the 3D printing and the fabric itself. The first layer has to penetrate into the fabric to create the mechanical adhesion and then when it becomes solid it becomes one with the fabric.”

So the first layer is critical to the process and means having to manage how much resin is put down and the way it is cured. This varies from one fabric to the next so Stratasys supplies a number of material profiles to optimise this for each one. However, Toson says that the operator still has to determine how far the liquid resin penetrates into the fabric, noting: “Sometimes you want it to stay on the top or go deeper depending on the effect you are after.”

The J850 series machines can print up to seven different resins at one time, which allows for a range of different colours and effects. Stratasys sells several different types of resin for use with its polyjet printers. For ITMA, the company introduced a new VeroEco resin that’s said to be more sustainable and to offer a more tactile feel. Toson adds: “We have removed a few chemicals that were not environmentally friendly.” These resins cure to a semi-flexible finish and are said to comply with the RSL Restricted Substances List for finished products standard. The resins are available in a basic colour set that includes CMYK plus white and clear. 

The J850 comes with Stratasys’ GrabCAD software. The company is also developing a new 2D to 3D software tool that will enable users to adjust the height, colours, and textures of 2D images to convert them into 3D printed elements.

As such, this technology offers a useful digital alternative to creating raised or embroidered effects for images and lettering in full colour. Stratasys suggests that customers could add a second lease of life to used clothing and accessories instead of throwing them away. To this end, the company has also talked about a new direct-to-garment tool to enable 3D printing of a specific design directly to existing garments, such as shirts or jackets, which are mounted on a dedicated tool.

Stratasys has been interested in using 3D printing for producing fashion for several years now, as I’ve covered in a previous story here. However, this does not appear to be a production technology, hence Stratasys has mostly concentrated on high fashion and luxury markets, as well as personalisation.

Another potential market is automotive with Stratasys working with the ItalDesign agency for its work on a new concept car called Climb-E. As part of the interior design for this vehicle, ItalDesign created a rear horizontal backrest that was covered in Alcantara, a material that’s widely used in automotive design and which the Stratasys technology was used to print directly onto.

Claudia Gilardi, Color Material Finishing (CMF) Designer at Italdesign, explained: “Through its ability to uniquely combine transparencies and special chromatic effects, the 3DFashion technology can be used to convey a sense of real, and at the same time virtual, color. Because colors can change depending on the lighting and the point of view it is particularly able to integrate the different worlds of automotive design and fashion.”

She added: “I see two very interesting uses for the Stratasys 3DFashion technology in automotive. Firstly, for the production of prototypes, with the reduced lead times and costs, that also brings 3D printed textures to complement standard coating materials. Secondly, customization. For example, 3D printing onto mesh through which light can shine can create very innovative effects with backlighting – an area ripe for experimentation! In future, combining 3D printing onto textiles with embedded electronics could give novel ways of interacting with the functions of the space.”

You can find further details on the J850 TechStyle 3D printer from stratasys.com


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