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This 3D Printer Can Produce Hard and Soft Parts Simultaneously

Illustration for article titled This 3D Printer Can Produce Hard and Soft Parts Simultaneously

3D printers are a dime-a-dozen these days, but every so often something special comes along. Like this thing: an industrial printer made by Arburg that can create products containing both hard and soft parts at the same time.


Called Freeformer, the device uses a technique called Plastic Freeforming to take 3D CAD data and make parts out of liquid plastic, without the need for molds. To do that, it uses a stationary nozzle to spray plastic onto a moving platform. The platform's shifted to gradually build up layers of material and—depending on how the piezo-controlled nozzle is used—the deposited material can either be hard or soft.


Capable of producing items in small batches, the first Freeformer units will be on sale early next year. In the meantime, the device is currently on display at K Trade Fair in Düsseldorf until 23 October. [Arburg via Engadget]

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Hm. Maybe the printer separately controls a nozzle supplying a hardening catalyst as the material is laid down? I know PVC can work this way. You know how a Stormtrooper action figure had a kind of hard torso and slightly flexible limbs? Same material, but different durometers due to the formulation. One time my dad showed me how you can permanently soften a piece of PVC pipe by submerging it in (I think) methylethylketone, if I recall correctly. The piece of pipe came out sort of floppy and stayed that way, even after it dried. Dad said that the MEK removed the hardening agent. It probably also removed half of grammar school from my brain, playing around with that stuff all afternoon.