Stratasys launches multi-material colour 3D printer
The world's first multi-material full-colour 3D printer has been launched by Stratasys, the owner of the MakerBot range of printers.
It features "triple-jetting" technology that combines droplets of three base materials, reducing the need for separate print runs and painting.
The company said the Objet500 Connex3 Color Mutli-material 3D Printer would be a "significant time-saver" for designers and manufacturers.
It will cost about $330,000 (£200,000).
By incorporating traditional 2D printer colour mixing, using cyan, magenta and yellow, the manufacturer says multi-material objects can be printed in hundreds of colours.
While the base materials are rubber and plastic, they can be combined and treated to create end products of widely varying flexibility and rigidity, transparency and opacity, the company said.
Stratasys marketing manager Bruce Bradshaw told the BBC: "This will help industrial designers reduce the time it takes to bring prototypes to market by 50%."
The firm's rival 3D Systems recently announced its own multi-material high-end 3D printer, the ProJet 5500X - but it offers a smaller range of colours: black, white, and certain shades of grey.
This limitation may not be a problem for businesses that only want to model and study the shape and behaviour of their designs and are willing to leave decisions about colour to a later point in the manufacturing process.
'Level of creativity'
Even so, Duncan Wood, publisher of specialist 3D printing magazine TCT, told the BBC: "This is groundbreaking stuff. Being able to produce single products incorporating materials of different rigidity and colour has been the holy grail of 3D printing to date.
"This is industrial-grade technology that will afford designers a level of creativity they've never had before."
Minneapolis-based Stratasys bought Israeli multi-material specialist Objet in April 2012.
Last year it bought MakerBot, the consumer 3D printing company.
Stratasys' latest industrial 3D printer was launched at SolidWorks World in San Diego, California.