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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Objet Reveals Colour 3D Printing Capabilities

Where to begin? That is the question!

In the last 48 hours I have seen so much, heard so much, and, inevitably, talked rather a lot too (including an in-flight discussion on 3D Printing but that's a story for another time).

This post will be the first of a series of posts following my short sojourn in Paris, having been invited to attend Objet's media event at the Centre Pompidou - the Parisian museum housing the Multiversites Creatives exhibition, sponsored by the makers of the Connex 3D printing machines.

Centre Pompidou

And that is really where I have to begin. Yesterday's incredible revelation, without any specific announcement it should be emphasised, from Objet about the collaborative R&D the company has been carrying out — in full stealth mode — that has resulted in the phenomenal full colour 3D printing capabilities of the company's Connex range and multi-materials.

Phenomenal is not an overstatement here, neither is spectacularly impressive.

The focus of the Parisian event was the work of Neri Oxman's collection "Imaginary Beings - Mythologies of the Not Yet." (A separate blog post will follow on this). An intriguing title pointing to a portfolio of pieces that was documented in a superior quality catalogue each attendee was presented with on registration before being directed to a sumptuous continental breakfast buffet. So there I was, partaking of the food, sipping the deliciously strong coffee, mesmerised by the view of the Paris skyline from Georges restaurant at the top of the Pompidou Centre, and I started to browse the catalogue. Having read the intro and an updated version of Neri's biography, I turned the page and was immediately captivated by the startling imagery in the brochure. The shapes were intrinsically complex and stunning — and the colours were piercing.

But it had not registered.

It was only on the third image that the realisation dawned. I went back to the first two, and then quickly thumbed through the other fifteen (there are 18 pieces in total), scrutinising each high resolution image. These pieces were not finished - they were not painted! Apart from anything else, it would have been impossible to apply paint to such complex shapes, using multiple colours, so cleanly.

But Objet don't do colour!!

During the short(ish) presentations from Objet's Chairman, Elan Jaglom and Neri herself, which took place prior to the guided tour of the collection, there was no announcement, indeed there was absolutely no mention from either of them directly relating to the colour capabilities of the Connex technology. There was talk of the R&D investments and the extensive range of materials Objet offers from Elan (again a separate blog post on my interview with Elan will follow) and an introduction to the Imaginary Beings concept from Neri, but not a single word about 3D printing in colour.


I could barely contain myself, as Neri wrapped up her speech I started edging forward — I was trying to figure out what was going on, and needed to get some clarification on this. Was I imagining it? I knew I was right about the colour but I couldn't believe I was right, why wouldn't they announce it?

Clever Objet!!

Couple of things - the colours need to be seen to be believed. Some images here, but they don't do them justice. If you get an opportunity to see for yourself in the coming months, make sure you take it.

Also, after having spoken with a few of the Objet guys directly, all of whom had a glint in their eyes but totally played the whole thing down, the exhibition was unanimously labelled as "a technology demonstration" of the R&D Objet has been doing. They could not over-stress the fact that the colour capabilities are not commercialised yet and neither is there an official timeline for when they will be, well, none that Objet is giving away anyway. But be left with no doubt — they will be.

This is clever marketing!

Now, I know some of you will be reading this and thinking - colours - so what?? I am sure you will make your views known, one way or another. And, believe it or not, I get it. I do. Pretty colours are not necessarily an industrial designers first priority when developing a concept and testing functionality of a new product.

But this revelation goes further than just introducing a new aesthetic to Objet's 3D printing capabilities. Objet's collaboration with Neri is a prelude, a glimpse at where this technology can go. "It's just the beginning!" Regular readers of my blog will recognise that as one of my favourite lines associated with 3D printing, but if I heard that line once yesterday, I heard it a hundred times, and it wasn't me saying it!!

I came away from the event yesterday with a better understanding of Objet's full-on commitment to both continued R&D and its brand. Another observation that is worthy of note is just how integrated and committed the whole Objet team is, it's not a small team either, but they are like a well-oiled machine (no pun intended).

As mentioned, further blog posts will cover Neri's collection in more detail and Elan's take on the Objet / Stratasys merger and the future of the Connex. 


  1. Thanks so much for posting this information. I've used what you learned, along with a strange countdown timer banner on Stratasys's (Objet now) home page saying the have a huge "magic" announcement tomorrow, and put 2 and 2 together to predict that the the multi-color printer could be announced tomorrow. Here's the story: http://bit.ly/Jc2aC9

  2. Hi Mark

    No worries - it's significant news and I think we have to wait for this to unfold. As I mentioned in my post there is no timeline for commercialisation of the colour capabilities.

    I have to say, I do not think that Stratasys' big announcement today will be about colour capabilities of the Connex. While the merger between Stratasys and Objet is taking place, it has not been finalised yet and it is still very much a work in progress, with full integration yet to come. Until everything is signed, sealed & delivered each company will maintain its own brands. As I tweeted on Friday, I did get some information about what is coming today, but it was received in error and out of respect for the two companies I have bitten my tongue — quite hard.

    However, I do believe that Objet's revelation on Friday and Stratasys' announcement today are not a coincidence — it is a coordinated marketing exercise that lets the world know that they are harmonising activities and covering the FULL spectrum of 3D printing technology capabilities.

    There's a clue in there for you ;)

  3. Neri has removed all posts with images from her sites, probably due to some agreement with Pompidou, but when they were there, Symvol software from Uformia was mentioned as a tool. Do you have any idea what is it and can it deal with colors?

  4. I do wonder how colour capabilities integrate with the current Connex technology.

    Is it an add-on head attachment with CMYK capability? Or are we actually talking "two colour" capability - with just different dye's added to the Vero range? The former I would be excited about - the latter just adds to the misery and enormously expensive wastage of a material swap on an Objet machine and don't expect your local Service Beureau to be offering the full gamut anytime soon.

  5. I'm an end user not a machine operator but recently had a chat with a local company that runs an Eden. as the Eden uses the same underlying systems, Objet offer an upgrade to Eden.....for (I was told) £80k. Yes £80k.

    Needless to say they were not taking them up on the offer (and seeing as how the Eden is used primarily to build masters for vac casting it is far far cheaper for them to make a silicone tool and vac cast (and get a far better quality product - the Connex low shore materials are horrible).

    So, on that basis, I expect Connex or possibly Eden users to be offered an upgrade..probably for a price they cannot resist :-)

  6. This looks suspiciously like two colour printing I'm afraid. As every school kid knows blend red and yellow and you get orange, blue and yellow you get green do it carefully enough you can get every hue in between. The ability of the Connex to blend two materials isn't new and I'm willing to bet that this is just using the same technology the machine has built in (I hope I'm wrong btw). The work is beautiful, the colour is stunning but I think they may be playing it down because it's just not FULL colour. Here's hoping that the buzz the work has caused will show Objet that this can sell and catch people's imaginations enough for them to invest in making it true full colour.

    just my two cents.

  7. Sorry that should have been upgrade from Eden to Connex...

  8. Yes - you guys are right I believe – it does appear to be two colours, which fits the existing tech. I have edited the post accordingly, removing and/or crossing out the references to "full" colour. One of the consequences of me being so excitable, I'm afraid, but I still choose that path over sustained cynicism. More ups and downs, and some disappointment, but definitely more diverse day to day!

    It would be good to get some clarification from Objet directly, but they have been letting the likes of me do the talking. The speculation and conversation is bringing them some good profiling. They have done nothing wrong (I take full responsibility) they have only ever emphasised the application. And while this conversation takes some focus off the work itself, it still remains that the exhibits at Centre Pompidou are phenomenally impressive and worth a look.

    1. A little unfair of them and somewhat misleading not to be up front with the information, sort of what we have come to expect from the marketing types.
      No finger pointing from this corner, you're correct the work is very impressive and as I said before maybe this is the kick in the ass Objet need to stop playing at subterfuge and develop us a real full colour machine!

    2. That's very wrong of the Objet marketing people. There have been several people talking about Full Colour including the TCT magazine and they must have known what was being said but kept their mouths shut. it seems to me sometimes that the only time that marketing people will keep their mouths shut is when somebody else is mistakenly doing the over hyping for them. In that sense you and the others reporting on this have been decieved and used.

      legally Objet have done nothing wrong but it ethically it stinks worse than one of their waste material bins (certainly wouldn't want that in any office environment that I ever worked in). Is Sam Green related to Piers Morgan? Just asking.

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