University of Leeds announces facility for Stratasys 3D printers

Unversity of Leeds invests in the Objet1000, which has the first multi-color, multi-material 3D printer's capabilities, as well as the Objet500 Connex3 colour, a multi-material 3D printer.

In addition to on-site researchers, the government-backed centre’s 3D printing capabilities will support local businesses and technology partners.

Stratysys, a provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, yesterday announced the facility of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems at the University of Leeds. The centre has an advanced suite of robotic building equipment, including multi-material 3D printer, the Objet1000 from Stratasys, as well as the Objet500 Connex3 colour, multi-material 3D printer.

The new centre has received £4.3m in funding, and will be a resource for researchers and for local industry. It will create partnerships with companies interested in developing robotics.

“Robotics has been identified by the government as one of the areas where the UK can develop a technological edge, therefore it’s our vision to build a centre for robotics and autonomous systems,” says Dr Robert Richardson, director of the facility.

The UK’s first installation of the Objet1000 – the world’s largest multi-material 3D printer – capable of 3D printing 1:1 scale large scale parts combining hard and soft materials
The UK’s first installation of the Objet1000 – the world’s largest multi-material 3D printer – capable of 3D printing 1:1 scale large scale parts combining hard and soft materials

“With our 3D printing technology, we’ll be able to make robots that are smaller, more intricate, more flexible and more integrated than ever before,” adds Dr Richardson.

“Leeds already has a great track record in robotics for surgical applications, patient rehabilitation, prosthetics, and exploration.”

The Objet1000 is capable of 3D printing 1:1 scale parts combining rigid and soft materials in a single build. The technology will also allow its users to mix two base material to create over a hundred new digital materials, making robot design and production more versatile.

Life-size reproduction of a human colon reconstructed using MRI data, 3D printed using the Objet1000 Multi-material 3D Printer
Life-size reproduction of a human colon reconstructed using MRI data, 3D printed using the Objet1000 Multi-material 3D Printer

“If you think about it, combining hard and soft materials is critical to some of the most effective physical systems we know,” continues Dr Richardson. “The human body, for instance, has soft tissues, flexible cartilages, elastic tendons and rigid bones all working closely together.

“As an example, we recently developed a life-size reproduction of a human colon that includes compliant materials and was created from reconstructed MRI data using our Objet1000. We are currently developing techniques to 3D print more accurate tissue phantoms to facilitate the evaluation of surgical devices and robots.”

Robotics lab features Objet500 Connex3 3D Printer, capable of producing parts combining rigid, flexible and colour materials – integral to the design of functional and aesthetic robot parts
Robotics lab features Objet500 Connex3 3D Printer, able to produce parts combining rigid, flexible and colour materials

The lab also has a 3D visualisation studio that allows robot builders to inspect digital models of robot designs in fine detail prior to being 3D printed. Additionally there is Stratasys’ Objet500 Connex3 colour, a multi-material 3D printer.

Its triple-jetting technology will be used to produce robotic parts with many combinations of rigid, flexible, transparent and colour materials – all in a single print run, requiring no assembly.

“The National Facility for Innovative Robotics is a fantastic example of how the UK continues to invest significantly in innovation and technology,” says Andy Middleton, Stratasys’ senior vice president and general manager EMEA.