3D printing service powerhouse Shapeways experiments with lots of new types of materials. And when they do, the huge user base there jumps on each new material and gives it a whirl. Last week they announced an experimental, flexible material they call Black Elasto Plastic. It’s their first truly flexible material they’ve offered. It’s only on trial until July 20, 2012, so if you want to try to print something with it, start designing now and get your order in soon.
Hopefully, you’re able to see the squishiness of it in the animated gif image above. It looks like just too much fun! Instead of printing something rigid you can only just look at, or use in some practical manner, you get to play with your creation.
Not only is the material flexible, but the rules for it’s use are too. As the experiment progresses, Shapeways may change the guidelines as they learn from examining everyone’s prints and users’ feedback, but for now these are the rules to follow:
– Minimum wall & detail: 1.5mm
– Minimum clearance: 1.5mm
– Minimum hole size for hollow parts: 6.5mm (in diameter)
Here’s a bit more from Shapeways on printing with it:
The material’s flexibility depends on how thick you make it. We recommend that your designs be more than 1.5mm thick in any location. This will ensure that it does not break in our processing–this material is more brittle when it comes out of the printer, and needs to be infiltrated afterwards to strengthen the material. If your model has hard to reach places (such as deep holes or grooves), then the infiltrant might not be applied to all surfaces. In general, this should not affect your product as a whole but it is something to be aware of when designing.
Not only is Black Elasto Plastic squishy, but it’s also stretchable. Some ideas for projects could be bracelets, stress balls and perhaps even a rubber ducky. Pricing is not bad at $2.00 per cubic centimeter with a $3.00 handling fee (trial period pricing only). Delivery time should be about 10 working days.
If you like the Squishy SpringBall (by Opresco) in the photo above, you can order your own here.
Disclaimer: Remember, this is experimental. That means only the true hobbyists should give this a shot. Shapeways isn’t going to guarantee it’s durability. They even warn that it has a rough, grainy surface texture and if you rub a model against another surface, you may see flakes rub off. But who cares! You guys are on the bleeding edge of world-changing technology, so just have fun with it.