Since the first 3-D printer was invented by Charles Hull in 1984, machines have seen vast improvements in speed and accuracy. Today’s best 3-D printers operate much like a standard inkjet, spraying millions of droplets of polymer to build an object layer by layer. But there’s a hitch: Most 3-D printers use only use a single material at once, thus each product they produce can be just one color or consistency.
The Objet Connex can print two materials at a time, and even mix composites. In doing so, it can craft items with varied flex, shade and feel. The Connex has helped hospitals fabricate see-through medical models and even allowed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student to construct a working flute complete with moving hinges and rubber gaskets.