PolyJet 3D Printing Explained

PolyJet 3D Printing Explained

Are you looking to understand PolyJet 3D printing and how it could elevate your production? This printing technique is prised for its unparalleled detail and ability to print with multiple materials simultaneously. From explaining the precision of the PolyJet process to examining its wide array of material options, this article provides the essential information you’re seeking—whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional.

Key Takeaways

  • PolyJet 3D printing stands out for its ability to produce highly detailed and realistic objects with a minimum layer thickness of 16 microns, using a process where liquid photopolymer is jetted and immediately cured by UV light.
  • The technology boasts multi-material capabilities, allowing for the creation of prototypes that simulate diverse textures, colors, and material properties which is particularly beneficial in industries like healthcare for surgical planning and automotive for prototyping.
  • PolyJet printers vary in size and capabilities, from desktop to industrial models, with costs and applications varying depending on production scale, material requirements, and the intricacy of the printed objects.

Understanding PolyJet 3D Printing

PolyJet 3D Printing Process

Have you ever wondered how PolyJet 3D printing works? Or perhaps you’re interested in the technology behind it? Well, it is renowned for its outstanding realism and aesthetics. This is achieved through a unique process that involves:

  • Jetting layers of curable liquid photopolymer onto a build tray
  • Using a technique that outclasses traditional 3D printing methods in terms of detail and complexity
  • Transforming the way we approach production

PolyJet printers come in a variety of sizes, catering to different scales of production. From small benchtop models for quick prototypes to large multi-ton industrial machines for mass production, this technology is flexible enough to meet diverse production demands. However, these printers are not one-size-fits-all. They need to be chosen based on the specific printing needs and goals.

The PolyJet process differs significantly from other 3D printing technologies. For instance, unlike Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) which uses a heated thermoplastic filament, PolyJet employs a process where liquid polymers are jetted onto the printer bed and then cured through exposure to ultraviolet light. This unique process is the secret sauce behind PolyJet’s superior detailing and finish.

The PolyJet Process

The PolyJet process can be explained as a three-stage process involving pre-processing, production, and post-processing. In the initial pre-processing phase, the system utilises software designed to automatically arrange the deposition of both photopolymers and support material based on the original 3D CAD file.

During the production phase, liquid resin is carefully deposited onto a build tray from an array of nozzles. The resin is instantly cured with UV light, creating the 3D part layer by layer. Removable support material, which is fundamental for intricate designs, is printed and cured simultaneously with the model. It can then be removed manually, with water, or by water-soluble methods depending on the model. The use of support materials, including the removable type, ensures the stability and precision of the final product.

Lastly, post-processing is streamlined due to a seamless digital workflow and the high quality of the ‘right off the printer’ finish, potentially reducing any additional labour or time.

Key Components of PolyJet Technology

A closer look at PolyJet technology reveals several key components that contribute to its precision and quality. First, there are specially formulated photopolymers that enable the creation of parts with high precision. These photopolymers are jetted onto a build platform layer by layer through inkjet heads, another crucial component of PolyJet printing.

After the deposition of photopolymers, ultraviolet (UV) lamps come into play. They instantly cure the photopolymers, solidifying the material and bonding the layers together. The build tray serves as a stable base for the liquid polymers during this process, contributing to the precision and integrity of the final print.

Advantages of PolyJet 3D Printing

High Precision PolyJet 3D Print

The benefits extend well beyond its high-resolution prints and intricate details. One of its most significant advantages is its multi-material capability. This ability allows the blending of multiple resin types to create robust prototypes without compromising flexibility, textures, or colours.

In addition, PolyJet technology’s ability to produce intricate textures, details, and patterns with a wide range of material options provides a wider range of options compared to traditional 3D printing methods. This makes it an ideal choice for many industries requiring a high level of detail, such as the medical field for surgical planning and the automotive industry for part prototyping.

Furthermore, its high speed, depending on the material choice, can lead to shorter product development cycles. Some materials offer faster print initiation speeds and minimal support removal, wash, and cure times, translating to significant time and cost savings.

High Precision and Detail

When it comes to precision and detail, PolyJet technology stands head and shoulders above the rest. It allows for the printing of parts with complex shapes, intricate details, and delicate features, utilising various photopolymers.

With a minimum layer thickness of 16 microns, PolyJet printers can produce parts with significantly higher resolution and fine layers compared to other 3D printing methods like Stereolithography (SLA). To better understand the capabilities of this technology, it’s essential to review the Polyjet technical specifications.

The high accuracy in PolyJet-printed parts is achieved through jetting fine drops of photopolymer that are immediately cured by UV light, resulting in smooth, detailed components. The surface finish of PolyJet parts is typically much smoother than that of FDM parts, making PolyJet technology a preferred choice for industries that demand high detail and aesthetics.

Multi-Material Capabilities


Multi-Material PolyJet 3D Print

PolyJet 3D printing technology’s multi-material capabilities are a game-changer in the world of additive manufacturing. The technology enables the construction of over 100 composite materials from multiple base resins, creating an extensive palette for designers and engineers to choose from, especially when printing multiple objects.

PolyJet’s ability to simulate diverse visual, tactile, and functional properties in a single prototype accelerates the development process. It delivers realistic multi-material prototypes that closely mirror the final product, offering unparalleled flexibility in creating complex designs, including complex geometries.

Rapid Prototyping and Time Savings

In the fast-paced world of product development, time is of the essence. PolyJet technology’s rapid output contributes to significant time savings in prototyping. The possibility of service providers delivering parts within a day is a testament to the speed of PolyJet 3D printing.

Moreover, the technology is cost-effective for rapid prototyping due to its quick build times, cost-efficient materials, and reduced post-processing demands. The technology, therefore, becomes particularly advantageous for industries like automotive and aerospace, where rapid product development is crucial.

PolyJet Material Options

Variety of PolyJet Materials

PolyJet 3D printing offers an extensive range of materials, including:

  • Vero, known for its multi-colour capabilities and strength
  • Rigour noted for its durability and smooth finish
  • Rubber-like materials for prototypes needing flexibility or softness
  • Digital ABS Plastic for strong, heat-resistant parts with thin walls

This versatility caters to a multitude of applications, making PolyJet a preferred choice for various industries.

However, material requirements significantly influence the selection of a PolyJet printer. It’s important to note that PolyJet materials generally have a low heat deflection temperature and can only print with low-viscosity materials.

Digital Materials

Digital materials in PolyJet printing are created by combining two or more of the 17 primary PolyJet photopolymers. This yields predefined mechanical properties, textures, and colour tones. In other words, PolyJet technology enables the construction of over 100 composite materials from multiple base resins.

These digital materials are capable of simulating elastomer and rubber-like properties, as well as replicating engineering-grade plastics such as ABS. With PolyJet technology, it’s possible to print multiple materials, both rigid and flexible, within a single model. This flexibility opens up an array of creative possibilities and design freedom.

Biocompatible Materials

Biocompatible materials have a unique place in the realm of PolyJet 3D printing. They are pivotal for medical and dental applications within PolyJet technology. For instance, MED625FLX is a flexible and transparent biocompatible material tailored for the dental market. It’s specifically used for printing indirect bonding trays and gingival masks used in implantology.

On the other hand, MED610, a rigid and transparent biocompatible material, is utilised for creating surgical guides for dental implant and orthopaedic surgeries. Prototypes made with PolyJet biocompatible materials can be used for short-term exposure of up to 24 hours to mucosal membranes or skin contact for durations exceeding 30 days.

High-Temperature and Transparent Materials

High-temperature, transparent materials and rigid materials cater to a unique set of applications within PolyJet 3D printing. High-temperature materials like RGD525 simulate the thermal performance of engineering plastics, making them suitable for applications that involve hot air or water flow.

On the other hand, transparent materials are perfect for prototyping glass-like products. They offer enhanced dimensional stability and insulation properties. Whether you need to test the heat resistance of a part or create a visually striking prototype, PolyJet’s high-temperature and transparent materials provide the flexibility to bring your vision to life.

Comparing PolyJet to Other 3D Printing Technologies

While PolyJet 3D printing offers several unique advantages, it’s also important to understand how it compares to other 3D printing technologies. Both PolyJet and SLA 3D printing technologies offer high accuracy and precision and support high-performance materials suitable for various applications. However, each has unique advantages and limitations, influencing their suitability for different applications and businesses.

On the other hand, FDM models are more robust and durable than those produced by PolyJet. This makes FDM technology better suited for functional parts that require mechanical strength. However, PolyJet technology’s ability to reproduce varying shapes, textures, colours, and finishes in printed objects gives it an edge in applications requiring high detail and aesthetics.

PolyJet vs. SLA

When comparing PolyJet and SLA technologies, cost plays a critical role in determining the suitability for different applications and businesses. PolyJet printers require a substantial initial investment, with prices ranging from £24,000 to over £400,000. In contrast, professional SLA printers can start at a lower entry point of about £2,800.

However, operating expenses for PolyJet can be higher, as its materials are typically two to three times more expensive than SLA resins. Therefore, the choice between PolyJet and SLA technologies involves balancing the higher upfront and operating costs and the detailed capabilities of both technologies.

PolyJet vs. FDM

Comparing PolyJet to Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technologies reveals some key differences. While FDM technology is approaching its limit of resolution, PolyJet continues to develop and improve in this area, promising even finer details in the future.

On the other hand, FDM parts are more material-efficient, with minimal support structures needed, whereas PolyJet can waste between 20-40% of its resin. However, PolyJet parts exhibit consistent strength across all axes, unlike FDM parts, which may show weakness in the Z direction due to layer fusing.

Choosing the Right PolyJet 3D Printer

Selecting the best PolyJet 3D printer revolves around understanding the necessary technical specifications based on specific printing needs and goals. Key capabilities to consider in a PolyJet printer include:

  • Ability to reproduce varying shapes
  • Ability to reproduce textures
  • Ability to reproduce colours
  • Ability to reproduce finishes in the printed objects.

The type of software used with PolyJet printers also influences the overall workflow. For instance, using the GrabCAD software with PolyJet printers streamlines the workflow by allowing for direct printing from CAD, eliminating the time needed for file conversion.

Desktop vs. Industrial Printers

When it comes to choosing between desktop and industrial PolyJet 3D printers, it ultimately depends on your specific needs and production scale. Desktop PolyJet 3D printers are tailored for small batch production, offering a general tolerance of ±1% for fitting and forming prototype applications.

On the other hand, industrial PolyJet 3D printers feature larger printing platforms, enabling the production of larger parts or multiple models at once. They are ideal for mass production. The cost of desktop 3D printers has decreased significantly, enhancing their affordability for small-scale applications, while industrial 3D printers reflect higher production capacities in their costs.

Notable PolyJet Printer Models

There are several notable PolyJet printer models, each with its unique features and capabilities. Models like the J35 Pro, J826 Prime, and J850 Pro are known for their advanced features and varying capabilities in multi-material printing.

For instance, the J35 Pro 3D printer serves as an all-in-one shared office 3D printer capable of generating concept models to fully functioning prototypes economically. On the other hand, the J850 Pro 3D printer is equipped to print up to seven materials at once, enabling the creation of precise and accurate functional prototypes.

Applications of PolyJet 3D Printing

Medical Applications of PolyJet 3D Printing

This technology has a wide range of applications that span across various industries, including:

  • Automotive: Enhancing aerodynamics and creating custom parts
  • Healthcare: Creating patient-specific models for surgical planning and medical training
  • Architecture: Producing detailed architectural models and prototypes

The technology supports advancements in these industries by providing enhanced customisation and precision.

The technology is also extensively used in educational settings for research, driving innovation, and the development of new ideas. PolyJet is a preferred technology for producing aesthetically pleasing items such as product packages, footwear, eyewear, and pieces for artistic exhibitions due to its exceptional finish and detail.

Specialised items commonly produced using PolyJet printers include:

  • Moulds
  • Prototypes
  • Medical models
  • Jigs
  • Fixtures
  • Manufacturing tools

These applications demonstrate their versatility and their potential to revolutionise various industries.

Medical Applications

Medical applications of PolyJet technology have been transformative. It is instrumental in preoperative planning for surgeries, providing physical models that replicate patient-specific anatomy and pathology. This leads to better surgical outcomes and reduced operation times.

Moreover, detailed anatomical models produced using PolyJet technology assist in surgical simulations for neurosurgery, craniomaxillofacial surgery, and orthopaedic surgery. These simulations enhance the surgeon’s understanding and approach to complex procedures, improving patient outcomes and medical professional training.

Product Design and Development

Product design and development greatly benefit from PolyJet 3D printing. Its ability to create detailed prototypes with smooth, polished surfaces is a game-changer for industries such as automotive and consumer goods. Automotive designers use this to create functional and visual prototypes of parts, such as interior components and engine parts, to evaluate aesthetics, fit, form, and function before proceeding to mass production.

Artistic and Aesthetic Projects

Artistic and aesthetic projects have found a creative ally in PolyJet 3D printing. The technology’s ability to print in multiple materials and colours expands creative possibilities by allowing the creation of visually striking artworks with diverse textures and colour gradients.

Furthermore, the J850 TechStyle 3D printer is revolutionising the fashion industry with its 3DFashion™ technology, enabling the creation of intricate fashion items in full colour and with multiple materials. Whether it’s in fine art exhibitions or fashion shows, PolyJet technology’s production of items with high detail and smooth surfaces makes it a preferred choice for high-end, visually-driven applications.


In conclusion, PolyJet 3D printing is a versatile and powerful technology that has revolutionised various industries with its high-resolution prints, multi-material capabilities, and rapid prototyping. From medical applications to product design to artistic projects, PolyJet technology continues to drive innovation and deliver superior outcomes.

As we step into the future of additive manufacturing, this will undoubtedly continue to evolve and shape the way we create. By understanding its processes, advantages, and applications, you can effectively leverage this technology to realize your creative vision and achieve your production goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PolyJet in 3D printing?

PolyJet in 3D printing is an advanced technology that quickly creates precise parts using photopolymers. It achieves accuracy by layering resins to form digital materials, starting with a CAD model transformed into a printable format.

Is PolyJet better than SLA?

PolyJet is better than SLA for small, highly detailed prototypes and master patterns due to its speed and fine resolution. However, SLA is a better fit for large prototypes and master patterns, offering the advantage of printing mostly hollow parts with an interior honeycomb structure.

What is the difference between PolyJet and FDM?

PolyJet and FDM technologies have similar maximum part sizes, but FDM allows you to build larger parts as needed, while PolyJet offers smoother surfaces and is better for aesthetic appeal over mechanical strength.

How does PolyJet 3D printing work?

PolyJet 3D printing operates by projecting droplets of a liquid photopolymer onto a substrate, where they are immediately solidified by ultraviolet light to form a three-dimensional object, one thin layer at a time.

What are the advantages of PolyJet 3D printing?

It provides high precision, multi-material capabilities, and rapid prototyping, making it suitable for a wide range of applications.

22nd March 2024

3D Printing