Christie invested in FDM because it can 3D print in the same durable thermoplastics found in finished goods, and for its user-friendly interface that makes it easy to operate. The company added PolyJet technology to make finely detailed overmolded parts with rubberlike components. Christie’s M Series projector is one of many examples where the product development team used both technologies. Early in the project, Christie 3D printed initial design concepts with PolyJet, which builds parts fast. “At this point, everything is fluid, so having evaluation pieces quickly is a must,” Barfoot said. As designs solidified, engineers built an FDM assembly with individual surrogate parts representing everything from air intakes to printed circuit boards to optics to the $10,000 light engine. The mock-up grew to look more like the finished product as sourced and manufactured components became available, replacing 3D printed surrogates.
“That mock-up was our baseline communication piece throughout the project,” said Barfoot. The engineering team again turned to PolyJet to evaluate designs of projector components like the overmolded handle, projector keypad and rubber lensmount boot. Barfoot says the technology was especially useful in fine-tuning the projector’s remote control with a rigid case and soft buttons, which emerge from Christie’s Connex 3D printer all in one piece. “It truly was a functional prototype,” he says. Before PolyJet, the remote control would have been rubber molded, at a cost of $2,000 and two weeks per iteration. Christie did three revisions in three days for less than $500.