Entries in color (26)
by General Fabb
At the 2013 3D Printshow we stopped by the Code-p west BV booth, who produce the Builder personal 3D printer. These folks produce a typical personal 3D printer, but as we talked with their spokesman, something very interesting was revealed.
At first, their machine appears much like many other personal 3D printers: a cubic frame with XYZ axes allowing an extruder to move about, gradually extruding malleable plastic into shapes. But then we noticed it.
There were two filaments entering the extruder. Not one. TWO.
We immediately asked more about this feature. It seems that they have a single heat chamber, where both filaments are softened for printing. However, only the filament that is being pushed comes out of the nozzle.
But what if BOTH extruder motors are going at the same time?
Then the filaments are mixed. Mixed colors!
When we regained consciousness, the spokesman explained that the feature cannot truly do much yet, because they do not have software to drive color mixing. Indeed, the state of color management for 3D printers is truly awful, at least at the consumer end these days.
Perhaps you'd like to experiment with this new color mixing feature? If so, you'll have to spend £1325 (USD$2100). For that you'll receive a good quality PLA-only 3D printer, capable of 0.1mm resolution.
You'll also need a pile of colored filament, of course.
In the beginning, personal 3D printers had but a single extruder, meaning you could print only one color at a time. Finally, after years of research, some manufacturers brought out machines with two extruders - and BFB had an amazing three extruders.
Now there's a proposal from ORD Solutions of Canada to produce not a four, but a FIVE extruder machine. It would enable printing of five different colors in the same print job - or four colors with one more used as a support material.
With so many extruders there are other possibilities not practically available in other machines, such as reserving one extruder with a large nozzle size for much faster interior fills.
The team suggests they're providing numerous other improvements to the device, making it more reliable and robust.
One interesting feature is the build volume. It's a startling 11.1" x 10.65" x 6.5". But the secret is that if you are adding a lot of extruders, you'll actually lose some of that volume because, for example, the extruder furthest right cannot reach all the way to the left.
The cost of this device? Well, that's a bit of a story, because the price depends on the number of extruders you select. It's not just "model 1 or model 2"; here you must select from one to five extruders - plus the shipping varies by destination. You'd best check the pricing chart on their page at the link below.
We're curious to see how multi-headed 3D printing works out. If it does, we could imagine more complex versions of this approach being developed, offering more colors or more resolutions or more materials.
Remember BotObjects? They're the company that's producing a "Full Color" personal 3D printer, the ProDesk3D. They have been releasing very little information about their upcoming device, leading to much speculation whether it's real or not. Now, thanks to a video recently posted on their site, we know a little bit more about this very mysterious 3D printer.
The video, a still of which is above, shows the print in operation printing a Julia vase. That's not unusual, but the unique feature shown is that the plastic color changes during the print. The color changes only on layer boundaries, suggesting that they are simply switching the filament being extruded on the fly - exactly as we suspected.
It's definitely not full color, but it is interesting. The trouble is that it's pretty rare you actually need colors to change on horizontal sections, so while it is a cool feature, we're not sure how often you'd actually use it.
There's one other weird thing with this video. We don't know exactly how they switch filaments - and we don't learn any more about that from the video, because BotObjects has PLACED A METAL SHEET IN FRONT OF THE EXTRUDER.
The mystery continues.
Independent 3D printer retail store iMakr has set up a temporary exhibition where you can have yourself 3D scanned and printed at a premier retail location: London's venerable Selfridges on Oxford street.
iMakr is also using the Oxford street location to offer 3D printed art pieces for sale to the public.
While the scanning is said to take only 10 minutes to complete, you must make an appointment in advance and we suspect you'll wait several days to receive your 3D print. Color 3D printing, like any other kind of 3D printing, isn't very fast.
If you're in London anytime before the end of the year, drop by Selfridges and check it out.
You might recall a year ago when MCOR announced it had struck a deal with Staples to provide color 3D print services in their retail stores. Now, the service is active in Europe and to promote it Staples has teamed up with 3D graphics site CGTrader on a design challenge.
To enter, you'll have to submit a new design to CGTrader for the contest. You entry will be judged on the following:
- Quality of the 3D printable model
- Uniqueness, innovation, and general achievement in design of the 3D printable model
- Model printability is approved
- Clear and attractive presentation on CGTrader.com
The distinction of this contest is that it involves the MCOR 3D print technology, which permits full color 3D printing using their ingenious and inexpensive paper process. Most other 3D print contests do not involve color printing, so special attention must be paid to the visual appearance.
This contest is notable as it has a very decent prize: €1000 (USD$1358) and a €900 one-year subscription to Staples MyEasy3D.
If you're a 3D modeler with color experience, we recommend you try out your imagination on this contest - and do it before the 21st of October, when entries are closed.
You might recall the very mysterious ProDesk3D printer from botObjects that is said to be an inexpensive, full color personal 3D printer.
A grand claim indeed, as no one can yet explain how an inexpensive 3D printer can manage multi-color printing. Many current 3D printers are multi-color in the sense of "switching" from one color to another, but none can produce arbitrary RGB color mixes; you'd have to purchase a ProJet x60 commercial 3D printer to do that.
However, TechCrunch reports on an exclusive view of the device provided to them by botObjects. Their videographer, Steve Long, was able to check out the ProDesk3D up close and ask questions about the machine.
We, like many others, are terribly interested to find out exactly how this multicolor capability actually works. Here's what TechCrunch said:
It has an aluminum body and two print heads, hidden by a plate, that can print 25 micro layer thickness. When the printer changes color it moves the head to the side and purges the old color and brings in a new one. “Print head will in a single layer print out all parts of a certain color on that particular layer – green, for example- then purge, and go on to the next color and fill in the rest, etc,” he said.
So now we know how it works. It is NOT a RGB 3D printer. It is a "multi-monocolor" 3D printer like many others. But there is a very interesting twist: evidently they've figured out how to automatically switch color filaments within a single extruder.
While the "color" output of this printer will differ imperceptibly from other 2, 3 or 4 headed "multi-monocolor" 3D printers, there is a benefit provided by the ProDesk3D: fewer extruders could mean lower cost for the same capability.
On the other hand, we suspect the act of purging and reloading filament on each color switch could make 3D printing slower.
More specs required, definitely.
One of the most interesting items to 3D print on a high-power color 3D printer turns out to be shoes. We were blown away when we first encountered a color 3D printed shoe last year - the visual realism is only broken when you pick up the shoe and realize its made of sandstone.
We've discovered a number of shoe print images on Zprint's Flickr stream, some of which we show here. All of these are not real shoes. They are 3D prints, each made on a Zcorp color 3D printer. Be sure to click on these images to see full size detail.
Why 3D print unwearable shoes? Because they're prototypes. They're meant to test the visual attractiveness of a specific design. Shoe designers develop dozens of variations and print them all out for inspection by the company decision-makers. It's far easier to test prototypes in this way than actually making a real version of the shoe. Should a shoe pass this test, then it may be considered for actual manufacturing.
You may recall the mysterious launch of the ProDesk30 from BotObjects the other week? It was said to be an amazing Full Color personal 3D plastic extrusion printer. Many observers were highly skeptical of this claim, particularly because little evidence or even specifications had been released by BotObjects.
Now that's changed. A bit.
BotObjects has released more information, including pricing (USD$2,849-$3,749) and specifications for the ProDesk30 models:
- Full color FDM-based printing system
- 5-color PLA cartridge system
- PVA support material cartridge
- ABS supported with additional cartridges (not included in standard package)
- PLA/PVA/ABS filament diameter 1.75mm
- Exterior case dimensions 475mm, 365mm, 365mm (H,W,D)
- Build platform dimensions 300mm, 275mm, 275mm (H,W,D)
- 175mm/s max printing speed
- 25 micron printing accuracy in z direction
- Fully automatic system set up - plug and play
- Auto levelling heated build platform
- Dual extruder head
- Tri-fan air system
Looks pretty good, doesn't it? But is it real? How can they actually print full color at such tiny resolutions? On their site they now show a few example prints.
A Robot in several pieces, assembled together.
A musical recorder.
Do you notice anything about these color prints? We did. All of them simply change color on layers. The vase in particular exhibits this most clearly. It appears (and we're saying this because we've done it on other extrusion 3D printers) that an orange filament was swapped out for a white filament in mid-vase. The same effect is seen on the other objects.
That's NOT color 3D printing.
That's been done before many times and is not particularly useful, unless you're looking for rainbow-ish objects.
We are now becoming a lot more skeptical of BotObject's claims and it seems we're not the only ones. SolidSmack has a very critical writeup, and they propose there are reasons why BotObjects has not shown up on Kickstarter.
BotObjects, if you're listening, now is the time to reveal some more convincing evidence.
New York City startup BotObjects announced what could be the first full-color plastic 3D printer, the ProDesk3D. While their stealthy launch and impressive claims have generated some buzz, they have also generated major controversy.
First, what's the ProDesk3D? It's a desktop 3D printer, suitable for consumer or office use. It prints extruded PLA or ABS plastic in a ridiculously accurate resolution of 0.025mm, far smaller than almost everything else we've seen. Two extruders are present; one for material and the other for PVA water-dissolvable support structures. Material is supplied via an unseen "5 color PLA cartridge system". The unit is provided fully assembled, has an attractive yet curious case, is self-calibrating and includes a mysterious "tri-fan" system to increase airflow.
And that's all we know. They have not specified any further statistics, pricing, shown sample models or exhibited videos of the seemingly miraculous color process.
Is this for real?
Skeptics exist among the 3D printing community. Joris Peels posted a long and detailed analysis of observations he found suspicious. Rachel Park had similar concerns and spoke directly with the folks at BotObjects, who reassured her that it was indeed "the real deal and that patience is the name of the game".
While we are truly impressed with the industrial design of the ProDesk3D, we have suspicions about the full color capability. Evidently "five colors" are somehow mixed enabling the printing of any shade of color. This is precisely how ink jet printers print photographs, and it's long been a dream of 3D printer enthusiasts to build a full color mixing plastic 3D printer.
But it's really hard to do. Current technology involves mechanically pushing plastic filaments into a hot extruder and waiting a precise time for the plastic to melt. Adding a mixing chamber for two pushed filaments would be rather complex, let alone a chamber accepting five different filaments (likely CMYK and White).
Quick color switches would require the mixing chamber to be completely purged of the previous color - in other words, the mix must include ONLY and PRECISELY the amount of plastic for a particular color extrusion. This would necessarily have to be done almost continuously if you were printing a photographic texture on an object. The mechanics, precision and software control to perform this would be daunting. If this approach worked, the resolution simply could not be as small as is claimed, unless the ProDesk3D has truly microscopic filaments and mixing chambers.
We suspect they're extruding plastic in a completely different manner. Perhaps they've invented a way to fully liquify the plastic and jet it out in a way similar to ink jet printers, which might be able to handle more precise and micro-scale mixing. If so, this could account for the 0.025mm resolution. We don't see any current patents assigned to BotObjects, but maybe they've applied to patent this type of process.
Regardless of our idle speculation, we simply won't know until BotObjects demonstrates their machine and exhibits print samples. As Carl Sagan said years ago, "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence."
We hope to see the evidence in a few weeks when BotObjects tells more of the story.
After 3D Systems' acquisition of ZCorp, they found themselves owners of the Zprinter line of the only full-color 3D printers available. These machines continued to be improved and new variations added up until this week.
What happened this week? 3D Systems has rebranded the entire Zprinter line into new ProJet models. No more Zprinters! The new machines not only have new names (although the numbering scheme is kinda similar, as, for example, the new ProJet 660 Pro strongly resembles the previous Zprinter 650) but also attractive new exterior styling that matches the rest of the ProJet line. You can see this style in the image above of a new ProJet 460 Plus.
The new printer line includes:
- ProJet 160 – compact size, most affordable monochrome printing
- ProJet 260C– compact size, most affordable full color 3D printer available
- ProJet 360 – medium size, monochrome printing affordability
- ProJet 460Plus – medium size, high-quality full color printing
- ProJet 660Pro – large format, premium-quality full color printing
- ProJet 860Pro – super-large format, premium-quality full color printing
This was an inevitable step, but it begs the question: when will full color capabilities be integrated into other 3D Systems products?
Via 3D Systems