Entries in color (18)
by General Fabb
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
We're looking at an unusual 3D scanning project on Kickstarter: the "3d tattoo body art scanner" by UK artist Lee Wagstaff. Wagstaff is notable as he was the first person to use his own body art as presentation material during his Master's degree defense.
Having such an incredible array of intricate tattoos poses a problem: how to archive this artwork? Tattoos may need to be reproduced on others, or - and this is why we're interested - 3D printed on figurines to display the tattoo without the associated body.
Essentially this is a 3D color and texture capture problem, but it is complicated by the need to scan actual humans. We've encountered that problem - humans tend to muck up the scan by moving ever so slightly while they are being scanned; only dead people can remain sufficiently motionless. Tiny tattoo details would be catastrophically ruined with such movements, while low-res human shapes can tolerate a bit of movement.
Wagstaff has created a small Kickstarter project to fund the development of a rudimentary (and therefore inexpensive) device to capture tattoos and 3D shapes. Perhaps this could be done by enhancing existing scanning solutions, but any Kinect-based solution simply wouldn't have the resolution to do what Wagstaff proposes.
Many readers may have a RepRap 3D printer, but most of them will print in only a single color at a time as they have but one extruder. Now you can purchase a personal 3D printer RepRap kit capable of printing not two but THREE colors.
RepRapPro is now selling their "Tricolour Mendel 3D Printer" kit, a derivative of the RepRap project.
Its three extruders can also be used to print three different plastics in one print job, such as ABS, PLA and, um, another one.
We were curious about the build volume in this device, because whenever you add an extruder, the build volume gets a bit smaller as the extruders on the ends can't reach as far during an X-axis movement - there's other extruders in the way. So how does the Tricolour Mendel fare?
The build volume turns out to be a health 210 x 190 x 140mm. Not bad!
The machine prints 1.75mm filament with an accuracy of 0.1mm. The build speed is a rapid 1800mm/min on the heated bed.
This is an unassembled kit, so buyers should be prepared to build it themselves.
What does it cost? Due to shipping cost differences, RepRapPro quotes four levels, each including shipping: UK (£746.80), Europe (€938.80), North America (USD$1088.80) and everywhere else (USD$1098.80).
With the simple description, "Girl holding a hummingbird", van Straaten's statuette clearly demonstrates the power of color 3D printing. Polychemy says:
Eric van Straaten is a Hyper Surreal artist and a noteable 3D Print artist and sculptor. His work has been featured in high-end art fairs around the world.Only a few specialize in 3D Printing in color and there is no artist who pushes the boundaries of colorized 3D-prints as far as Eric van Straaten does.
van Straaten's work includes a large number of similarly beautiful sculptures, many of which can be viewed on his website. If you want to purchase a 15cm (6 inch) tall print of "Humming", you may do so at Polychemy at a cost of USD$2,500.
It's been a dream of 3D printing hobbyists to be able to print in glorious color. That dream still is developing, but maker RichRap has taken a big step in that direction by developing a 3-way extruder for RepRap-style 3D printers.
It's not exactly a full color 3D printer, although RichRap's initial intentions were to mix filaments to create arbitrary colors. He found color mixing was difficult and did not produce the most interesting results. He says:
I decided that not mixing the colours well would produce more interesting effects and give more artistic looking prints. So during #30DOC in June I restarted the development and added three feeder tubes. I had initially intended these to be separately driven Cyan, Magenta and Yellow feed, but after some testing realised that all sorts of blends could be made by running single or multiple extruder’s at intervals separately or together.
Thus he proceeded with building a single extruder capable of accepting up to three separate filament inputs. The resulting prints are indeed startlingly colorful, as you can see with the Froggy model above.
RichRap has made the plans for this extruder available on Thingiverse for all to try.
While able to produce very colorful models, this is not the "true color" 3D printer some have sought. But we're getting more hopeful every day.
Oh, you DIDN'T manage to get to Paris to view Neri Oxman's astonishing display of multicolor 3D prints at Centre Pompidou? We managed to do so and reported it here.
But just in case you didn't see it, there is a very interesting video of the event produced by Objet, the sponsors of the exhibition. Their equipment was used with some unusual materials to produce these amazing objects.
Ceramic 3D printing services are not exactly new, but there are limits to the colors offered by popular 3D printing services. Ponoko has announced the availability of black ceramic material.
Previously Ponoko offered a variety of pastel-ish colors, including Green, Pale Blue, Peach, Periwinkle, Teal, White and Yellow. The new colors include a choice of gloss or satin finish.
We think black is a great color for ceramics. The pastels are interesting, but their applicability to designs is more limited than white or (now) black. Black, an important ceramic color - or as Ponoko describes it, their "badass black".