The evolution of full-color 3D printers is actually more than you think. If you are a designer, 3D printing artist, architect or amateur, you can directly admire or obtain a professional full-color 3D printing model on your desk. So what technologies are currently best for full-color 3D printing?
Color 3D printing technology has been in existence since 2005. Although it is a very young technology, it has provided many new design and manufacturing solutions for our customers. Generally, we can divide color 3D printing technology into direct technology and indirect technology. Direct color 3D printing uses printing wires that already contain colors. Indirect color 3D printing can apply colors from external sources for spraying during the printing process.
Direct color 3D printing
Direct color 3D printing allows you to use color wire for 3D printing models. It is used with FDM technology. You can use this to achieve bright colors and fine details, depending on the quality of the 3D printer and the purchased 3D printing materials. However, direct color 3D printing does not allow you to mix colors, so the effect will not be as real as the human eye directly sees.
FDM: single print head
Even if the FDM printer has only one print head, it can achieve color printing. What do you need to do to achieve this? When you send a 3D file for 3D printing, use the slicing software to set up multiple tasks. The software will generate a g-code with a 3D printer stop command. Then, you turn off the filament and restart the print job.
Although this is the most obvious way, it can be very time-consuming and risky. But there are some solutions, where you can use a print head to combine multiple wires. Then, your model needs to contain information about which parts use certain colors, and then the device outputs those colors to the print head.
FDM: multiple print heads
Another solution for direct color 3D printing is to use a 3D printer with multiple print heads. Generally, the dual-printing nozzle is especially used to make a soluble carrier. But you can also use them to print filaments in two colors. At the same time, there are different 3D printers on the market, and some even have 4 print heads.
Indirect color 3D printing
Indirect color 3D printing uses colors from external sources during the printing process. This technology is more advanced and can make 3D printed models look more realistic, but in most cases, the process requires expertise. It is important to remember that indirect color 3D printing uses the CMYK color mode, and this needs to be considered when preparing the model.
Existing full-color 3D printer technology on the market
With the help of ColorJet technology, you can choose 36000 colors! Your 3D printing file needs to set color and texture information before multi-color 3D printing. In the 3D printing process, fine sandstone-like powder is used. Spread a layer of material and then print the printhead to apply the color adhered to that layer. After printing, expand the next layer, and then repeat the process until printing is completed.
With the addition of multiple colors, you can achieve more functions than direct color 3D printing. This solution is particularly interesting for designers to provide proof of concept to their clients, architects to generate visual models and game character creation.
PolyJet technology can be used in conjunction with liquid resins and printed with an impressive 16 micron layer thickness to ensure fine texture and good surface finish for 3D printed models. Color is applied between the printed layers and cured with ultraviolet light. This technology allows you to even adjust the transparency of colors.
HP Jet Fusion technology
HP’s 3D printing solution is revolutionary in the field of 3D printing. HP ’s R & D engineers first study light and how to use it to produce full-color 3D printing with the quality of a conventional flatbed printer.
Their color 3D printer uses an innovative binder to melt plastic powder locally. This color is applied to the 3D printed DNA level called «voxel» (three-dimensional pixels). Therefore, even for very complex objects, color 3D printing can be achieved.
The company is a true advocate of color 3D printing. When we talk about full-color 3D printing, they are the real winners and will bring to the market machines that can use more than 10 million colors! Their technology is based on UV, which was originally developed for conventional flatbed printers.
Spread a layer of powder material, and then use the inkjet head of the 3D printer to drip the colored resin. The next step is to UV cure the resin to a solid state. Repeat this process and your 3D printing will be made in vivid and vivid colors.
Desktop 3D printer for indirect color 3D printing
Some companies adopt another indirect color 3D printing technology so that it can be used in the office. One solution is to drop CMYK ink on the paper, and then die cut the paper layer and merge it with the next layer. The disadvantage is the risk of ink spreading or seeping.
Another solution is to absorb ink wire. The FDM 3D printer puts a layer of filament, and it will drip CMYK ink before applying the next layer. The technology is impressive and can print very soft and translucent 3D printed models.
The future of color 3D printers
At present, color 3D printing can provide you with many new manufacturing opportunities. Whether it is a desktop-grade 3D printer or an industrial-grade 3D printer, full-color 3D printing is now available. Full-color 3D printers can provide users with a brand new visual experience to meet different customization needs of users.