The evolution of full-color 3D printers is actually more than you think. If you are a designer, 3D print artist, architect or amateur, you can enjoy or get a professional full-color 3D print model directly at your desk. So which technologies are currently best for you in full color 3D printing?
Color 3D printing technology has been around since 2005, and although it is a very young technology, it has provided many new design and manufacturing solutions for our customers. In general, we can divide color 3D printing technology into direct technology and indirect technology. Direct color 3D printing uses printed wires that already contain color. Indirect color 3D printing applies color from an external source for printing during printing.
Direct color 3D printing
Direct color 3D printing allows you to use 3D printed models with colored wires. It is used with FDM technology. You can use this to achieve vivid colors and fine details, depending on the quality of the 3D printer and the 3D printed materials you purchase. However, direct color 3D printing does not allow you to mix colors, so the effect is not as real as the human eye sees directly.
FDM: single print nozzle
Color printing is possible even if the FDM printer has only one print head. What do you need to do to do 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 also solutions where you can use a single printhead to join multiple wires together. Then, your model needs to contain information about which parts use certain colors, and the device then outputs those colors to the printheads.
FDM: multiple print nozzles
Another solution for direct color 3D printing is to use a 3D printer with multiple printheads. A typical dual printhead is particularly useful for making soluble carriers. But you can also use them to print two colors of filaments. 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 printing. 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 needs to be taken into account when preparing the model.
Existing full color 3D printer technology on the market
With ColorJet technology, you can choose from 36,000 colors! Your 3D print files need to be set with color and texture information before multi-color 3D printing. In the 3D printing process, a fine sandstone-like powder is used. Spread a layer of material and then print the nozzle to apply the color that adheres to the layer. After printing, expand the next layer and repeat the process until the printing is complete.
With the addition of multiple colors, you can do more than direct color 3D printing. The solution is especially interesting for designers to provide proof of concept to their clients, architects to generate visual models and game character production.
PolyJet technology works with liquid resins and prints 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 the color.
HP Jet Fusion technology
HP's 3D printing solutions are revolutionary in 3D printing. HP's R&D engineers first studied light and how to use light to produce full-color 3D printing with the quality of a flat-panel printer.
Their color 3D printer uses an innovative adhesive to partially melt the plastic powder. This color is applied to a 3D printed DNA level called "voxel". Therefore, even for very complicated objects, color 3D printing can be realized.
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 be able to bring more than 10 million colors to the market! Their technology is based on ultraviolet light, which was originally developed for conventional flat-panel printers.
A layer of powdered material was dispersed, and then the colored resin was dropped using an ink jet head of a 3D printer. 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 colors.
Desktop-grade 3D printer for indirect color 3D printing
Some companies have adopted another indirect color 3D printing technology so that they can be used in the office. One solution is to drop CMYK ink onto the paper and then die-cut the paper layer and fuse it with the next layer. The downside is the danger of ink spreading or oozing out.
Another solution is the ink absorbing wire. The FDM 3D printer places a layer of filament that drops the CMYK ink before applying the next layer. The technology is impressive and prints very soft and translucent 3D printed models.
The future of color 3D printers
Color 3D printing today offers many new manufacturing opportunities. Whether it's a desktop 3D printer or an industrial 3D printer, full color 3D printing is now available. The full-color 3D printer can provide users with a new visual experience to meet the different customization needs of users.