Full Color Capabilities & More

Color wheelPersonally I’m now a little sensitive when it comes to full-color capabilities of 3D printing. If you want (or can be bothered) to find out why, the story can be tracked on my blog earlier this year.

Color capabilities used to divide opinions in my experience. And, believe it or not, some industrial designers that I have spoken to on this subject are still really quite dismissive of the need for 3D printing color capabilities in the design and prototyping process. One example comes from an individual that shall remain anonymous: “3D printers should focus on accuracy and precision; pretty colors are not of high importance.”

For most, however, it is the catalyst for this technology sector in creating aesthetically realistic prototypes and fully manufactured parts that require little or no finishing.

Since the advent of full-color 3D printing capabilities from Z Corp. in 2005, color has become an increasingly important factor — particularly for manufacturing applications. For many years, Z Corp. was the only 3D printing system vendor that offered full color, and it was an appealing and profitable feature that was marketed well. Unfortunately, the Z Corp. tech, since being acquired by 3D Systems, have more or less vanished off the face of the earth.

But people have now seen the potential of color, and as more and more have realized the benefits of it, it has become something many 3D printing users now want, expect or demand. Responding to the demand, another vendor is making full-color 3D printing systems commercially available — the Iris from Mcor (to be released late November). Pent up demand is also why (probably) Objet revealed its R&D activities with color capabilities on its Connex systems.

Every respondent to my initial invitation to contribute to this series mentioned color in one form or another. Their responses weren’t in depth;  just a line that imparted the demand for true, full and easy color 3D printing. It’s that straightforward — it’s what users want. 

To round out this series, I want to share a couple of the more random ideas that were presented to me for making 3D printing more accessible in the industrial arena — ponder them awhile, they’re not as outrageous as they may seem at first.

“I see huge opportunities for larger scale commercial use on bigger parts, but these require new materials, new processes and new creation systems - all of which adds up to BIG money. Who has the desire/need/clout to do this? That is the big question. For me, look no further than aerospace or high-level construction companies teamed with the likes of Dassault and any number of material suppliers, supported by a lot of high-level research. The question then is once they have this super system, will they share it? And where do the existing 3D printer companies stand in all this? Personally, I think they should move from deriving most income from products to offering expertise and bespoke project work and/or content creation and software interfaces. My reasoning for this is that there are only so many off-the-peg 3D printers the market can take — but there are great opportunities for retail based mini factories that use the same technology but are adapted for specific requirements. The new super systems won't use totally new technology — they will build on what the experts in the area already know,” said Kevin Quigley, product designer.

“The ability to build a part on a particle level with full control of density, material and appearance, including biological materials and hybrid materials,” said Magnus Bombus (pseudonym).

“I am an AM fanatic, but 3D printing [3DP] has yet to grab me in more ways than ‘excellent and cost-effective education tool’. It all comes down to application, in my opinion. 3DP is missing a killer application to make everyone want it,” said Rachel Trimble, of Exeter Advanced Technologies (X-AT).

“Ignorance is a barrier to adoption. I will put my hands up and admit that I don't know one machine from another (when it comes to recent developments in 3DP), so I tend to default to SLA, etc. as this is where my comfort in dealing with 'knowns' is concerned. In the same way that molders send out gimmicky little moldings to describe good molding practice or color blenders send out masterbatch-type plaques to show off their ranges, is there room for a 'sales promo' that extolls the benefits of 3DP and the appropriate use of these processes based on volume, price, application, etc. Things that linger around the studio tend to get more 'uptake' than mentions in blog posts,” said Russell Beard, product designer.

<< Part One   << Part Two   << Part Three

 

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