XYZprinting Launches Low-Cost, Full-Color Filament 3D Printing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on September 01, 2017 | 8800 views

On September 1, 2017, XYZprinting, the 3D printing-focused subsidiary of New Kinpo Group, made an impressive announcement at the IFA 2017 event in Berlin, Germany. The company, known for its very low-cost desktop 3D printers, released the da Vinci Color 3D printer, a fused filament fabrication (FFF) system capable of 3D printing plastic in full CMYK color with a price tag of $2,999.95.

The da Vinci Color may be the first commercially available desktop 3D printer capable of printing full-color plastic objects. (Image courtesy of XYZprinting.)
The da Vinci Color may be the first commercially available desktop 3D printer capable of printing full-color plastic objects. (Image courtesy of XYZprinting.)

XYZprinting’s 3DColorJet technology, if it performs as advertised, could be just what the consumer 3D printing industry has long been waiting for since the consumer bubble burst in 2014. Before getting into the da Vinci Color, here’s a breakdown of the efforts toward full-color desktop 3D printing so far. 

The CubeJet

At the 2014 CES show, 3D Systems brought an arsenal of new 3D printing technologies that promised a new era of consumer 3D printing, from 3D-printed confections to ceramics. Among the systems on display was the CubeJet, marketed as a binder jetting 3D printer capable of full-color gypsum models at a price of less than $5,000.  

The industry soon learned that much of what 3D Systems had hyped at the event would never reach the market. In fact, the company’s then-CEO would eventually be replaced for his overemphasis on consumer products and poor management. 3D Systems’ Cubify brand has since been shut down, but binder jetting is still sold through the company’s professional products. For that reason, the eventual release of a CubeJet cannot be entirely ruled out. 

botObjects

3D Systems wasn’t the only company to promise full-color desktop 3D printing. It also acquired a startup called botObjects, which claimed to have invented the ability to mix different colored filaments to print items with an ombré effect, transitioning from one color to the next. 

The CubePro C was a 3D Systems’ desktop 3D printer that was launched with botObjects’ technology. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)
The CubePro C was a 3D Systems’ desktop 3D printer that was launched with botObjects’ technology. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

When botObjects launched, there was a great deal of skepticism about the mechanics of the firm’s “PlasticJet Printing” technology, with critics’ questions regarding the science behind mixing molten plastic often left unanswered.

Once acquired by 3D Systems, botObjects’ CubePro C printer was never released. XYZprinting, in contrast, did release its own version of the technology with the da Vinci Jr. 2.0 Mix 3D printer. A very inexpensive machine, the Mix does what it’s advertised to do, blending one color to the next.

XYZprinting is not the only manufacturer to make a printer with such a capability. ZMorph, from Poland, also sells a toolhead for its hybrid 3D printer. ORD Solutions, out of Canada, provides its own color mixing technology, as well. 

Mcor Paper Printing

At expos, Mcor’s full-color paper printer, the Mcor Iris, wows onlookers with vibrant CMYK prints. At CES in 2016, the company showcased the ARKe, which had shrunken that technology down to a compact desktop size. The company’s technology works by using a standard inkjet process to print contours of colored ink onto white paper, which is then glued layer by layer and sliced with a blade. The final object is then removed from the excess paper, revealing a full-color printed model.

This technique, however, lacks some of the benefits of FFF, such as geometric complexity and the use of durable, functional plastic. Moreover, the price of the ARKe has steadily crept up since its release, which began with a price of about $7,000 and now sits above the $15,000 mark. Even so, this is still remarkably cheap compared to binder jetting systems.

Color-Making Accessories

There have also been several startups promising to add coloring capabilities to desktop FFF 3D printers. For instance, Spectrom created an accessory that dyes clear filament as it enters the printer’s extruder. Although the company displayed its technology as working on Robo3D machines at CES in early 2015, its site is now blank and the firm has had no social media activity since May 2015. 

Perhaps the most successful add-on for full-color 3D printing comes from a startup called Mosaic, which launched its Palette technology on Kickstarter. Sold for $799, the Palette is designed to switch from one filament to another during the printing process, making it possible to print with multiple colors and materials one at a time. 

Unlike some Kickstarter projects, backers seem to be receiving their products from Mosaic, but, as the product is still new, the forums demonstrate that there may be some bugs to work out. 

3DColorJet from XYZprinting

These processes demonstrate that color 3D printing is not new, but that it has been difficult to launch a commercial color 3D printer at a low price point. Due to New Kinpo’s role as a massive contract manufacturer with factories around the globe, XYZprinting is able to manufacture its goods at much lower prices. The da Vinci Color is available for preorder on the XYZprinting e-store for $2,999.95 and has an MSRP of $3,499.95. 

Full-color 3D-printed models made with XYZprinting’s 3DColorJet technology. (Image courtesy of XYZprinting.)
Full-color 3D-printed models made with XYZprinting’s 3DColorJet technology. (Image courtesy of XYZprinting.)

The way 3DColorJet works is not all that different from some of the processes described above, particularly from Spectrom. 3DColorJet leverages inkjet printheads to dye polylactic acid (a bioplastic derived from corn starch) filament with CMYK colors. Unlike Spectrom, in this process the dying takes place after the plastic has been printed onto the bed. Though the functionality of PLA may be limited, this may be a first step toward affordable, full-color plastic 3D printing.

Like many of XYZprinting’s desktop machines, the da Vinci Color has the same basic box and gantry, but with the addition of 3DColorJet technology. This gives it a build size of 7.87 in x 7.87 in x 5.91 in and layer thicknesses of 100 to 400 microns. The printer features auto-calibration and a 5-inch color LCD screen. Ink is available through the company’s proprietary CMYK ink cartridges, which are priced at $65 (PLA is available for $35). 

You can see from the promo video and photos that the quality may not be that of injection molded plastic, but it may be a start and, so far, there has not been any FFF 3D printing with colors as vivid as these. As someone who lived through the consumer 3D printing hype bubble, I am excited to see where we go from here.

To learn more or to preorder visit the da Vinci Color site

Recommended For You