Over the years, most 3D printing technologies have only been to print in a single colour, which is why colour 3D printing is considered a rarity. With today’s advancing technology, however, colour 3D printing now exists, and there are many ways to achieve it. For most, multi-colour prints demand that you use paint or other post-processing techniques.
Know that there are several techniques you can use to add colours to your 3D prints. Nevertheless, you will have to first understand the difference between “multicolour” printing and “full-colour 3D printing.” 3D colour printing primarily comes in two different technologies, which are direct and indirect technologies. For direct printing, it has a filament that readily contains colour inside it. Because of this, it cannot mix colours, which can affect the outcome to be not realistic. Indirect printing, on the other hand, receives the colours from an external source.
If you need to print a full-coloured 3D that includes rich gradients and textures that resemble something realistic, you will want to know the techniques to add colour to your prints. That said, here are four methods commonly used to print 3D models in colour:
Considered as the true champion of colour 3D printing, the Mimaki process uses a resin-based system. After being in the printing business of producing large-scale 2D print systems for a long period, Mimaki is the most reliable option when it comes to full-colour 3D printing. Through their expertise, they have developed a 3D printing system that can print and reproduce colours accurately. Their technology is based on UV light and can use over ten million colours.
This is a method used in Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) printing that lets you use various colours for different layers. Filament swapping is a simple process and can be done in most FDM machines. This technique is excellent for plaques or logos with extruded texts. The lower portion can be printed in one colour and then modified to highlight the upper portion. One challenge of filament swapping, however, is that it can be a bit tedious and often challenging to get it done right.
Color Kit Resin
The Stereolithography (SLA) printing process that involves SLA resins has only been conveniently available in fewer colours that are selected by the manufacturer. However, these colour restrictions limit the ability of product engineers and designers to create models that have accurately mimicked their prototypes.
In recent times, there have been various newly released technologies that enable product engineers and designers, such as Color Kit by Formlabs, to make looks-like prototypes of their design with the surface finish and quality that SLA is famous for. This kit uses white as a base resin for yellow, black, cyan, and magenta to create a full spectrum of various colour options.
HP Jet Fusion
Although this is a relatively new entrant in the colour printing industry, HP has evolved and adapted their own Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology that is capable of printing full-colour 3D prints. Their secret is the voxel-level control that MJF uses, which allows an inkjet mechanism to deposit up to eight agents per voxel.
Voxels, which are three-dimensional pixels, are liquid droplets that can take on different characteristics. This printer uses an innovative binding agent that integrates the plastic powder locally, which is then applied to the voxel. This technology allows you to create full-colour 3D prints, even with complicated objects.
At this point, you now know the four common methods that you can use to start creating full-colour 3D prints. From colour resin printers to FDM printers to industrial-grade machines, 3D prints in colour are more accessible now than ever before.