The Spectrum of Color 3D Printers

You have a monocolor 3D printer and you want colors? You have a few options, but not all of them may fit into your budget.  
 
The simplest approach is simply buy differently-colored filament. However, you’re still printing in one color unless you print multiple pieces in different colors and then connect them together. For example, imagine a 3D print of a car with a red body and black tires. 
 
A second approach is to use a second (or third or fourth) extruder, each of which can potentially be loaded with a different color. This is increasingly frequently done, but results can be tricky unless all extruders are perfectly aligned.
 
If you really want actual RGB color, you have a couple of more expensive options to consider: One is the 3D Systems CubeJet, which retails for under USD$5,000. It can produce full, RGB color objects using a powder process. However, the objects produced are relatively fragile and require infiltration after printing with various kinds of fixatives. 
  
Another more expensive option is the MCOR Iris, which uses a paper-cutting process to produce full-color objects. Colored patterns are pre-printed on sheafs of regular paper, which then are cut, glued and gradually built into rather strong objects. How strong? We have an MCOR-printed bottle opener that actually works - and it’s made of paper! The Iris costs around USD$40,000, though, so it may be outside your budget. 
 
3D Systems’ new flagship color 3D printer, the ProJet 4500, prints full-color RGB objects using a more advanced powder process that doesn’t require infiltration. It’s available for around USD$70,000. 
 
The new Objet 500 Connex3 from Stratasys can print using ten different 45-color /material palettes. If your color design can fit into one of their palette schemes you can achieve a finely detailed, brilliantly colored print. However, the Connex3 will set you back around USD$350,000. 
 
And that’s about it for color 3D printing options today. 
 

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

+