We’re reading an interesting account of complex color 3D printing on the new 3D Systems ProJet 4500.
Artist Eric van Straaten has long been 3D printing beautiful and strange figurines in full color using 3D Systems’ previous process. That process was acquired by 3D Systems from ZCorp several years ago, and it involved selectively applying a color binder to layers of “mystery powder”. Eventually you’d end up with a build chamber full of powder in which your completed print was buried.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story. The ZCorp technology prints are extremely fragile at that stage. They would have to be very carefully and tediously extracted from the powder bed and then be treated with one of several liquid infiltrates to solidify the object.
The end result is that ZCorp technology is not able to 3D print extremely delicate objects; they’d invariably break during bed extraction.
However, van Straaten has been using a ProJet 4500, which has drastically improved the process. He explains:
The ProJet® 4500 is the new machine from 3D Systems and it works basically the same as the previous ZCorp I use, only the gypsum is replaced by a polymer.The greatest advantage is that the models don't have to be impregnated after the 3D printing but come out of the printer as is. Also, the material is much stronger.
Printing is faster since the infiltration step is lost, but more importantly, much more intricate geometries can be successfully 3D printed. van Straaten’s first experiment (image above) clearly demonstrates this is true. That object could not easily have been attempted with ZCorp technology.
For those of you with access to ProJet technology, you might want to think about printing more interesting items.