Color 3D printing has long been a challenge and few manufacturers produce color capable gear. Stratasys has taken a step towards full color 3D printing by demonstrating a 3D printed color gradient.
These days there are really only two choices for full, RGB-color 3D printing: MCOR’s Iris paper-powered machine and 3D Systems’ ProJet x60 series of powder process 3D printers. The rest of the manufacturers are stuck with what one might call “Spot Color”, where specific portions of the model have specific colors.
In the current Stratasys Connex coloration model, a 3D model is subdivided into a collection of independent “shells”, each of which is a solid, watertight object on it’s own. They just happen to be adjacent to each other to form the complete model. Then their software permits you to select a color from a Connex3 color palette.
This style of color is useful for many applications, but not for complex color patterns and textures, many of which can mimic real life and provide a much more realistic-looking print.
Now we find Stratasys has been working with Adobe to enable a slightly more advanced form of coloration: from within Adobe Creative Cloud, you’ll be able to select gradients of color to be assigned to the subdivided model sections. In this way you can print a more interesting colored model as shown above in the jetliner print.
Is this the ultimate in color processing? Certainly not, but it is a step towards something a lot better. It seems to us that the Connex3 technology, along with other “spot color” processes from other manufacturers, needs a lot of software assistance to transform true RGB color models into printable form.
But this does show that software giants such as Adobe are interested in helping solve the software problems in processing color for 3D printing. Hopefully more advanced features will soon emerge.