ZYYX, manufacturers of an interesting desktop 3D printer, have released a video showing a fascinating technique for multi-color printing that you might be able to use.
Their approach makes use of Simplify3D, an excellent third-party slicing program to prepare a multi-color print as well as an upcoming firmware feature for the ZYYX 3D printer. We understand this feature is part of an upcoming firmware upgrade.
At top we see an image of the company’s logo embedded in a fanciful “London Underground” style print. As you can see, the print definitely involves multiple colors.
The approach is to switch colors during printing by pausing the machine’s operation and switching filament. This is accomplished in Simplify3D by using a separate 3D model for each color component. In the above example, four separate models comprise the entire model.
Each separate model is assigned to a different Simplify3D slicing process. You might be wondering how this could possibly work, as you’d think you’d be swapping filament constantly during each layer. Yes, you’ll definitely swap filament, but it’s no where near as arduous as you might imagine.
Simplify3D offers a couple of very useful features that when combined make this approach possible:
- Separate processes isolate activities per color
- Each object can be printed serially instead of simultaneously (now you can see why you’re not switching colors)
- Extra Z-movement is added to ensure collisions don’t occur
Simplify3D then generates the GCODE for this print and you need only swap filament a few times to achieve the result above. Incredible! Don’t believe us? Check this video:
Theoretically you could employ an infinite number of colors using this approach, but obviously there are some practical limitations. One key limitation, according to ZYYX is that it’s really limited to thin models of only 1mm or so difference between the color swap layers. However, even with that constraint you’ll still be able to create some very colorful items.
Can you do this on any 3D printer? Not quite yet, as the pausing mechanism is a feature unique to ZYYX’s new firmware. However, we’re told that they’ve been working with the Sailfish folks who make firmware for a great deal of desktop 3D printers. If they incorporate this feature, then it’s possible many people will be able to print multicolor 3D models in this way.