Color Printing: A Useful Post-Printing Feature for 3D Print Services?

By on February 9th, 2017 in Ideas

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 A golf ball with curved surface showing precise color prints by Roland
A golf ball with curved surface showing precise color prints by Roland

While wandering the aisles of Solidworks World earlier this week, I came upon a vendor whom I’d spoken with many times previously, and they had some equipment that gave me an idea. 

The company was Roland, makers of a wide variety of making devices. Recently they’ve been marketing small 3D printing / CNC devices, which we’ve written about earlier. They’ve also been developing a SLS-style powder-based 3D printer that’s not yet released. 

I saw a rather large machine in their booth and assumed it was the same SLS device I’d seen previously, but I was entirely incorrect. The device, the VersaUV LEF-200, is a very unusual 2D printer: it can print high resolution color text and images on, well, almost anything that’s flat. For example, you could easily print a very professional looking logo on a ceramic tile. 

The machine is interesting in that it can print 2D on non-flat surfaces as well. Here we see the limits of their capability, which is an image on a golf ball. 

This is all fun, but certainly not 3D printing, nor has it anything to do with 3D printing. 

Or does it? 

I had the notion that a machine like this might be a valuable complement to any existing 3D print service. While some 3D print services merely run your job thru their printers and produce an object, some services provide additional post-printing services, like color dyeing, smoothing or painting. 

But here’s the idea: what if the 3D print service offered high-resolution color 2D surface printing on the printed (and presumably smoothed) 3D object? A color-accurate logo could appear on the side of your object, for example. 

Obviously there would be a number of constraints in this service, as the Roland device cannot print colors on ANY geometry. However, there’s likely a very large number of objects that have at least a portion where images could appear. 

Some applications could include: 

  • Artist signatures, with sequential print numbers
  • Product labeling
  • Fine details accenting the visual appearance of the object
  • Instructional marks, like arrows pointing at a feature
  • Precise coloration beyond that achievable by existing color 3D print processes

And there’s obviously more ideas possible once people start thinking about it. 

The Roland representative thought this might be a good idea. 

So, to those 3D print services who are likely going to get a call from Roland, my apologies! 

Via Roland

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo 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!