Coloring Your Own 3D Printer Filament

By on September 16th, 2017 in materials

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 Selecting the precise color for your 3D printer filament
Selecting the precise color for your 3D printer filament

There aren’t very many people making their own 3D printer filament, but if you do, you might want to carefully select the color. 

There are few desktop 3D printer filament extrusion systems, simply because it is a rather difficult process. As I’ve written previously, the problem is in the need for highly precise control of temperatures and speeds in order to achieve the quality of filament required for reliable 3D printing. 

That has generally not been achieved by most desktop 3D printer filament machines, which typically don’t even bother to take up the newly extruded filament on a spool, a requirement to maintain quality. 

That said, thew few machines that do present a reasonable chance of producing usable 3D printer filament offer operators a capability few others have: the ability to choose the precise color of the filament. 

In major 3D print filament production lines, coloration is a serious business. Normally the operation acquires at least a full pallet of natural thermoplastic pellets, and a very small amount of colorant. The colorant is precisely mixed into the melt before extrusion, and often is very carefully measured to ensure the same color results on each run. 

Such is the realm of 3D print filament production lines. But wait – it is possible to do your own coloration. All you need is to obtain the necessary colorants.

One source for such colorant is Warlox, a California-based company that produces a “Liquid Color” coloration kit for exactly this process. 

Here’s how it works: on their site you use a standard RGB picker tool to select the precise shade you’re interested in. You can even use a standard color #hex value if you so choose. 

Then they use their proprietary “recipes” to create a vial of liquid colorant for your particular type of plastic. Currently they appear to support ABS, PLA, Polypropylene, Polystyrene, Polyurethane and Nylon. 

At this point you mix the entire contents of the vial with exactly 5kg of your natural-colored thermoplastic pellets in a plastic bag. Agitation will soak the color into the pellets, which are then ready for use in your filament extruder’s input hopper. 

Of course, your filament extrusion system is likely contaminated with the previously used color, and may have to run for a while to clear out old shades. However, Warlox’s system involves water-soluble colors that can be easily cleaned from your equipment before use. 

One vial of selected color is somewhat pricey, at €50 (USD$60), but remember this will color 5kg of filament. A small price to pay to obtain the exact color for your next project. 

Via Warlox

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!