Dutch 3D printer material mastermind colorFabb has introduced something quite revolutionary: color on demand.
While there are many outlets selling 3D printer filament today, the choice of color is always restrictive. Even when ordering “Red” from a vendor and re-ordering it later you may be surprised to find that the shade of “Red” is slightly different due to different conditions of the subsequent manufacturing batch.
But then, what if you didn’t want “Red” but instead required a wine-colored red? What if you need a very specific color, say to match your company’s official color scheme?
Until now you’re basically out of luck. You’d have to find something close in color, and hope for the best. Or you may just get gray colored filament and paint the print afterwards.
Now that’s changed with colorFabb’s new “Color On Demand” feature. It’s not quite a full service, but it is very interesting.
But first, let’s talk a bit about color, which can be quite elusive: it depends on many things, such as lighting conditions, surface texture and reflectivity, etc. You cannot guarantee accurate color representation on computer monitors, either, as the display hardware can differ slightly.
Those who deal in color precision, graphic artists, need a way to intelligently and consistently describe colors, and they do so through standards. Standards can be used to exchange the exact color between parties with confidence.
There are several systems of color standards, with the best known being the Pantone standard. This is a series of named colors that all participants agree to, and is commonly used in graphic development.
Another lesser known standard is RAL, based on a German invention from the Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung (Imperial Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance) in 1927. There are now several groups of RAL color standards, with the most popular being “RAL Classic”, which contains 210 standard colors. You can see the full list of them here.
Now colorFabb has begun a “matching process” on the RAL Classic colors. In other words, they are slowly determining the precise color mixing recipe for each specific RAL Classic color. This means they are gradually building a catalog of high-quality PLA filaments that do precisely match each of the RAL Classic colors, and you can order them.
If colorFabb has not yet matched the RAL Classic color you require, they will do so “on demand”. This will require a minimum order of only a single 2kg spool! Once matched, they then add this RAL Classic color to their expanding catalog.
The RAL Classic colors are used mostly in Europe, but colors are colors and they work everywhere. You may find the color you want in the new colorFabb catalog and be assured that it will be exactly the same every time you order it.
ColorFabb, as you would expect, places a premium price on these filaments. For an on-demand 2kg spool, they charge €75 (US$86 or US$43/kg). For previously matched RAL Classic colors, they charge €33 (US$38) for a 1kg spool.
This is incredible news for those seeking color precision, something that has been sorely lacking in 3D printing ever since the technology has been introduced.
Now I’m wondering when colorFabb will take on Pantone, with its list of thousands of colors. However, due to Pantone LLC’s licensing requirements, that may be never.