A full color 3D print [Source: OVE]
I’m looking at a new color 3D printing process from OVE.
OVE is yet another Polish 3D printing company, where so many 3D printing startups have flourished. They’ve developed a device that can 3D print objects in full, textured RGB color, and there’s only a few alternatives that can do so.
We listed the current state of color 3D printing a while ago, and if you read that story, you’ll see there really are not that many ways to do it.
I should explain here that I am not talking about “spot color”, where a machine can print in two or a small handful of fixed colors. Instead I am talking about devices that can print a complete color gamut and thus be able to easily produce gradients, photographic-level imagery, etc.
OVE 3D Printer Development
A full color 3D printer [Source: OVE]
OVE has been working on the device for almost five years now, and their process is incredibly straightforward. I am surprised no one figured this out before. (Of course someone will inevitably point out a previous attempt at this that I’m unaware of.)
They use Memjet color printing technology, which is well known in the 2D printing industry. It’s a technology for high speed, digital, full color printing. This is the technology you would see being used to print tens of thousands of coupons in a few hours, for example. According to Memjet’s site, their single pass digital solution holds 70,400 nozzles in a 1600 dpi device. This can print in any color by mixing the four input inks appropriately.
OVE Color 3D Printing Process
OWE’s full color 3D printer showing “regular” 3D printing on the right and Memjet color application on the left [Source: OWE]
How does OVE use Memjet technology? Basically they have built a standard filament-powered thermoplastic device that extrudes objects layer by layer, as is done in countless other devices. However, after each layer the entire print platform is rapidly shifted to the side where it travels under the Memjet printhead.
This maneuver applies coloration to the outside edge of the object. As the object builds up, the exterior surface patina grows as well, leading to a fully colored object at the conclusion of the print job. One observer described this as a “fast and collision-free process”.
This is a similar, but different approach, to how the now-defunct Mcor Technologies’ Arke device made color: they pre-printed paper sheets with the edge’s coloration, then used those sheets to be layered together to form the object. Thus, we know that this approach generally works from a technical standpoint.
Full color 3D printed tooth model [Source: OWE]
From the images and videos provided to us by OVE it appears they are using a somewhat transparent filament material. This might allow some coloration to be applied slightly inside of the exterior layer and still be seen. It does result in the prints being slightly glossy.
The glossy print is similar to XYZprinting’s color devices, but seemingly with greater color resolution. That’s likely due to the massive number of inkjet nozzles on the Memjet printhead.
OVE 3D Printer Specifications
OVE has not provided 3D printer specifications to us, so we can’t say specifically the size of the build volume, for example. However, they do describe the device as an “A4 printer”. A4 is a standard metric printed paper size, somewhat taller than the North American 8.5×11” size. A4 dimensions are 210 x 297 mm, suggesting that would be the X and Y dimensions of the OVE device. We don’t know about the Z axis, but it’s likely between 150-250mm, based on a look at the machine’s exterior.
The company will of course provide software to drive the device, and it will allow for preparation of full color 3D models, unlike most slicing software. Here you can see a screenshot of the system:
Software to prepare 3D models for color 3D printing [Source: OVE]
OVE Color 3D Printer Pricing
Pricing for the device is said to be priced at “less than 10K Euros” (US$11K). That’s a lot for a filament 3D printer, but actually quite a bit less than alternative full color options, which can be priced up to US$500K.
The company intends on showing the machine to the public this fall at formnext, when they will also open up pre-orders.