Mosaic Manufacturing has partnered with LulzBot to permit use of the Palette multi-color filament splicer on selected 3D printers.
The Palette (currently version 2) is a fascinating device that enables multi-color 3D printing on devices that are designed only for a single material. This is accomplished through an ingenious mechanism that creates a custom filament on the fly.
The idea is that the material coming out of the nozzle would have to switch materials at specific points in the print job. This would ensure the right material is deposited in the right place at the right time. Other multi-color 3D printing approaches would use techniques such as shifting in a separate hot end with the new material ready to print, pulling out and replacing the filament within the same hot end, “inking” the filament as it passes by, or mixing colors in a multiple-input nozzle.
The Palette does none of that, and its process is quite ingenuous. Their software examines the toolpath to determine exactly when color switches are to take place. Then it instructs the Palette to literally cut and splice different filaments together to form a unified single filament composed of multi-colored segments. The lengths of these segments correspond exactly to the amount required for each color’s deposition.
Then the 3D printer simply prints this unified filament as if it were a single color, but the result is actually multi-color. Amazing!
Since the Palette is a device entirely separate from the 3D printer itself, which only “sees” the unified filament, it is theoretically possible to use the Palette on virtually any filament-based 3D printer. They say they support over one hundred different 3D printers, and I don’t doubt it.
Except for one thing.
The Palette is designed to handle 1.75mm filament; its internal pathways and filament cutting instruments are all designed for thin filament.
This implies they cannot support the few 3D printers that use 2.85mm filament.
I’m not a fan of 2.85mm filament due to its rigidity, but it is used by several 3D printer manufacturers that I presume need the rigidity of thicker filament to ensure their Bowden-style extruders are able to successfully push the material all the way to the hot end. On the other hand, I’m using three 1.75mm Bowden devices as I write this story, so that’s really not a reason anymore.
Nevertheless, some 3D printer companies do continue to manufacture devices using 2.85mm filament. One brand that uses that format is LulzBot, which recently changed ownership. They’ve used 2.85mm filament from the very beginning.
But wait, how could LulzBot equipment use the Palette?
LulzBot Palette 2S Pro Kit
That’s exactly what the news is about. The two companies have partnered together to offer a way to do exactly that. You can now purchase a Palette 2S Pro Kit from LulzBot that will enable the LulzBot Mini 2, TAZ Workhorse and TAZ Pro 3D printers to use the multi-color system.
But how? How can a 1.75mm filament be used in a 2.85mm 3D printer? It turns out it is possible. Mosaic Manufacturing explains:
“The LulzBot Adaptor allows select 2.85mm LulzBot printers to print reliably with 1.75mm filament. The adaptor can be installed or removed in less than 20 minutes and doesn’t require any permanent changes or modifications to your printer.”
And indeed this is the case. The Kit includes an “Adaptor kit and instructions to make your factory LulzBot tool head compatible with 1.75mm filament.”
I don’t think this is a signal that future LulzBot equipment might shift to using 1.75mm filament anytime soon, but I suppose anything could happen.
Anyone with one of the aforementioned LulzBot devices can now consider acquiring a multi-color accessory, currently at a cost of US$999.