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

 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

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