Chameleon-Inspired Breakthrough: Researchers Develop Multicolor Resin 3D Printing Method

By on February 21st, 2024 in news, research

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A multicolor resin 3D print [Source: Beckman Institute]

Researchers may have developed a way to perform multicolor resin 3D printing.

Resin 3D printing has been around a long time; in fact the SLA process was the first to be commercialized back in the 1980s. However, in all that time resin 3D printing has only used a single color per job.

That’s because the printing process takes place INSIDE the resin vat. There is easy no way to, for example, swap in another resin tank in mid-print. So we’ve all been printing monocolor resin objects all this time.

However, researchers at the Beckman Institute have developed a unique twist to the printing process that just might enable control over the colors produced during printing.

They used a trick to create color that chameleons use to swiftly change skin colors. Normally color in 3D prints is created through chemical additives. The additives introduce molecules that reflect light in certain frequencies, which create the light you see.

However, there’s another way to create color: by changing the structure of the reflecting surface. This is apparently how chameleons change color, and the researchers realized that something similar could be done in 3D printing.

Their approach is to precisely tune the light source to control how the polymerization occurs. By modulating the light during printing they effectively control the structure of the resulting polymers.

The approach described involves a “direct write” approach, which would involve squirting a flow of resin and immediately exposing it to the variable light source. As the resin solidifies it takes on different colors.

At top you can see a sample item produced using this approach.

The sample seems to have only blue and yellow colors, with some variation between them. However, remember that this is pure research, and the objective here was to prove that this could actually be done.

It can.

The next to take would be to determine what range of colors could be produced using this process. If it is substantial, then this could lead to commercialization.

Eventually this may lead to desktop resin 3D printers that are capable of printing full color objects, which would be an astonishing capability. Those who use resin 3D printers to produce figurines might not require painting ever again.

Via Beckman Institute

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!

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