For the very first time, you can now purchase 3D printer filament that follows NCS color definitions.
Hold on, what is “NCS”?
The Natural Color System is a color model. You probably have heard of other color models, such as RGB (Fabbaloo’s traditional blue is x64B3E9), or Pantone, which is used by Stratasys to ensure color accuracy on their full-color PolyJet systems.
NCS is a completely different model, and it is based on human perception. RGB and other color models are based on physics: blue can be constructed by mixing particular wavelengths of light. NCS instead uses human perception instead of physics, with six elementary colors: black, white, red, yellow, green and blue.
All other colors are composites. Wikipedia explains:
“All other experienced colors are considered composite perceptions, i.e. experiences that can be defined in terms of similarity to the six elementary colors. E.g. a saturated pink would be fully defined by its visual similarity to red, blue, black and white.”
NCS defines a notation style to identify specific colors. For example, NCS S 1040-R20B identifies a color by specifying a hue, nuance, blackness and chromaticness. NCS publishes a swatch of 1950 standard colors that can be used by designers.
You can learn more about NCS colors at this site.
The NCS system is not as widely known as some other more popular color models, but it is used by designers, architects, artists and others.
Now it can be used in 3D printing, too.
Sweden-based Lostboyslab have developed a line of 3D printer filaments that make use of the NCS system. A look through their online shop shows all filaments listed with specific NCS colors. For example, here is a “Medium Grey NCS S 4500-N”:
Obviously Lostboyslab does not have ALL NCS colors, and nowhere close to the 1950 standard NCS colors. But the fact that they list many of their filaments with specific color model identifiers is an industry milestone.
By selecting one of their filaments, you will know precisely what color will visually appear in your prints. That’s a level of confidence unseen in the Wild West of color 3D printer filament sales. Buying a spool months later with the same color specification will ensure you receive exactly the same visual color.
If that’s not enough, the PLA filament offered by Lostboyslab are all made from recycled PLA. The company has partnered with Reflow, a well-known manufacturer of recycled PLA filaments to produce the new filaments.
The new NCS filaments are also made with an unusual matte finish, which causes a unique surface finish on 3D prints, quite unlike the typical shiny surface seen with more common materials.
My wish is that every spool of filament sold came with NCS or similar color specifications. I can’t tell you how many different shades of yellow filament I have at the lab, nor can I tell you which NCS specification they might be. It’s a bit of a color mess, and I’m quite certain I’m not unique in 3D printing.
Color standards for all!