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Being able to create a colorful 3D prototype with 3D printing technology is one of the coolest things. For many years, colorful 3D prints could only be created with high-end color 3D printers which are really expensive. However, with the rapidly developing 3D printing industry of today, there are more options provided to 3D print objects in color.
In this article, let’s explore options with a lower cost like SLS and FDM prototyping services, as well as the more expensive options like PolyJet.
Use Color Kit Resin To Make A Colorful 3D Prototype
Generally, SLA resins are only available in several colors. Do not know about SLA printing, expand your knowledge >>>> SLA vs. SLS: Which to Use for Prototyping. Such limitation in the color selection makes SLA printing an inappropriate option for designers who want to create a 3D prototype that is visually the same as their final product.
However, things have been changed with the release of Color Kit to the markets. Color Kit starts as a purely white resin and then multiple colors like Cyan, Black, Magenta, and Yellow are added into thereby offering different color selections.
Create A Colorful 3D Prototype Using Filament Swapping
Filament swapping is a process in FDM prototyping services (>>>> Rapid Prototype Process Guide: What Is FDM Prototyping Service). It allows different colors to be used in different printing layers. The process can be done by most FDM printers and the procedures are as following:
1. Pause the printer when you need to change the color;
2. Raise up the nozzle by about 20mm;
3. Remove the existing filament and extrude the new filament;
4. When the color is changed, remove the extruded filament;
5. Resume the nozzle to the previous position;
6. Start the printer again.
Filament swapping is great for printing colorful items like logos and plaques. With this method, the bottom layer of the 3D print is of a single color. And then the color is changed in the following layers. The printing procedures are repeated but can be challenging to get done perfectly. Professional FDM prototyping services can help you get perfect colorful 3D prints if you are lack experience in FDM printing.
Filament Dyeing Also Helps Create A 3D Prototype
The most common materials used in FDM printers such as ABS, ASA, and PLS are available in several dozens of colors. In FDM printing, the color of the filament is the color of printed objects. If there is no filament with the exact color you need, some post-processing methods can be applied, for example, filament dyeing.
Similar to filament swapping, filament dyeing also allows different layers to be colored differently thereby creating a multi-color 3D prototype. This method works best when nylon filament is used. Nylon is well-known for its capability of absorbing moisture thereby easier to dye. Here are procedures of nylon filament dyeing:
1. Make the nylon filaments into circular coils or simply wind them up;
2. Boil the water and choose the wanted color(s) of dye; then mix the boiling water with the dye. Make sure to remove any lumps from the mixture.
3. Add nylon filaments into the mixture and let it soak about half an hour. Then, take out the nylon and rinse it first in warm water next in color water until all excess dye is removed.
4. After the nylon filaments are completely dyed, put them into the oven which is heated to 149 Celsius for 4 hours. The temperature varies from the specific filaments you use.
5. Let the baked nylon cool for several minutes. And then it is ready for printing.
Using this method, a 3D prototype with fascinating features can be created. However, you will have little control over where the color is placed on the printed object.
Make A Colorful 3D Prototype With PolyJet
Using SLA & FDM prototyping services to print prototypes in color, potential errors and uncertainties exist, more or less. If your colorful 3D prints require delicate changes in color, some specialized multi-color 3D printing technology like PolyJet can be a preferred option.
PolyJet is a process in which small droplets of photopolymer resin are "jetted" onto an object and then cured under ultraviolet light. Some PolyJet printers can print a full-color 3D prototype by coloring the droplets before deposition. They can print parts in vivid colors utilizing any combination of flexible, rigid, transparent, or opaque materials in a wide variety of textures and finishes. They can also print parts with high dimensional accuracy of +/- 0.1 % to be printed.
Its ability to create highly complex and high resolution realistic multicolor prototypes makes it popular in many industries, such as in the science fiction film making. However, PolyJet 3D printed parts lack the strength of FDM printed parts. They are also vulnerable to sunlight and heat, meaning that they can creep over time.
At present, we are in the early stage of multicolor 3D printing. As 3D printing technology continues to advance, in the near future, we will print the full-color 3D prototype more efficiently and most economically.
Want to create multicolor 3D prints? SLA & FDM prototyping services are a more economical solution while PolyJet offers more vivid and subtler colors at a higher cost. If you have any questions about your multicolor print project, please contact our customer service.