One of the few flaws of additive manufacturing is that the ability to print in multiple colors simultaneously isn’t yet widely available. It should come as no surprise that the AM manufacturers are working on this problem. Quality 3D prints in multiple colors would be valuable for everything from rapid prototyping to end-use products.
One attempt to solve this dilemma is being undertaken by Hyrel 3D, a small company that is looking for funding via that new machine of innovation: Kickstarter. Hyrel is in the process of designing a material extrusion system with a three-color print head. The colors will be green, blue and red.
The proposed system will mix the colors, during a print, to create full-color objects. For technology literate people, mixing red, green and blue to produce different colors should sound familiar. The RGB model has been used for many years to create colors in TV screens and computer monitors.
Hyrel 3D reached (and surpassed) its Kickstarter goal, so it will be interesting to see if the company can actually produce what it has promised. Full color 3D printing is an ambitious project, particularly when you add the promise of control over opacity, texture and shading to the mix. To this point, no small company has even managed to build a multiple color AM system that operates with any amount of reliability.
It should be noted that the ZPrinter 650, from 3D Systems, is already capable of printing in full color (and was used on the set of ParaNorman), but the purchase price is prohibitive for many businesses. Hyrel says it is is looking to price its printer in the $5,000 range, making it more easily accessible to small business.
If this project succeeds, other companies are bound to take notice and follow suit. Manufacturing 3D printers is a competitive business, and it seems unlikely that bigger companies will sit back and watch potential customers spend money elsewhere without offering a similar product.
Below you’ll find the original Kickstarter video for Hyrel 3D.