If you ask a 4 year old how to make a 3D printer print in colour, they might yell, “Just colour it with markers!” At the recent Inside 3D Printing conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil; Argentinian 3D printer manufacturer, Kikai Labs, has done just that, yielding quite a novel solution to the problem of colorization for entry level 3D printers.
For the time being, the best printing technologies for achieving a range of colours are 3D Systems’ ProJet line, Stratasys’ Connex3 or 3D paper printing from Mcor. These machines, however, are generally expensive. Desktop FDM/FFF machines are much cheaper, but only achieve a layered multi-colour effect.
That doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried to expand colour capabilities for desktop machines. BotObjects claims to melt a series of CMYK filaments as they enter into the extruder and mix them together. There is also RichRap’s tie-dying methodology for multi-colours. And, of course, there’s the old fashioned method of hand painting a print after it’s completed.
Ruiz Camauer and his team at Kikai have come up with a low-cost method for colouring their prints, which meets BotObjects and hand painting half-way. They’ve attached sharpies to their printhead, using a specially designed adapter, and programmed their printers to colour objects layer by layer.
As the company remains open source, it’s possible that, in the future, you might be able to download the software and hardware to make your RepRap capable of this form of ‘colour printing’. At the event in Brazil, Kikai stated that it will be offering the colouring device as an accessory to their new line of 3D printers. The company says it is still refining the technique, making improvements to the hardware and software.