We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
It seems that 3D Systems has acquired the 3D printer maker botObjects and plans to use that company’s technology for multi-color 3D printing by combining 5 different colored thermoplastic materials. The first full-color 3D printer by 3D Systems that uses FFF/FDM technology to extrude thermoplastic material will be the CubePro C and the device will apparently be on display on CES 2015. botObjects pioneered the first 3D desktop printer using PlasticJet Printing (PJP) that offers true full-color 3D printing, significantly expanding the palette of possibilities for what designers, artists and engineers create, from prototypes to products. botObjects also invented a proprietary 5-color CMYKW cartridge system, capable of mixing primary printing colors on the fly to generate vibrant color combinations and gradient transitions.
The botObjects ProDesk3D will be folded into 3DS’s new CubePro C printer family and deliver a true full-color experience at a price of $4990 USD, so actually not way too affordable for home users. The new CubePro C should be capable of printing down to 25-microns layers at deposition speeds of up to 175 millimeters per second using durable PLA and ABS print materials with PVA support material. Until the company expands its manufacturing capacity, the CubePro C will be available in a limited release, with plans to expand distribution later in 2015 and currently there is no yet official release date set, but that will most likely follow soon.
CubePro C 3D Printer Key Features:
– Full-color, CMYKW Plastic Jet printing with color mixing and gradient color
– Cartridge system mixes colors on the fly
– Material choices include PLA, ABS and PVA soluble supports
– Build volume of 8.25 x 9.25 x 8.25 in. (210 x 235 x 210 mm)
– Compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems
– Layer thickness: 25 microns in HD mode, 100 microns in SD mode, 200 microns in Draft mode
– Print speeds up to three times faster than comparable printers
– Proprietary cartridge systems of individual or multipacks. Multipacks include the CMYKW base colors and PVA dissolvable supports
– Convenient setup with auto-leveling, auto-calibration and an automated print environment
– Simple USB connectivity
– Get the most of your investment with a cartridge recycling program and printer warranty
– Immediate limited release; global release later in 2015
It seems that while the basic specifications will remain the same, the CubePro C 3D printer will come with a lower build volume as compared to what the original design from botObjects promised. Also there is currently no price information about the special color cartridges with filament that the device uses coming form 3D Systems, but a full 6 cartridges with the colors plus a sixth PVA support one was priced at $135.95 USD, so we can expect a similar price. The CubePro C is definitely going to be an interesting option for people that want to have more affordable multi-color 3D printing using device that relies on common thermoplastic materials such as PLA and ABS.
Usually when we talk about affordable 3D printers the lower price does come at the cost of the available build volume you get, or that is true at least for most already assembled devices. If you want a device that has a larger build volume available to be able to print bigger 3D objects, then normally the price literally skyrockets and can go as high as tens of thousands of dollars for the BigRep ONE for example that offers 1.3 cubic meters of build volume. But you can find devices that still offer larger build volume than most of the traditionally available FDM/FFM 3D printers that are not much more expensive than devices that have two times smaller print volume. One such example is the CreatorBot 3D printer that started with a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and apparently is now shipping for the backers of the project. But even if you did not back the project on Kickstarter you can already order the device and have it shipped to you early next year.
The main advantage of the CreatorBot 3D is that it offers a larger print volume than other similar devices in the same price range, with it you are able to print thing at up to 305x305x457mm (12″x12″x18″) size and the price of the base configuration starts at $1595 USD. This includes the CreatorBot 3D with a single extruder, no heated build platform and an open box frame and no WiFi, but you can upgrade the device to get extra features available should you need them or directly go for the Pro package available for $1845 USD that has dual extruders, heated bed and acrylic enclosure and for extra $75 USD you can also get WiFi support. The CreatorBot 3D is made in USA, but it is being shipped worldwide, so you can order it directly from the website of 3D PrinterWorks that are making the device.
With FDM/FFF printers extruding thermoplastic you normally need to have multiple extruders in order to be able to print with multiple colors or materials that all build a single 3D object. If you have just a single extruder you might still be able to print in multiple colors, but the complexity of the printed part should not be that high as you will have to change the filament when a new color is needed. So normally dual extruder printers are the next level of devices that offer wider functionality as they are easy to use with dual color printing or for use with a different material that will be used for printing support material so that it can easily be dissolved for example as a way of removing from the main print. There is however an interesting new solution being worked on at the moment that should allow multi-color printing with a single extruder 3D printer by a Canadian company called Mosaic Manufacturing.
What their device called Mosaic does is to have multiple filaments as input and a single filament as output by using SEEM Technology or Series Enabled Extrusion of Material. What the Mosaic essentially does is to slice the model you want to 3D print and fuse the multiple input filament colors into a single filament with different colored segments that are fed to the 3D printer and thus the printer creates the 3D print with multiple colors from a single extruder. The demo shown on the developer’s website is with two colors, but the technology should be capable of using even more, provided that it does not make the device too expensive. The Mosaic should be affordable way to upgrade your single extruder filament to a multi-color printing device, so it should not cost as much as a dual extruder 3D printer in order for the users to actually choose it.
We are going to keep an eye on the development of the Mosaic devices as it is a really interesting product for owners of single extruder 3D printers that would want to extend the functionality of their thermoplastic extruders. The device should be capable of working with standard filaments (we assume that these are ABS and PLA) and with printers that run on G-Code/X3G. What is the most significant advantage of using a single extruder and single filament with multiple colors is that you should be getting a continuous print, which leaves no opportunity for dripping or oozing, meaning a cleaner and crispier print than when relying on multiple extruders. Unfortunately there is still no information on when we can expect to see the Mosaic device available for order and what will be the expected price, but it will most likely take a few more months at least.