Color 3D printing

Imagine exploring the human heart, rich in deep red hues and intricate details previously only seen in textbooks. Envision exact replicas of buildings and even entire city blocks and neighborhoods in miniature, replete with requisite red fire hydrants and vivid, green lawns. And even better, for millions of gaming enthusiasts, consider the possibility of bringing fantastical characters to life–whether defined by perfect complexions and thick, swept-back hair or ruddy faces and five o’clock shadows–decked out in an array of costumes and colorful capes.

From 3D printed medical models and sophisticated architectural displays and accompanying infrastructure, to out-of-this-world fun in creating robust tabletop gaming miniatures, High Definition Full Color is the type of material engineers and designers have been waiting for. No matter the application or product, color plays a huge part in 3D design, elevating style and the ability to make a dramatic statement, along with delineating different products responsible for specific tasks like sensors. Previsualization of models is easier with High Definition Full Color and exact color matches are available for all 3D printed products.

Multi-Color 3D Printing: The History Behind it All

3D printing finds its origins in the type of innovation that doesn’t come around very often, but when it does it is usually steeped in some sort of need; after all, few of us are motivated to spend hours and late nights working on an invention that isn’t meant to be incredibly beneficial to workflow–or even the world in general. In the beginning, that need behind 3D printing was a simple one: to speed up workflow in product development.

Rapid prototyping is still one of the greatest benefits in 3D printing, allowing Shapeways customers to iterate to their heart’s content. The product development process may involve creating five iterations and then moving on to manufacture functional parts–or well over a hundred iterations may be necessary to production of a complex, high-performance product. 

From advanced technology to advanced materials and resources, it’s safe to say that Shapeways has progressed to the point of manufacturing parts for the applications of today and tomorrow; however,  when it comes to color 3D printing, exponentially so. Designers are no longer limited to just basic white or clear or a handful of monochromatic options. Today, over ten million color options are available with High Definition Full Color. 

Manufacturing of industrial parts and color have always gone together but that doesn’t mean it has been easy–and especially in the more rudimentary days of 3D printing. From simple hues to intensive dyeing of parts in post-processing, the additive manufacturing industry has always been focused on aesthetics, and at the bare minimum, designers without any other options have been willing to devote hours to meticulous hand painting. There’s no reason to make additive manufacturing any more difficult these days, however. There’s no reason to operate from a blank or transparent slate–and there’s no reason to walk away with parts that have the potential to become faded out or yellowed.

High Definition Full Color is proof of the full evolution of color and multi-color in additive manufacturing, transitioning into luxurious photorealism available directly from the print bed. Emerging from Mimaki technology and Material Jetting on the 3DUJ-553, High Definition Full Color demonstrates the continued graduation from excellence in 2D–passing the torch to the next dimension–and to a new generation of designers not afraid to take risks in pushing the limits of innovation.

Blog CTA image

High Definition Full Color–Details and 3D Printing Design Guidelines 

This material offers vast new possibilities in the number of hues available, but incredible shading and contrast accompany High Definition Full Color too. This means that companies designing for multi-color 3D printing can also look forward to incorporating much finer detail with intense gradients and surface textures that did not exist before. And while adding color may be one of the last options considered in 3D printing, it remains no less important, available in standard and matte finish, with the ability to coat final parts as desired.

For each design, bounding box minimums and maximums are outlined. The bounding box is a 3D imaginary outline of a box that encloses the smallest area occupied by a 3D model. It must be within the minimum and maximum bounding box sizes. If the size of the model is close to the maximum bounding box, then the printing orientation will be restricted.

Bounding box requirements for High Definition Full Color:

  • Bounding Box Min
    • 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 mm
  • Bounding Box Max
    • 495 x 495 x 300 mm

Explore specific design guidelines further here.

Understanding the Technology Behind High Definition Full Color

A derivative of inkjet technology, Material Jetting (MJ) relies on eight tiny nozzles, also known as piezoelectric printheads, to deposit resin droplets on the print bed. Immediately cured via UV light, the materials continue to be jetted onto the print bed layer by layer until the 3D printed part and any support structures are complete. Multiple nozzles are responsible for delivering quality, intricate parts, and manufacturing unique structures whether they are multi-material, multi-color, or both. 

Important features include:

  • Greater efficiency in production
  • Precision in parts
  • Incredibly fine details
  • Excellence in color and resolution

Building on their well-known name in the 2D inkjet industry, in 2017 Mimaki began selling the 3DUJ-553, featuring a build volume of 508 x 508 x 305. Still serving as their flagship hardware, the 3DUJ-553 offers seven different droplet sizes for High Definition Full Color–and with four different modes:

  • High Quality
  • Standard
  • High Speed
  • Special Mode

3D prints are possible on the larger scale, with some as tall as 20 inches. Interior and exterior strength of parts are the same, but only the outer portion of the structure features color. High Definition Full Color 3D prints are jetted with pigmented resin, featuring a mix of white and clear within each center.

While the ability to bring tabletop gaming characters to life like never before is a huge accomplishment in terms of multi-color 3D printing, even more so is the ability to expand on medical models, using them on every level in terms of diagnostics and treatment, and education and training. Used as prototypes and models for numerous other applications and important presentations, businesses can expect better communication with potential clients, promoting improved communication, fast feedback, and streamlined product development overall.

About Shapeways

Enjoy the benefits of this advanced technology and a wide range of materials from Shapeways for 3D printing your creations with accuracy, complex detail, and no minimum or limits in terms of mass customization or single part orders. Shapeways has worked with over 1 million customers in 160 countries to 3D print over 21 million parts! Read about case studies, find out more about Shapeways additive manufacturing solutions, and get instant quotes here.