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Can 3D Printers Print in Color

Can 3D Printers Print in Color?

Linsey Knerl
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There are few technological advances more impressive than the 3D printer. They offer companies cheaper, faster ways to bring their best ideas to life and have revolutionized industries ranging from health to electronics. One way that they continue to amaze is through color prints. Learn how this technology works and how you can use color 3D printer solutions to make your most imaginative projects even more brilliant.

How do 3D color printers work?

Printing 3D objects with anything more than just a single, solid color was once limited.

Filament

Printers that used filament, for example, required that the filament be switched out with each new color of filament whenever you wanted to change the color design. It was also possible to splice different colors of filament together into one continuous string to initiate the color change, but this took serious advanced planning.

Extrusion

Extrusion printers, which assign a color to each nozzle, have improved this tedious process by allowing a handful of separately tinted materials to be squeezed out at a time. The only downside is that the projects aren’t as precise as some engineers and designers need. It’s also limiting for those who want to work with more colors and want the products made quickly.

Multi-jet

With the invention of HP Multi Jet and Metal Jet printing, it’s now possible to control color like never before. Small particles of the polymer or other build material are tinted individually or combined with a color and binding agent. Then, each piece is jetted onto their exact place in the build. After being cured by exposure to light or another energy, the next layer of jetted particles is put down.
Layer by layer, each small piece of material is tinted or matched with a colored fusing agent and then placed in the 3D product. It’s possible to create intricate, colorful prototypes like never before.
HP 3D color printers can control the coloring of printed parts down to the voxel (3D pixel) level. We use the same color approach that we do in our traditional printers and have mastered the mixing of cyan, magenta, and yellow to create almost infinite color possibilities with fewer materials and less waste.

What makes color better?

While color printing isn’t necessary for every application, no one can dispute that it has a value. From prototyping any product where color will be used in the final project to using color-coding as part of the demonstration, these varying hues help turn ideas to reality. If you’re part of a company that has ever ordered a color prototype in the past, doing your own 3D color printing has huge advantages. It can also protect your intellectual property and sensitive design information by keeping it in-house.
Even if you don’t think you’ll use color printing now, that doesn’t mean you never will. Professional 3D printers that come with color options are just as easy to use as their non-color counterparts. The printing materials used are similar. Plus, there’s no additional tech knowledge needed to get the printer to create the bold colors you may want in a future project.

How can businesses use color 3D printer technology?

As mentioned, prototyping is one of the most popular reasons to use color 3D printing. For those hoping to get a round of funding or who want to pre-sale their product, a true-to-life prototype is essential. People are more likely to invest in something that can see themselves using, and color printing can help get the vision of your product across in a more meaningful way.
As companies strive to differentiate their products, one way to stand out is with bold, new colors. Changing a hue or offering a custom pattern may be the difference between you and the competition. Colorization is a simple way to shake up the market without drastically changing your manufacturing process. For companies who do their manufacturing in-house with 3D printers, it makes sense to consider color as having break-out potential.
Promotional products are another way to harness the power of a bold finished product. Instead of outsourcing the production of branded widgets, why not do it yourself? Many of the items companies use to brand themselves are simple enough to make on your own. With the possibilities of custom colors, you can make sure your promotional items match your style and color specifications perfectly.

What’s a good multi-color 3D printer price?

The market offers a little of everything for these products, starting with less expensive, hobbyist models and progressing to the more advanced, commercial packages. For this reason, it’s best to speak with a rep about the solution that makes the most sense for your unique business needs. They can tell you which printer will meet your immediate demands and help you find the 3D color printer that will grow with your company.
Pricing will vary by product, and it often makes sense to purchase everything from one manufacturer for the best value and ongoing support plan.

The best full-color 3D printer models

If you want performance that can fit into your existing workflow, consider the jaw-dropping capabilities that come from owning your own printers.

HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 printer

The HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 price tag is so reasonable that it’s hard to believe that it features all of these things:
  • Ability to add additional parts while an existing print project is in progress
  • High disk capacity and added memory
  • Up to 65% lower cost per part than the average cost of other fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers
  • Ability to control physical and functional properties at each point in a part
The HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 printer can take your idea all the way from design to colorful prototype. It is also compatible with a post-processing solution to incorporate color after the print process has completed. Coloring systems are available for dye finishing of the HP Jet Fusion 3D-printed products, and these may be a good choice if you want to create large batches of a single-color finished 3D product with a custom hue.

HP Jet Fusion 580 color 3D printer

Another option is the HP Jet Fusion 580 color 3D printer, which can produce up to 100 parts or prototypes per week. It’s a more compact printer and offers a user-friendly alternative to more complicated printing systems. The processes of mixing, loading, printing, and reclaiming for reuse are all done within the same machine and without any need for you to touch the materials.
A cleaner system with less mess or fuss, the HP Jet Fusion 580 Color 3D printer offers the voxel-level control businesses want with software anyone can manage. Design, prototype, and create the finished product with the same machine. It’s perfect for companies who don’t have the time or money to have someone else do the work.

Your color, your way

Whether you choose to print in color or tint your product afterward, you no longer have to settle for monochrome parts that look like they were outsourced by someone else. You’ll know the color actually looks good by seeing it firsthand - no more color mismatches! - and you’ll save time by handling everything yourself.
The next time someone asks you, “Can 3D printers print in color?” the answer can be a resounding, “Yes.” The future of 3D printing, in all of its bold and colorful possibilities, is here and it’s available for businesses of all sizes to take advantage of during every stage of the creative process. From prototyping to production, you’ll have more options than ever before thanks to these innovative 3D printers.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.

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