Apr. 21, 2015 | By Alec
While the 3D printing community is filled with promising start-ups preparing interesting and possibly even revolutionary products, few have been so intriguing as Mosaic. Since the summer of 2014, this team of Canadian entrepreneurs have been working on a product that should be able to bring multi-color 3D printing to standard FDM 3D printers, but without all the negative consequences that usually accompany it. And now the long wait is finally over. Their signature product, now named The Palette, has completed its R&D process and the company has just launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign today.
The concept for The Palette grew out of the 2014 enterprising course Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII) at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. In this four-month program, teams of students planned, developed and prepared innovative start-up plans, culminating in a final pitch to a panel of professors and industry representatives. All plans were developed with $2500 in seed money, all of them aiming at a $40,000 first prize that would allow them to further build their business. One of the members of the team that would become Mosaic, Mitch Debora, had already started a 3D printing company of his own and convinced the others of his ideas for a new multi-color 3D printing approach. The initial concept they developed won first prize in the QSII, and the team (now also including Chris Labelle, Heather Evans, Derek Vogt and Chris Nooyen), has been working on a marketable product ever since.
Now we come across interesting 3D printing projects that promise fantastical creations all the time, but Mosaic’s The Palette really seems to deliver on everything it has promised months ago. At its heart is a machine that seeks to do away with the typical downsides of multi-color 3D printing. For currently, updating your FDM 3D printer to 3D print in multiple colors means adding additional extruders to your printer. Unfortunately, this means sacrificing build space and speed; the latter due to the extra weight you are adding to the 3D printer. Now this would be acceptable if it wasn’t for the most invasive problem this brings to your 3D printing projects: the dreaded ooze. As all extruders are filled with molten filament, they start dripping as soon as you switch from extruder number one to extruder number two. This results in plastic drippings all over your print, giving it an extremely unprofessional and ugly appearance.
The Palette solves these problems through a very simple solution: mix the filament before it reaches the extruder. That way, a single extruder can be used and oozing can be easily avoided. To achieve this, The Palette is an add-on typical 3D printing set up that is capable of combining multiple colors into a single production line. This piece of hardware is effectively fusing up to four lines of differently colored filament into one single, multi-colored strand. ‘The Palette lets you build an unprecedented range of creations on the 3D printer you already own. The ability to print with up to four colors, or materials with different properties, lets your printer move beyond creating simple, single color plastic objects. Everything is done automatically, from the order of the filaments, to their exact length, to make sure every color shows up exactly where it should! All you have to do is go through the simple setup sequence, and print like you normally would!’ they write on their Kickstarter page.
To appeal to the diverse landscape that is the 3D printing community, The Palette is set to function with just about any brand of FDM 3D printer that runs on G-Code/X3G and uses open 1.75 mm filament (which most do). Simply plug it in, and you're ready to print. 'If you can use a 3D printer, then you can build high quality color creations with The Palette. You can skip the upgrade cycle of buying an expensive printer, keep using your favorite slicer, and use whatever filament supplier you want!’ they write.
And it really looks that simple – design and slice your files as you normally would, but run it through the Mosaic app before printing. ‘Our app gives you the modified .gcode/.x3g file for your printer, and the .SEEM file for The Palette! You put the .gcode/.x3g file onto your printer, the .SEEM file onto your Palette and hit print,’ they explain. The printer will do the rest. But to ensure that the two machines are always on the same page, the Canadian developers have even built a safeguard into to the system through a series of checkpoints that are inserted into the .gcode/.x3g file. ‘The Palette reads these checkpoints, and if the buffer is shifting, the Palette makes adjustments to the upcoming lengths of filament to ensure every piece of filament goes back to being perfectly synced!’ Software and firmware is also set to be released as open-source to enable community-driven improvements.
Now all this sounds great and ideas for interesting prints are already flashing through my head, but the Mosaic team have already shared a brilliant example of what can be achieved. For, as they explain, this setup is also ideal for incorporating today’s many exotic filaments into your projects: ‘you can add in many of today’s exotic filaments, like Conductive, Carbon Fiber Infused, Stainless Steel Infused and Woodfill, just to name a few.’ Of these, the conductive filament probably has the most potential, as it can be used to 3D print simple electronics, such as the flashlight above. 3D printed using regular PLA and special conductive filament, the wiring for the electronics is effectively embedded into the plastic during building – something that can be used for all manner of interesting robotic 3D printing projects.
Now if you want to get onboard with this very interesting machine, you can head over to Kickstarter here now. Through it, Mosaic hopes to raise $75,000 Canadian (or about $61,000 in US currency). As of writing, The Palette Early Birds ($599 and $749 CAD) all gone on Kickstarter, but you can still get The Palette for $849CAD. Shipping is projected to start in January 2016.
Posted in 3D Design
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