Dec 3, 2015 | By Tess

3D printing technology has, over the course of recent years, become increasingly accessible, with 3D files being available for download, and desktop 3D printers being introduced at lower and lower costs. Some aspects of the technology, however, such as multi-colored additive manufacturing have remained complicated, expensive, and only accessible to a few industry professionals. This may all begin to change, however, as Apple has recently begun to investigate the development of color 3D printers.

Earlier today, a patent application submitted by Apple was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that outlines Apple’s research into developing a 3D printer capable of full color additive manufacturing. The patent application, called “Method and apparatus for three dimensional printing of colored objects,” could potentially be a huge step in advancing 3D printing technologies, and if it the research comes to fruition, we could one day see Apple introducing 3D printing technologies into the mainstream.

Currently, the standard consumer 3D printers that are available on the market are only capable of 3D printing in one color of filament, with the possibility of switching out filament colors at the risk of the object being manufactured. What Apple proposes in their patent application is the use of two print heads, one to deposit and layer materials like a standard 3D print head, and another to apply color to the print.

The patent includes various possible iterations for this method, such as having the print heads aligned with each other in parallel, or having the color head on a separate support, detached from the material print head. In terms of applying the color, the Apple patent has laid out several possibilities as well, which include the material print head depositing a layer followed by the color print head coming in to add a layer of color over it, and an alternate process where the entire object is 3D printed before being followed by the color applicator head which would move around the object to paint it.

The possibilities for applying color in the patent include several methods such as inkjet technology, spray nozzles, airbrushes and multicoloured markers as well as alternative coloring processes which consist of adding color after the 3D object has been sanded or finished.

Of course, for the moment we do not know whether Apple will actually develop and bring a 3D printer capable of color printing to the market anytime soon, but certain parts of the patent do suggest that practical applications of the developing technology have been considered.

The patent states the following, “Using this process, a 3D object which includes multiple colors can be created efficiency. This increases versatility of objects that can be printed by a 3D printer and extends the use to more everyday objects. For example, toys could be printed using such a printer at home.”

The patent, which was initially filed in May 2014, was based on work done by Howard A. Miller and Geoffrey Stahl, Apple’s Director of Games and Graphics Software Engineering, who is responsible for many of the iOS and OS X technologies.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer

 

 

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breck lewis wrote at 12/8/2015 3:50:10 PM:

That is so cool that the new 3D printers can now do it in full color. This used to be the biggest flaw in 3D printing, but now it is going to take off very fast. I bought a 3D printer the a couple of months ago and I really wished I would have waited for the new one that can do it in color. I'm I able to trade in my old one in order to buy the new one at apple?

Dave J wrote at 12/4/2015 5:10:18 PM:

"Currently, the standard consumer 3D printers that are available on the market are only capable of 3D printing in one color of filament" So Apple want to patent dual, triple and quad head printers?? Sorry Apple, it's already been done.... seems, like with the Iphone, your new tech is always OLD tech repackaged. Lastly, the coloring.... sorry again... this too has been done. Must suck to keep reinventing the WHEEL! Anyoine know how to notify the patent agency to let them know this "idea" is already out there, and their patent should NOT be honored or given.

Sam wrote at 12/4/2015 4:36:36 PM:

That is only patent application. Now is time to let USPTO to know that these are already "done and been there" methods to color 3D objects.

Scott wrote at 12/4/2015 2:00:34 PM:

They now have a patent on painting a 3D printed object? "as well as alternative coloring processes which consist of adding color after the 3D object has been sanded or finished"

Scott wrote at 12/4/2015 1:50:04 PM:

Sounds like they just recived a patent on painting a 3D print. "as well as alternative coloring processes which consist of adding color after the 3D object has been sanded or finished"

Makernot wrote at 12/4/2015 1:32:47 PM:

Hmm. Apple 'innovation'. Pirx already tried a similar method also.

H. Scholten wrote at 12/4/2015 9:57:10 AM:

So Apple filed for the broadest possible patent without really producing anything. This is not helping 3D printing, this is stopping it's development.

Kikai labs wrote at 12/4/2015 1:08:29 AM:

Wow, like this? http://kikailabs.com.ar/knowledgebase/kikai-labs-develops-new-low-cost-method-for-coloring-fdm-objects/ Guess now we are patent infringers?

Kikai labs wrote at 12/4/2015 1:07:22 AM:

Wow, like this? http://kikailabs.com.ar/knowledgebase/kikai-labs-develops-new-low-cost-method-for-coloring-fdm-objects/ Guess now we are patent infringers?



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