Mar 22, 2016 | By Andre
When I first started researching ColorPod - a 3D printer add-on that converts your everyday low-cost desktop 3D printer into a full colour inkjet cartridge based device - I couldn’t help think of the internet meme Doge. Doge exists as a simple image of a dog surrounded by a colorful splattering of comic sans and Times New Roman infused text comically describing whatever it is the meme contributor is commenting on.
I am reminded of Doge because the ColorPod website looks as if it was designed prior to the release of the Mosaic web browser in 1993 and during an era when Microsoft Paint was the most powerful tool for creating computer graphics.
Yet while the website that presents the ColorPod is as primitive as the demonstration graphics that accompany it, the technology behind the full-color 3D printer that it promotes is anything but. In fact, my jaw was half way through the floor as I gathered information on this inkjet powered 3D printer addition soon to be available for the low-low cost of $350.
Multi-color 3D printing on a budget has traditionally been limited to the reliance on multiple extruder heads swapping between pre-loaded filament spools. This stream of advancing 3D printing is prospering but is ultimately limited to the number of extruders you can fit onto your 3D printer. True full-color 3D printing has only been available on a commercial level through inkjet based 3D printers offered by Z Corp derived 3D Systems technology or by the oft-forgotten 3D printer manufacturer Mcor.
And then there is ColorPod.
This add-on to your every day desktop 3D Printer is based on layers of powder being placed on a print bed followed by a roller flattening the powder followed by your standard CMYK inkjet cartridge depositing ink like it would on a standard 2D document. The platform is then lowered and the process continues after hardening, one layer at a time, just like any 3D printing process out there today.
The device requires two USB ports hooked directly into your computer to run smoothly. One to operate the mechanics of the 3D printer and the other to control the inkjet cartridge and its mechanism. The FDM based nozzle is never actually used but instead acts only as a peripheral host that controls the x-y-z stepper motor positional capabilities needed by the ColorPod.
ColorPod supports standard STL and OBJ 3D model formats and in the simplest terms is a kit that includes a printed circuit board, two motors and of course a 3D printer. Any and all structural components that accompany the device can be 3D printed and the inkjet cartridge is of your standard HP based consumer variety.
The sample prints provided online definitely showcase the full-color promise of the add-on, even if they’re small and relatively simple in form.
One of the more intriguing elements to ColorPod is that it’s been a work-in-progress since the 1990s as is evidenced by the below video and screenshot timestamps.
In the end, just like the recent explosion of low-cost FDM printers on the market today, something like the ColorPod is long overdue. The technology exists and it was only a matter of time before the cost comes down far enough for everyone to be able to produce a seemingly infinite number of full-color 3D Printed selfies will inevitably result with the mass-adoption of this technology.
So in spite of the basic web interface and primitive diagrams provided on the ColorPod website, color me impressed at the potential behind it. The last time a low-cost full-color powder based 3D printer was advertised was by 3D Systems during CES 2014. They promised the Cubejet for under $5,000 but unfortunately the roller coaster ride that was the 3D printing hype machine came to a crashing halt almost immediately afterward its announcement.
My fingers remain crossed that the ColorPod is a realistic answer to anyone hoping to produce their own full-color 3D prints without breaking the bank. If you’re as interested in the ColorPod as I am, I recommend signing up to become a beta tester. Things are set to start rolling by year's end.
Posted in 3D Printer Accessories
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