Mar 28, 2017 | By David
As impressive as many 3D printing developments may be, one area where the technology has faced real limitations is color. Initially only conceivable in monochrome, 3D printing saw possibilities open several years ago with the introduction of dual color extrusion methods, while more advanced industrial 3D printers offer more comprehensive color options. Now a new machine has been demonstrated that could finally bring full-color printing to everyday FDM 3D printer users who want to watch out for their wallets.
The Arcus-3D-M2 is a filament-based, FDM (fused deposition modelling) 3D printer that was recently unveiled at the MidWest RepRap Festival. This annual gathering in Goshen, Indiana is one of the largest 3D printing events in the world and sees the latest breakthroughs in 3D printing technology shown off to a crowd of enthusiastic hobbyists. One of these gifted amateurs, Daren Schwenke, had started the Arcus last year as a junkstrap, which is to say he cobbled it together from whatever mechanical parts he had lying around and could make use of. Now the machine is a fully fledged 3D printer that could be the start of a Technicolor revolution.
Arcus-3D-M2's full multicolor 3D printing works by mixing six differently colored filaments together. Much like the spectrum used with color inkjet 2D printing, these filaments are designated C (Cyan), M (Magenta), Y(Yellow), K (Key, i.e. Black) and W (White). Combining these colors in a user-specified ratio gives a huge range of different color options, effectively offering any color imaginable. The results that the Arcus3D has managed to achieve are so far being received with real enthusiasm and excitement.
The Arcus-3D-M2 has a number of unique mechanical and design features. According to Schwenke, the current design is based on the Beaglebone Black dev platform, running a Machinekit velocity extrusion branch. Its hotend extruder feeds six PTFE tubes into a water-cooled assembly that mixes and squirts 1.75 mm filament out of the nozzle, making use of a small brushless motor. The end effector of the hotend is surprisingly light- weighing only about 150 grams. This means its weight isn’t significantly different from any other delta 3D printer currently on the market. The impeller spins at a relatively high speed and is designed such that it also generates it's own extrusion pressure to feed the nozzle, greatly reducing the feed pressure required. This design allows this 3D printer to move very fast, providing a multicolor print in the same amount of time many machines would create a regular monochrome one. The Arcus-3D-M2 also uses a CRAMPS controller board, and its code is available to access remotely.
The entire design of the Arcus 3D is intended to be open-source, except for its most impressive component, the print head itself. Schwenke is still trying to secure protection for his major innovation, his wariness of patent trolls being understandable considering his position as an industry outsider with a unique and highly valuable technique. Once this has been sorted, the project should be ready for commercial release. In terms of how much color you get for your cash, nothing else will be able to compare to the Arcus. When the 3D printer is eventually released to the market it will be priced similarly to other commercial FDM machines, while the handful of other full-color 3D printers out there tend to be at the higher end of the price range. The Arcus-3D-M2 could also be one of the simplest and most effective machines of its type yet seen. Its success so far suggests that we will only see multicolor 3D printing technology improving in the coming years, perhaps looking back at this project as the first in a new wave of accessible machines that bring the full potential of color to the 3D printing masses.
Posted in 3D Printer
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Daren wrote at 4/4/2017 9:22:34 AM:
What was printing on the M2 at MRRF2017 was blending and changing color 3 times per layer, without a prime tower. Note that the three corners of the single wall vase, are three different colors. There is a reason you don't see a demo like that from the RoVa4D.
Bill P wrote at 3/29/2017 10:20:41 PM:
Look up ROVA 4D Full Color 3D printer already funded and should be shipping prototype printers this month.