Dec 19, 2017 | By Andre

With the constant barrage of desktop 3D printers hitting the market just about every day I sometimes wonder why so many people try to reinvent the wheel (often with the same wheel). But then I realize that with the globalized, interconnected world that we live in, the answer is that every pocket of the planet is giving it their best shot at pushing the 3D printing envelope forward that extra little bit.

So even though 3D printing technology doesn’t seem to be moving fast enough to those tracking the news on a daily basis, the truth of the matter is a whole lot has happened in the space in the last few years and this connected and this growing worldwide phenomenon has everything to do with so many tinkerers and experts alike trying to revolutionize how 3D printing is seen.

Take Hong Kong’s Nixtek Limited’s Tomato 3D printer for example. It promises 10 micron layer resolution, intuitive on-board controls, a cutting edge ceramic glass build surface and a four color mixing chamber that is central to setting it apart from the competition.

And while its true most of the above has been seen in other 3D printers in the past, the “chromatic” color mixing process certainly has that element of newness that any 3D printer manufacturer trying to separate itself in this world would be proud of.

By using a four filament system, the claim is that they are able to mix CMYK based colours (similar to how traditional paper based printing works) using a built-in mixing chamber to produce the perfect mix before being extruded out onto the build tray.

This is something that has been tried with varying levels of success for years. Full colour printing for low-cost FDM printers can very easily be seen as the holy grail insofar as expanding 3D printer adoption to the next level. Unfortunately, from what I see on the company’s gallery, I am hesitant to suggest the Tomato 3D printer is going to hit the mark.

The prints look clean and sharp, just as one would expect for a $1,300 - $1,900 (USD) unit but there isn’t a lot of convincing evidence to support the true CMYK extrusion capabilities in any overly useful way. All the color transitions take place as the print moves along the z-axis which is great for rainbows but certainly limited in a lot of other combination of 3D print ideas.

This being said, the greens and oranges (or any other variety of colors that are the result of the mixing chamber) are vibrant enough to suggest Nixtek is certainly on to something. So many others before them have only been able to produce inconsistent sludge when trying to mix colors using multi-filament systems in the past.

Additionally, the sturdy looking frame, respectable 225 x 225 x 200mm, intuitive controls and open-source software alone make the mid-level price point worth while. And even though 3D printing on an FDM unit at 10 micron isn’t all too practical from a time spent vs. quality gained perspective, knowing you can knock objects out at that fine of a resolution is certainly a good thing.

So if you’re convinced this is the 3D printer for you, you won’t have to wait a whole lot longer. As things stand, the company will start accepting pre-orders soon with release expectations for early 2017.

It’s unclear whether the Tomato 3D printer’s four color mixing capabilities will be the killer app that starts the next wave of excitement around 3D printing technology. But what is clear is that companies all around the world are, seemingly every day, doing their best to separate themselves from the rest.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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