Wednesday, May 10, 2017

All Colors, Shapes and Sizes - 3D is Going Mainstream

Sure thing... you can print in any color you want. You can also resize it, change the shapes or mix and match to form a unique texture. And most printers can handle a variety of material types. With some, you can even print in multiple colors on the same object.

I think I've confused people because I always print the first experimental run in the cheapest black PLA I can find. It's also one of the easiest, fastest and most reliable materials to work with - perfect for prototyping.

But the 3d filament market is becoming like the interior paint market. It's not just black and white anymore. Now you have ecru and cream and frost and fog and cool vs warm whites. Or midnight and coal and dark-heart. Let's not even talk about the reds and blues and greens and all shades in between.

Some filament brands are shiny, some are matte. The black I am currently using is so shiny and reflective that it can be difficult to photograph. The white is so chalky and matte that you think you will get a powdery residue on your hands if you touch it (you don't).

And every filament manufacturer is different, and each is constantly changing their formulas and color palette. They are all trying to find the new "it color" for this season. I am just now beginning to know enough to have favorites.

Each manufacturer also has a different formula for the material. So you might like the look of their red, but not like the way it prints, or how brittle it is. And as far as I know, there is no "master palette" or overall brand look like there is with paints. Every color is sort of unique, not necessarily part of a family meant to work together.

That is changing however, as the 3D printing world moves from the purely techno-geek world into the wider, more fashion and design oriented world. Martha Stewart had her own 3d filament line, so the big paint manufacturers can't be far behind.

One last thing to add to the confusion, there are also translucent and transparent materials. There are super flexible and semi-flexible materials. There are copper and bronze and iron filaments that you can polish and even pre-rust for the authentic look. Let's not forget wood and bamboo filaments, or the glow-in-the-dark, the heat sensitive, UV sensitive and color changing filaments.

It's a fun time to get into 3d printing, and your possible color selections just keep getting better.

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