The world of imagination in 3D additive manufacturing is now as colorful as the real world thanks to advancements in printing systems, plastic materials and colorants for use in 3D printing. When 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, was first developed there were many limitations to the technology including the ability to print in a wide range of colors. That’s changing now as 3D printing systems are becoming more technically capable of printing not just in color but in multiple colors. Stratasys Ltd., one of the major players in the 3D printing (additive manufacturing) game, recently announced a color 3D printer that combines colors with a variety of materials. In what Stratasys calls a “potential game-changer” for product design, engineers and manufacturers, the Objet500 Connex3 features a unique triple-jetting technology that combines droplets of three base materials to product parts with virtually unlimited combinations of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials as well as color digital materials – all in a single print run.
Fenner Drives®, a 103-year-old company that specializes in the manufacture of idler pulleys, chain sprockets, UHMW belt and chain guides, and advanced solutions for critical applications, put its engineering expertise in urethanes to work in the 3D printing industry. NinjaFlex, an innovative thermoplastic elastomer 3D printer filament, provides a super-elastic, highly durable material that is catching on in the industry.
The company launched NinjaFlex in October 2013, initially available in four colors: Snow, Fire, Midnight and Sapphire. Within months, the NinjaFlex line was expanded with the addition of five more colors: Lava, Flamingo, Grass, Sun and Water (for semi-transparent applications).
Applications for NinjaFlex filament ranges from bicycle handlebar grips to flexible wearables including shoes, to scientific applications such as the helmet liner used for an exoskeleton featured in a demonstration at the 2014 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony. The filament can be used by a variety of desktop 3D printers that use the filament technology for producing parts.
Advancements in color technology and materials means that you can color your world of applications via a wide range of processes, even 3D printing for both prototypes and end-use parts.