3dprinting can be quite rigid at times, most printers only print in one colour, some have dual extruders that can print in two colours and a few might even have triple extruders that allow three colours. However, the majority of parts printed on FDM desktop printers are in one colour. If you want to change colour whilst printing on these single extruder printers you have to stop the machine and change the filament roll manually. This is hardly a streamlined process. Imagine if we had to do this with ink jet printers? You would never print anything in colour. Richard Horne, the creator of the blog ‘Richrap’ is making strides with multi-colour filaments that when printing give a ‘tie-dye’ effect on the printed models. The best thing about his research and development is that you don’t need to change the filament. These models are printed from using Nylon dyed filament that is a single roll. After interviewing Richard he explained that he had asked many different manufacturers if it was possible to product filament reels that ‘changed colour through the roll’. None of them could offer a solution to his requests so Richard started to experiment with dying Nylon filament using ‘Rit’ colour dyes. The results were spectacular as shown above. The effect is an unpredictable, creative tye-dye effect that throws life back into multicolour printing. The different colours naturally blend into each other removing the rigid lines commonly associated with traditional multi-colour printing.
Richard explains in his blog and youtube videos the process behind the dying of nylon filament. In simple terms he mixes some dye (a complete sachet) with boiling water (200ml) in a jam jar until fully dissolved and then adds the dye into a plastic zip lock bag. He then adds the filament making sure only half the coil is dipped in the dye and then leaves it for 30 minutes. The result being a single coil of filament is now multi-coloured. After trialling the filament there are no issues and the material behaves exactly like it does in its original form. In terms of dying full rolls? This is not possible as Richard explained that the dye and salt residue would be remain trapped in between the layers of filament, therefore the only successful way is to dye loose coils of filament.
When asked about the future of 3dprinting Richard states, “For both home and industrial 3D printing, we are very much still in the early adopter and hype phase, the media does not know how to report advancements with 3D printing and often makes these machines sound magical and able to do almost anything. As more people are exposed to home 3D printing and become aware that in some aspects of our lives industrial 3D printing plays a big part in manufacture (hearing aids for example) and has been used for ‘rapid prototyping’ for over 30 years it will start to plateau. For home 3D printing we already have some fundamental limits in the melting of plastic, speed and quality, so people will catch up to the reality of what’s possible and we may require a lot longer than 5 years to have really useful home printers. Materials are the hot and exciting topic at the moment; many areas of research and development are looking at all sorts of materials for home and industrial 3D printers, this will continue and spread out even further into all aspects and uses for this technology.” I agree with his comments as desktop 3dprinting seems to be hitting a calm period at the moment. I am waiting for the next huge development in FDM technology to keep 3dprinting advancing. In the meantime people like Richard Horne are innovating and keeping the area interesting with unique developments like this.
For more information about Richards experiements with 3dprinting then visit his blog RichRap.com Richard Horne is also on the Advisory Board of the3dprintingassociation.com
By Philip Cotton