Mosaic Manufacturing Brings Colour to 3D Printing

3-D printers are great, as long as all you want to do is print Action Man out of one material, in one colour. Multi-colour machines exist, but they’re a far cry from the cheap, simple desktop manufacturing revolution we’ve been promised. I just got a peek at a nondescript box that could change all that.

mosaic manufacturing palette

3-D printing in colour is a finicky business. The conventional solution is to use multiple extruder heads: one for each colour of filament you want to print. While that works — kinda — it has drawbacks, including a decreased build volume (so you can only make smaller things), poor resolution, and unused heads drip-drip-dripping unwanted plastic over your finished build. Plus, it means buying a dedicated, standalone printer, something that costs thousands of dollars.

The approach of Mosaic Manufacturing is different. It uses a standalone box, called the Palette, which feeds a muli-coloured filament to any single-colour 3-D printer. Basically, you put the shoe box size Palette between almost any 3-D printer and four spools of filament. Then Palette chops and changes the colour, so the printer has the right colour material coming out of the printer head at any given moment.

mosaic manufacturing

This gets rid of most of the problems associated with regular 3-D printers. There’s no dripping, no decrease in build size — the only drawback is a slight over-usage of materials every time the printer needs to change colours.

Even better, the Palette can accommodate different types of material, not just different colours. If you want to reinforce part of your model with carbon fibre, or wood, or even a conductive material, you can. The team showed me a prototype quadrotor body, built on a 3-D printer, with the power connections built right in — no need for wires to carry power from the battery to the motors.

Click here to read the rest of the article written by Chris Mills.