As 3D printing technologies progress and new paradigm shifts within the technology take place, we are bound to see fabrication broken down into increasingly tiny building blocks of sorts. Last month, we covered a presentation that HP’s Scott Schiller gave at 3D Print Week in New York, where he revealed that HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion technology would eventually be capable of fabricating objects based on single voxels, changing the color, material and composition of an object, one voxel at a time.
Certainly HP will not be the only company, or Multi Jet Fusion the only technology, which will advance to levels of accuracy allowing for such intricate fabrication.
In fact, earlier this week a company called Honeycomb Graphics published a video and revealed a recent patent application for a technology they call Solid Projection Printing (SPP). Founded in 2011 as a Joint Stock Company by Andrés Biénzobas in Santiago, Chile, Honeycomb Graphics has rather quietly been working on a technology which can print using 3D blocks as ‘razor-thin’ polymer squares or honey-comb shaped linings, among other incredibly interesting methods.
In the patent application filed on February 6th of this year for a ‘System and method for generating an image in a three-dimensionally printed object,’ the company describes several possible processes of printing 2D images within 3D objects, with a degree of accuracy unavailable with other methods of printing currently available today (besides perhaps Mcor Technologies).
“Since currently-available additive manufacturing and 3D printing systems are deficient in creating images in three dimensional objects, a new system and method for generating images in three dimensional objects can prove desirable and provide a basis for a wide range of applications, such as generating color images in three dimensional objects,” explains the filing.
The patent, and Biénzobas’ website go on to detail several different methods of achieving the same basic outcome of multi-colored, voxelated prints for applications within advertising, architecture/constructions, and most interesting to us of course, 3D printing. The technology could work in several different ways, as described within the recent patent application. Below we’ve broken these methods down into three main categories:
Color Model Method
Using a coloring method like CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) this process is capable of dying filament in small segments as it enters the extruder, or after it’s already been extruded. An ink feeder is used which will feed ink to an injector which then colors the filament as it passes through the print chamber. Similar to a technology like Spectrom3D’s, this process functions at a much smaller, more accurate scale, allowing for not just layers, but individual voxels to be colorized with millions of different possible colors. This process can be better visualize by viewing the video directly below,. Interestingly enough, according to the patent application, various metals such as gold and chrome could also be used with this method.
This is probably one of the more fascination sections of the patent applications. Here the company discusses a variety of different methods of changing the color of the material during the printing process. The easiest to understand of these methods, would be the use of tiny particles of material, such as filament in the form of spheres, cubes, or oval-like segments. These segments each consist of their own color and would be ordered into a line as they enter the hot end, fusing together as they are placed onto the printed object or build plate.
The other possible methods would be to use specialized electrochromic polymers (polymers which change color based on bursts of electrical charges) which are then exposed to varying amounts of electricity determining their final printed color.
Finally, in a process similar to that used with the electrochromic polymers, thermochromic materials could be utilized and heated to specific temperatures to achieve a desired color or colors as they are deposited onto the already printed substrate.
Solid Fiber Piling
This method can use many differently colors of fiber polymer, placed down next to one another and on top of each other to define an image on a 3D object. This could be done by using bead-like polymer segments as shown in the video below. Basically this method would place the fibers down, only paying attention to the X and Z axes, as the Y-axis will remain squared off, leaving more of a blocky object. This method seems to generally be intended for advertising media as the objects can quickly be sliced to make numerous 2D copies. Take for example vinyl signage. It’s hard to describe, so just watch the video below.
Let’s hear your thoughts on these new, potentially disruptive methods of 3D printing and what they may ultimately mean for the industry. Discuss in the Honeycomb Graphics forum thread on 3DPB.com.