3DP full color printing for artists - where to go in 2018?

Powder and inkjet printing
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3DP full color printing for artists - where to go in 2018?

Post by ericvanstraaten »

Dear specialists,

I am a full color 3D printing artist for about 8 years now and at this time manager at the CadCam workshop at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. I would like to ask you for some guidance, and perhaps a partnership/internship in trying to build a full color powder printer. I know a lot about full color 3D printing and how to 3D models printable in the software. Maybe I can raise funds within the art academy to get one of the ideas beneath to work.

Up till now, I have been printing hands-on on a ZPrinter 650 (which is here at my hometown Haarlem in the Netherlands). After a few years of tinkering with the software and maintenance of the machine, I have been able to produce in my opinion the most beautiful results possible at this time in full color (my work is sold in galleries so have to be high resolution but also have a kind of 'ceramic' feel and not being to much plastic like). I also believe that a powder based machine will be a good technique for an institution like an art academy.

However, these machines are way to expensive for an artist, both in materials and replacement parts. Also, I happen to know that these machines will be 'fazed out' shortly and replaced by UV Ink 3D printers like the Mimaki 3DUJ-553. Maybe this technology is something for the future, but up till now the results out of these machines are (although the saturation and resolution is amazing) way to plastic for my tastes and also the volume costs are to high for individuals. More affordable powder printers like the 3DPandoras don't work good enough to be considered I think, so the only way out for me at this time is one of the following:

1. Buy a second hand 650 (or 650) and try to 'hack' the system.

-this machine does a good job
-the 3DPrint software is to my knowledge the only working '3D slicer to printer' that works with multiple textures

-the machine only works if you can get it to work, in my experience down times can be up to 50%, due to all kinds of mechanical and software problems
-it is to be determined how 'closed' the underlying soft- and hardware will turn out to be and how easy it will be to replace elements like the motherboard and pogo-card with more proprietary elements
-it is to be seen if the materials can be replaced by own formulas that work as well as the to expensive ones from 3Dsystems

2. Build a full color powder printer from scratch

I have been thinking about this a lot the last few months, and studied this forum and the PlanB with great interest. I believe it may be possible to build a full color printer and have been thinking of the following. To make it clear I am not a code-able person so I am thinking more along the lines of existing software and ways people are building in the 'DIY' domain. I am eager to find out what you think of these ideas and if someone is willing to help me with this:

-I am working on a full color 3D slicer that will work on a combination of Rhino3D and Grasshopper. I have managed to get full color 3D slices out of Rhino, and now I am working on how to get them automated in Grasshopper.
-Is it an idea to convert a so called 'DIY EPSON DTG' technique into a working powder printer in stead of building the printhead part from scratch? I am thinking of something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_18vNttoFo
Maybe it is even possible to use a A3 pigment printer to try and print glazeable ceramic parts?

Kind regards, Eric van Straaten (www.ericvanstraaten.com)

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Re: 3DP full color printing for artists - where to go in 2018?

Post by dragonator »

Hello Eric, welcome

1. I haven't worked much with existing machines myself, so I can not judge how good of an option it would be. On the one hand the people of Zcorp have a huge amount of experience. On the other hand they have a rich history in closing everything in the process down so only their stuff works. I have seen universities that have experimented with different powders and binders, and one of my friends printed with vodka and sake as a binder for a while. I don't know about the 650 specifically, but I have seen experiments with different powders and binders. Getting something that will work as well as the original is in my opinion more a question how how much time it will take to figure out and less if it is really possible.

2. Making something myself has always been my goal. Hacking an inkjet printer is a much faster way to work, but especially for powder printing you are at the mercy of the driver software. If you need 110% of the ink the printer is providing, there will be a lot of hassle. Also if you design a powder printer around a certain inkjet printer, people start making them and the inkjet printer is discontinued, you are back at square one. This is why I started working on newer inkjet heads. So I could make my own 3DP printer from scratch as a followup of Plan B. I have had a few setbacks and distractions the past year, but my end goals has always been a full color 3DP printer. A Ceramic printer in a single color is my own goal for now, but once I have that it should not take that much longer to modify that to full color. It is only 5 printheads instead of 1.

A powder printer from my side is more a question of time. Right now I am still working on the printheads as fast as I can. Once that is complete, I do have a better design for a powder printer ready to be built. It is mostly software that I have to finish.

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