MIT’s New ColorFab Process Recolors 3-D Printed Objects


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If you would like to see the way forward for Three-D printing, ask Stefanie Mueller for a demo. A pc scientist at MIT, Mueller’s work has concerned initiatives like creating a laser-cutting system to make delicate, Three-D printed origami. Now, Mueller and a group at MIT’s Pc Science and Synthetic Intelligence Lab are introducing a brand new type of Three-D printable ink that makes it attainable to recolor Three-D objects after they’ve been printed.

The tactic, referred to as ColorFab, combines a Three-D printing interface and a particular sort of Three-D printable ink that modifications colours when activated by mild. Collectively, the system makes it attainable to dynamically change and customise an object’s look many occasions. “This mainly works in the identical manner as an E Ink show,” says Mueller.

Stefanie Mueller


Within the ColorFab interface, customers can create a Three-D mannequin of the thing they need to print together with a layer of Mueller’s color-changing ink on prime. As soon as the thing is printed, customers can change its colour—and even recolor sure elements or patterns on the thing—by returning to the ColorFab interface, choosing the areas to recolor, after which activating these areas with UV mild.

The particular sauce is the ink. Mueller’s formulation combines a base dye, a photograph initiator, and dose of photochromic ink, or ink that may change colours when activated by mild at a sure wavelength. Photochromic inks aren’t new, however earlier formulation may solely activate one colour and that colour change solely lasted so long as the thing was uncovered to UV mild—so, an object would possibly flip from clear to blue in daylight after which return to clear when indoors. The ColorFab technique entails portray a dense multi-color sample onto objects after which selectively activating or deactivating sure colours with mild—solely activating blue, for instance, whereas deactivating all different colours—which makes it attainable to alter a single object to many various colours. Mueller’s ink may maintain its colour after the sunshine supply is switched off.


Since portray the extremely particular multi-color sample by hand could be unattainable, the ColorFab system is designed particularly to work with the precision of Three-D printers, the place photochromic inks have not beforehand been used. Proper now, the recoloring course of takes about 20 minutes, however Mueller says it may probably get quicker with a extra highly effective mild supply or a barely completely different ink formulation that features extra of the photochromic ink. Because the recoloring course of hastens, Mueller hopes to see extra objects manufactured utilizing strategies like this one, which permit shoppers to customise the issues they already personal.

“Think about you need to match your iPhone case to the clothes you’re carrying as we speak,” says Mueller. With ColorFab, she says, “you do not have to eat new supplies. You’ll be able to repurpose the stuff you have already got.”

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