New Sustainable, Multicolor 3D Printing Method Was Inspired by Chameleons

Published on February 27, 2024 by Madeleine P.
Multicolor 3D printing inspired by chameleons

3D printing continues to advance. The latest innovation comes from a group of researchers from the Beckman Institute in the U.S. who have developed a printing technique capable of delivering results in multiple colors from a single ink. Inspired by the fascinating ability of chameleons to change color, researchers were able to develop a more sustainable process for true multicolor 3D printing.

To this day, most colors are still produced from pigments or chemical dyes, and the production of paints can be environmentally damaging. In the world of additive manufacturing, this is no exception. Although there are machines capable of printing in different colors and automatically switching from one color to another, the number is limited and each color is required separately. However, this new breakthrough could mean the creation of colors with less energy consumption and less waste, according to the research team.

impresora 3d multicolor

This process can be done on a modified FDM 3D printing (photo credits: Beckman Institute)

Chameleon-Inspired, Color-Changing Ink 3D Printing

The 3D printing process proposed by the researchers is based on a “direct writing” technique capable of altering the color during the printing process thanks to a UV-assisted ink. To achieve this result, an FDM 3D printer was modified by adding a UV guide and a pressure moderator for the ultraviolet light. This guide radiates light directly to the extruder and this light changes the color of the ink as the material hardens. Depending on the concentration of the UV rays, the ink will be one color or another. This technique is similar to that used in resin printing, though with specially designed copolymers.

The results were surprising. Just as chameleons change from green, which is considered their base color, to other more striking colors, the researchers were able to create more vibrant colors in succession during 3D printing using only one ink. Ying Diao, an associate professor of chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, explains, “By designing new chemistries and printing processes, we can modulate structural color on the fly to produce color gradients not possible before.”

Tinta 3D multicolor

The ink has been named: c-BBCP. This image shows the color progression from blue to red after a few seconds (photo credits: Beckman Institute).

Undoubtedly, the novelty of this research is sustainability. Since it would be sufficient to manufacture a single ink, the entire production chain of the colors we know today based on pigments and chemical dyes would be considerably reduced. This would mean savings in production time, cost and material. Light would be enough to create an infinite number of colors. Furthermore, it is expected that research will progress and that soon more varieties of colors will be created. You can learn more in the full study HERE.

What do you think of this new multicolor 3D printing process inspired by chameleons? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*Cover Photo Credits: Pixabay.

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