3D printing in color can be costly. Given how much time and resources spent upfront, having a failed print isn’t exactly as easy to deal with as printing a 2D color picture incorrectly.

MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)’s new ColorFab method (not to be confused with printing filament company ColorFabb) doesn’t aim to make the process easier, but it does help to reduce the cost of printing the same object in another color. Unlike just about any other additively manufactured object, ColorFab uses specialized 3D ink which changes color when exposed to UV light, effectively allowing you to change the appearance of 3D objects after they’re printed.

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The printing process is a familiar one: users upload a 3D model, choose a color, and select to print. What’s different about a ColorFab print is that it uses UV light to change 3D pixels from transparent to colored and an office projector to replace the same colored pixels to transparent ones. The ink includes a base dye, light-adaptable dyes, and a photoinitiator. The base dye is your run-of-the-mill typical dye, while the light adaptable dyes bring out the different colors of the base dye when exposed to UV light. The photoinitiator is the agent which hardens the base dye during printing.

The recoloring process takes about 20 minutes to complete, but researchers say the time can be reduced as the method improves. Considering ColorFab is still in its early stages, recolored prints also tend to look grainy.

While researchers are currently only using plastic materials in their testing processes, it’s easy to speculate that this same technology could work its way over to other materials as well.

Read more about ColorFab over at MIT .


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.