Formlabs Brings Color to SLA 3D Printing

Formlabs Brings Color to SLA 3D Printing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on December 06, 2017 | 210 views

Color may not be essential for the function of parts, but it can differentiate parts more clearly and, let’s face it, color makes life more lively. For that reason, there are a number of efforts underway to bring color to various 3D printing technologies, from HP’s Multi Jet Fusion to Mcor’s ARKe 3D printer. Most recently, XYZprinting introduced the da Vinci Color, the first fused filament fabrication 3D printer capable of printing full color parts.

Parts printed with Formlabs’ experimental Color Kit. (Image courtesy of Formlabs.)

Parts printed with Formlabs’ experimental Color Kit. (Image courtesy of Formlabs.)

Not all 3D printing technologies, such as selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SLA), are as receptive to printing in color, however. That hasn’t stopped companies from trying. EOS is working on new dying processes to bring color to SLS, for instance, and, now, Formlabs has released a kit that makes it possible to 3D print SLA parts in color, as well.

Formlabs Color Kit is made up of a Color Base resin cartridge and five bottles of Color Pigment in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and White. Following along with the Recipe Book (featuring 16 color recipes)included in the kit, users can measure out different CMYBW colors with the kit’sset of syringes. The materials are then mixed with the base material to create a full cartridge of mixed color.

Formlabs elaborates on the benefits of using color in a blogpost detailing the Color Kit: “Color helps us understand the world around us. Color can indicate which parts of a product to touch or use, direct our eyes, create contrast or cohesion, and connect a product to a particular brand family. Color can elicit emotion and shift interpretations. Formlabs’ materials science team selects colors for functional materials, like our Engineering and Dental Resins, for differentiation and to optimize for their respective material properties. These properties are essential for functional parts and works-like prototypes.”

Like Formlabs’ ceramic resin, this is a Form X product—that is, a product that might not be as easily printable without some tinkering as the other materials offered by Formlabs. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting addition the company’s material lineup and demonstrates the potential for SLA. What’s next for Form X? Maybe metals?

To learn more about the Color Kit, read the product announcement.

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ESG brings Wellness Zone and new 3D printer to North Campus

A new Counseling and Psychological Services center, as well as a 3-D printing lab, will come to North Campus soon following a $7,500 grant from Engineering Student Government.

The North Campus Wellness Zone will include amenities like massage chairs, sun lamps and yoga and meditation tools, and will become the first CAPS resource center on North Campus. This is an addition to the two CAPS counselors who have been serving the College of Engineering since January. It will be located in Pierpont Commons. 

Engineering sophomore Xavier Yeshayahu, Vice President-elect of ESG, noted in an email interview engineering students would no longer have to take a bus to Central Campus in order to access Wellness Zone resources.

“Just the fact that there is now a CAPS resource on North Campus will benefit engineers, most of whom live on North Campus,” Yeshayahu wrote. “It also will greatly benefit freshmen, many of whom live on North, and given that freshmen are more likely to suffer from depression.”

The initiative was headed by Engineering sophomores Natalie Baughan and Ainsley Ashman Jr., who are part of the CSG Mental Health Taskforce. In an email interview, Ashman said the taskforce identified a number of issues with mental health resources and availability on North Campus as part of their CSG mental health report, and he wanted ESG, as the representative student body of the largest school on North Campus, to have a stake in the development process.

“Within the resolution that passed ESG authorizing the funding I was sure to write in several clauses concerning ESG oversight of the project and encouraging CAPS to seek robust student input on the wellness zone as a condition of its funding by ESG,” Ashman wrote. “I think that those clauses provide robust accountability mechanisms that will ensure that the Wellness Zone is a space that students on North Campus will be proud of and will be willing to use.”

In an email, CAPS director Todd Sevig wrote that the new Wellness Zone will complement the Central Campus Wellness Zone — which is used by 5,000 students every year — and said CAPS will plan and work with student groups to recreate the experience over the coming year.

“I am so excited about this development and think it will serve all students well, especially the students who live and take classes on North Campus,” Sevig wrote. “I am so impressed by both CSG and Engineering government for the caring they are showing in these allocations for fellow students.”

Another North Campus advancement, a new 3-D Printing Lab is to be set up in GG Brown. Yeshayahu said the Duderstadt Center 3-D Lab could not accommodate the influx of students during busy project seasons, so ESG proposed buying and donating more 3-D printers.

“Toward the second half of the semester, when many project teams from ME 250 and 350 need to have parts printed at the same time, there were huge backups and the Duderstadt Center 3-D Lab was just not efficient timewise,” Yeshayahu wrote.

According to Yeshayahu, ESG was surprised to hear the Department of Mechanical Engineering offered to build a new center, with a complete set of computers, maintenance and staff. The benefits, Yeshayahu said, do not end there.

“As an added bonus, the cost of filaments for the printers will be covered completely by ESG, which means students won’t have to pay anything at all to 3D print,” he wrote.

Engineering sophomore Cameron Rosen welcomed the idea of the expanded capabilities to what he considers an already exceptional facility.

“I think the current 3-D lab is a terrific resource and I’m happy to hear about an upgrade,” Rosen said. “I think they do a great job and I look forward to seeing the expansion when I have 3-D printing needs.”

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3D Printing Brings Movie Characters to Life Like Never Before

Anime fans everywhere are going crazy for the new fantasy, cyberpunk movie, Ghost in the Shell. What makes this production so intriguing is the way it draws in the philosophical questioning of what makes us human and displaying the struggles we endure daily through the bodies of characters. It features a futuristic world that is halfway to post-human status with the majority of citizens having some form of cyber enhancement to their bodies.

Bringing to life these characters to star in a blockbuster movie was no easy feat. But, with the help of Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop for backup, everything worked out quite well indeed. Weta Workshop is New Zealand’s top prop, and special effects company and their involvement stretched far beyond the realms of simple hair and makeup; extensive prosthetics were needed too. Jane O’Kane, the movie’s hair, and makeup designer said, “We wanted everything to feel real. We tried to stay on point and honor the aesthetic of the original.”

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More than 20 specialized looks were designed by O’Kane and her prosthetics supervisor, Sarah Rubano while trying to achieve real looking, yet still holding on to that visually compelling character design. To make all of this possible the team carried out extensive research on cutting edge prosthetics currently being developed, future design websites, and the body-modding community. Once the design was in place, a complicated build process was to follow. “The design was done early on, but then once we had cast our actors, which was often significantly later, the design was altered to suit the cast visually, aesthetically and also practically to see what they were able to endure prosthetic-wise,” said Rubano.

Throughout the whole 3D printing process, Rubano and O’Kane worked very closely with Richard Taylor, Weta’s creative director. Taylor explained that to sculpt and build is a slow process and to try and overcome that he and his team worked as quickly as possible to “get to a point where we could sculpt onto the actor’s face/body castings and test completed prosthetics on stand-ins at the Workshop.” During the process, adjustments are made for practical reasons as well as aesthetics and what may have looked good in theory, just didn’t work in reality. ‘Kane commented, “That was probably one of our biggest challenges, actually making sure that the result used to work for the actual person it was going on.” Unfortunately, what this meant was that for any actor who had to fight in their prosthetic augmentation they would spend many hours going through the refitting phase.

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There’s no special way to prepare a prosthetic for this sort of work, you just need to make sure everything you create is versatile enough for the actor to cope with,” said O’Kane. The reality with prosthetics is that it’s an additive process: You can build up easily, but you can’t take away. That means that if a design calls for the removal or diminishment of a part of the actor’s body, CG becomes critical,” confirmed Taylor.

One of the best examples of this kind of work and the combination of techniques used can be seen in the character Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt). A great deal of our concept design for Kuze was based on the Japanese practice of Kintsugi – the repair of old, broken pottery. As a philosophy, Kintsugi treats breakage and repair as an intrinsic part of the object; rather than something to disguise, it’s something that adds clarity and character,” said Taylor. But Kuze is simply one very small aspect of the movie that demonstrates how these special effects allow characters to come to life. To really appreciate it in its full glory, why not check it out now and see what you think.

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NASA-Born BeeHex Makes 3D Printed Pizza Palatable, Brings R&D Operations to Ohio

beehex-logoOhio may be the heart of it all, but it’s the stomach that BeeHex is focusing on with its 3D printing technology. Having recently moved its R&D operations to Columbus, Ohio, the California-headquartered company is positioning itself to contribute to our collective gastronomic future. There’s probably no better foot in the tech-created-food door than pizza, as this particular type of dish lends itself nicely to extrusion-based creation — and the will is there to enhance this always-popular menu option.

Fortunately, Columbus is a relatively easy jaunt from my home base in Cleveland, so I set out today to see what Ohio has cooking in technology these days, arriving at BeeHex’s still-being-unpacked R&D center this afternoon. It’s been nearly a year since I last talked with Jordan French, CMO of the year-old company, and he and the team provided a warm welcome as I was among the first visitors to their new location. While I first shook hands with French and CEO Anjan Contractor, joined as well by Ben Feltner (legal and development) and Chintan Kanuga (CTO), it was actually a large robot that first greeted me when I walked in, as the BeeHex team enjoys the remote communication capabilities provided by a Beam robot. Communication is key to the growth plans for BeeHex, as the company benefits from focus, conversations, and an iterative philosophy.

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(L-R) Chintan Kanuga, Ben Feltner, Anjan Contractor (on screen), Jordan French, at the BeeHex R&D facility

“We’re a very technical company, a very human company — a very evolutionary company,” French told me as we sat down at the R&D conference table.

It’s that human element that sparks a difference for BeeHex, as they work to overcome barriers to entry for 3D printing in the food market. Not everyone finds 3D printed food appealing, they know, but it still might just be the future. And in one major point in BeeHex’s favor, it turns out that their 3D printed food is actually said to be delicious. While I still haven’t tried a slice hot off the print bed, as it were (the most recent printers haven’t made their way to Columbus yet), there are some people’s palates I’d trust, and a thumbs-up from Groupe Danone as well as endorsements from a veritable smorgasbord of well-known chefs seem to fit that bill. The team from Groupe Danone, French said, peppered the BeeHex team with questions about their food and were ultimately satisfied that the Roma-style pizza they ate was appetizing.

“Fresh food tastes good,” French said, noting that they use fresh ingredients to create both fresh and freezable pizzas. Still, he made sure to note, “We’re not a pizza company.”

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A BeeHex pizza [Image: BeeHex]

It’s the technology behind the pizza that makes the pies from BeeHex so tasty and it’s no wonder, as the company has its roots in NASA funding and research. Starting by looking to space, where astronauts need a ready supply of food that’s easy to produce with a small footprint, BeeHex is also looking to our food needs here on Earth, recognizing additional opportunities for growth in the military and in natural disaster relief (e.g. FEMA) efforts. And they’re putting the work in to create solutions, with a data-driven focus.

“What happens when something originates with NASA?” French asked. “Obviously they’re far ahead. We already have technology, we already have revenues from it.”

The point of the food they’re 3D printing isn’t that it’s a novelty (though of course it is), but that real food can be created with relative speed and ease for the people who need it. Lightweight, low-cost food-producing robots, French pointed out, are a much more likely solution than full-on restaurant setups for any of these applications.

“We want to feed people. We have all this data saying that people like food, and like to feed their kids,” French said with a smile. “We’re not going to have 3D printers everywhere, in homes or in kitchens. That’s not what we’re doing here.”

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A look inside BeeHex R&D

BeeHex isn’t targeting consumers with the desktop-sized food 3D printers, though of course that doesn’t mean there’s no hope of that elusive 3D printed slice. Restaurants and caterers are among the other business avenues that will eventually benefit from what this team is working toward: helping to bring these foods to more mouths. Chefs in particular are showing great enthusiasm, and BeeHex has formed partnerships with a few, noting that “The chef community has been great to us.” Working as advisers to the company are chefs Pasquale Cozzolino and Tom Lehmann, and several others are also noted to be “getting excited” at the prospect of what technology can bring to their kitchens. There’s even a 3D printer in the kitchen at New York City’s Ribalta, which has been known to extrude from time to time.

20170223_133233Eventually, perhaps, we’ll be seeing these 3D printers in more commercial kitchens; French suggests that next to the already-ubiquitous pepperoni slicer might be a good place for it. If that utilitarian placement doesn’t sound exciting, that’s okay with BeeHex. They’re setting out to create commercial solutions, not consumer-targeted desktop cookers.

“It’s not the most exciting thing; ‘exciting’ builds on novelty, not on reality. What’s commercial about this is that it’s useful. We’re at the point now where you can hit print on the computer and have a personal pizza in about one minute’s time, then do that over and over again, all in a footprint that’s not that big,” French told me.

That commercialization and realism inherent in the BeeHex philosophy is what will continue to drive them forward. French noted that the team is careful to maintain focus and to be data-driven; their angle is a more conservative take to the market, and to learn from the mistakes of companies that have gone before by never over-promising. “We want to make rational, good decisions,” he said. It’s more data that will help them to go further, as additional iterations are in the future.

We’ll be hearing more from BeeHex in the near future, as it’s not just recipes for pizza that they’re working on, but for success. With an announcement to come next week and a soft launch at next month’s International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, the team behind the pizza is keeping very busy.

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3D printed pizza always draws a crowd [Image: BeeHex]

Talking with the BeeHex team today at their R&D facility showed me that this is a team that has a definite finger on the pulse of the market they’re looking to serve. Data lies at the heart of all they’re doing, and they’re able to provide answers to most any question put to them, showing that they’ve done the due diligence necessary to be truly poised for a market presence. These guys didn’t just sit down one day and think “space pizza” was a funny phrase they should make up a business around, but realized that looking logically to how technology could fill real needs would make for a firm foundation. Armies famously march on their stomachs, and that phrase may just take on a new meaning as militaries are among the niches that could initially benefit greatly from tech-driven food preparation.

I’ll be visiting a few more Ohio-based companies in upcoming weeks, including two more in Columbus tomorrow. Interested in having 3DPrint.com visit your site? Let us know! Drop me an email any time. We love to see where the technology we write about comes to life, and to meet the teams behind the news!

[Photos: Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com unless otherwise credited]

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