3D printing can already turn your amazing ideas into tangible objects, but a new technique out of MIT CSAIL could lead to even better results. The method, called ColorFab, gives you the ability to create objects that can change colors after you print them out. You can use it, for instance, to create a phone case or a pair of earrings that matches your red dress today and will also match your blue pantsuit tomorrow. ColorFab’s magic lies in the CSAIL team’s custom-made ink, which has base dyes and light-adaptable or “photochromic” dyes. The light-adaptable dyes bring out the color in the base dyes when exposed to UV light. Under visible light, the colors disappear, and the ink turns transparent.
To use ColorFab, you’ll have to upload your 3D model to its interface and then pick a color pattern. The parts of the object that can transform have a pixelated design, and you can choose which pixels to activate (change color) or deactive (switch back to transparent) within ColorFab’s interface. Based on the team’s tests, it takes the system 23 minutes to change an object’s colors, but they believe they can make the wait time shorter by using more powerful lights or adding more light-adaptable dyes. In addition, the team is also working to conjure up a design that allows a ColorFab object to create secondary hues.
Once the method has been refined further, the researchers might adapt it for use by the garment industry, since they envision a future wherein the technique can be applied to to clothing, as well. The researchers’ goal isn’t just to enable the creation of color-changing goods, though — they’re also hoping that ColorFab can lessen the waste we produce:
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!