There are many types of 3D printing technologies available on the market and they all result in the formation of a tangible object being built layer by layer using the data received from a computer-generated 3D model. Once an object is built, it has real size, weight, and application and can be used in the real world. This fascinating process becomes even more exciting and applicable when objects can be printed in a variety of colors. The 3D printing process known as fused deposition modeling (FDM), also referred to as fused filament fabrication (FFF), does offer the full color spectrum in a relatively affordable and accessible manner. FFF printers allow for the creation of objects by extruding heated material in layers onto a print bed, which in most cases is also heated. FFF machines can offer a wide range of colors and materials, depending on the machine's capabilities, such as the ability to adjust the temperature of the extruder. Most desktop FFF printers offer one or two extruders, which usually determines the number of different colored plastics or materials that can be integrated into a single printed object. Dual extruders are more versatile and open up options such as printing with two different colors or printing in two materials, such as a standard ABS plastic and an easily removable support material for more intricate prints.
In addition to printing with multiple distinct colors, some technologies allow for colors to be blended during the printing process. This allows colors to be mixed together in different ratios to produce gradient prints. The creative application of color gradients provides designers with more options than the dual and singular color palettes that limited visual creativity. Using gradients, 3D printed objects can be produced that are even more stunning with an artistic color wheel more like the computer-generated designs that are created. One company has recently raised the bar on 3D color printing abilities. Last year, XYZPrinting unveiled the world's most affordable, full color FFF 3D printer and has now debuted their mini version of the machine at an even lower price. The machines use CMYK inkjet technology to apply over 15 million colors to 3D printed objects, similar to the way ink is applied to paper in standard inkjet office printing.
The way 3D printing has advanced for the average user has come to the point that what can be generated on their computer screen can be built with not only exact height, width, and depth, but also full color.