MIT’s CSAIL has introduced a new technique called ColorFab for repeatedly changing the colors of 3D printed objects, even after they have been fabricated.
The researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) made use of their own 3D printable ink that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light.
According to the researchers, a multicolored object can be recolored in just over 20 minutes, and this can be further brought down with future improvements.
While the project is currently focused on plastics and other common 3D printing materials, the researchers say that eventually people could instantly change the color of their clothes and other items.
“Largely speaking, people are consuming a lot more now than 20 years ago, and they’re creating a lot of waste,” says Stefanie Mueller, the X-Consortium Career Development Assistant Professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. “By changing an object’s color, you don’t have to create a whole new object every time.”
According to an MIT press release, previous color-changing systems have been somewhat limited in their capabilities, using single colors and 2D designs, for example.
To move beyond single-color systems, the team developed a simple hardware/software workflow. First, using the ColorFab interface, users upload their 3D model, pick their desired color patterns, and then print their fully colored object.
After printing, changing the multicolored objects involves using ultraviolet light to change the pixels on an object from transparent to colored, and a regular office projector to turn them from colored to transparent.
The team’s custom ink is made of a base dye, a photoinitiator, and light-adaptable dyes. The light-adaptable (photochromic) dyes bring out the color in the base dye, and the photoinitiator lets the base dye harden during 3D printing.
“Appearance adaptivity in general is always a superior feature to have, and we’ve seen many other kinds of adaptivity enabled with manufactured objects,” says Changxi Zheng, an associate professor at Columbia University who co-directs Columbia’s Computer Graphics Group. “This work is a true breakthrough in being able to change the color of objects without repainting them.”
Image credits, video and content: Jason Dorfman/MIT CSAIL