Canadian device enables multi-color, multi-material capabilities on cheap 3D printers
By Design Engineering staffAdditive Manufacturing 3D printing Mosaic Manufacturing slideshow
Kickstarter campaign for Mosaic Manufacturing's Palette accessory blows past funding goal on first day.
On Tuesday, Montreal-based start-up, Mosaic Manufacturing, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Palette – an additive manufacturing accessory that allows most cheap, filament-based FDM 3D printers to output up to four different colors, build materials or a combination of the two. With an initial funding goal of CAD$75,000, the project is already just shy of CAD$124,000 with 30 days left to go.
This initial enthusiasm for the device is driven by the fact that, currently, only industrial-grade 3D printers that cost $60,000 or more can output color or multiple materials. Mosaic, co-founded by Queens University grads Mitch Deborah, Heather Evans and Chris Labelle, boasts the Palette will bring the same capabilities to even the lowest end consumer printers for less than $1000.
“The Palette brings new capabilities to a wide range of people who already own 3D printers,” said Chris Labelle, COO of Mosaic Manufacturing. “For us, Kickstarter is a great way to connect with a wide variety of people who use 3D printing technologies. Over the next 30 days, our backers will have an opportunity to play a key role in bringing The Palette to life.”
Rather than modifying existing 3D printing hardware, the Palette is a separate device that accepts up to four spools of PLA-based filament. Strands from the spools are cut and spliced in sequence within The Palette to correspond to a separate layer or build region of the part. The resulting single strand then feeds into any FDM printer with an accessible input feed for standard 1.75mm filament. Machines that require proprietary materials or design files (i.e. not gcode) are incompatible. To keep the material feed and build process in sync, the system also includes a “scroll wheel” feedback device that attaches to the printer.
Designing parts to take advantage of the Palette is no different than designing for a multi-extruding FDM machine, the company says. Instead of one design file for each extruder head, the individual .stl files match a particular material/color and are processed by the slicer software. The gcode output is then crunched by Mosaic’s own software, which creates a .seem file the Palette uses to splice the various filaments in the proper sequence and length.
While the company focuses on adding multi-color output to existing FDM printers, it says the Palette can also handle multi-material build material as well. New PLA-based materials — including desolvable, conductive, rubbery, or even carbon or stainless steel infused filaments for example – expand the design possibilities of inexpensive DIY 3D printers. As an example, the Mosaic team printed a working flashlight with integrated leads to connect a battery and LED.
The company is accepting pre-orders at CAD$850 per unit and estimates the first production units will ship to early adopters by January 2016. In preparation for full production, Mosaic says it built and tested several pre-production units prior to the Kickstarter launch and has secured deals with multiple suppliers.