What color is the sunset? How about fall leaves reflecting off a glass-like lake?
Have you ever wanted to 3D print an object in a very specific or unique color; adding your own personal touch to an otherwise standard print?
PLA filament is available ‘off-the-shelf’ in many colors. However, is the red filament you bought from one source the same shade of red you bought from another source?
Maybe exact shades don’t matter for all of your print jobs but what can you do if are looking for a specific color? What if you want to print something in a very specific color – say a picture frame to match the exact shade of the ocean from that once in a lifetime shot of your significant other?
Equipment, service and material offerings for the 3D printing market continue to grow as consumer-level 3D printing continues to evolve.
Now, home users can select from and purchase a virtually unlimited selection of 3D printer filament colors.
ColorFabb, located in the Netherlands, can manufacture literally thousands of PLA filament colors customized to your specifications with their Color On Demand filament service offering.
ColorFabb – Company Background
ColorFabb was founded in 2012 by former CEO of Helian Polymers Ruud Rouleaux and currently ships filament to over 60 countries throughout the world.
After significant testing and development, the company was able to offer their first product – a tougher formulation of the popular PLA consumer 3D printing filament.
ColorFabb’s PLA/PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) is a 100% biodegradable bio-polyester just like the more common PLA and is available in over 30 different color variations.
Other filament materials available from ColorFabb include polyamide, carbon-filled polyamide and a full slate of co-polyesters including their nGenFLEX filament which is a semi-flexible material having a shore hardness of 95A (click here for our previous post on flexible filaments).
To develop their unique line of filaments, ColorFabb teamed up with Eastman Chemical Company and leverages Eastman’s Amphora (TM) line of polymers.
As part of their quality assurance program, ColorFabb manufactures their filaments in climate controlled production facilities and tests all formulations in their in-house lab on 3D printers from manufacturers such as Ultimaker, Lulzbot, Stacker, Prusa and Makerbot among others.
The company also has 480 rooftop solar panels to provide power to their 4100 square meter facility which houses everything from production to shipping to office space.
Color On Demand – ColorFabb’s Custom Colored Filament Service
ColorFabb’s Color On Demand service enables consumers to order PLA filament spools in essentially any color they want at a relatively reasonable price.
The process starts with the customer selecting the color they want from the RAL color standard.
RAL – Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung (German Imperial Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance) – is a color matching system used in Europe and originally invented in 1927. The original color system had 40 colors. Over the years the system has been updated multiple times and now includes over 1600 colors.
What’s great about the Color On Demand service is that customers can order individual 2 kg spools of customized filament. For filament colors that have previously been matched, 750 gram spools are available.
Ordering anything that has been custom-made in other than bulk quantities is usually very expensive. By contrast, ColorFabb allows consumers to order single spools for 75 euros plus tax. This price is quite palatable considering customers are getting exactly what they want.
Typical lead time for custom colored filament is about 1 week for colors that have already been matched and a little less than a month for new color formulations. Here again, considering the customization, these lead times are not all at unreasonable.
Choosing Your Color
ColorFabb has already matched over 100 RAL colors. As mentioned above, if you select one of these colors, your order with take about 1 week.
If you can’t find the color you want from the available ‘matched’ selections, you can choose from over 180 Classic RAL colors or well over 1000 Design RAL colors.
ColorFabb includes a scrollable menu of Classic and Design RAL colors for customers to review and select just the right color. Customers are advised that while the color images have been created using the same lighting conditions, the colors displayed on the customer’s computer screen may not be the exact RAL shade.
The customer simply scrolls through the color options, selects the color they want and the shade and associated RAL number are automatically added to the order form.
Before ordering a full 2 kg spool, customers have the option of double checking their color selection by ordering an injection molded plaque of the desired color for around 10 euros.
To give you an idea of the plethora of Design colors available see the images below that compare various hues of Classic and Designer RAL ‘reds’ available from the selection menu.
Other Color On Demand Services
For the 3D printing enthusiast that has the capability to extrude their own filament, ColorFabb also offers custom color PLA pellets. Using the same process of selecting from the library of RAL colors, customers can order pelletized PLA.
Please read our previous post on 3D printing filament extruders to learn more about making your own filament.
Prices for 2 kg (minimum order) of custom colored pellets run about half the price of custom spooled filament. ColorFabb has matched over 100 RAL colors for pelletized PLA.
Like spooled filament, Color On Demand pellet orders take about 1 week to process for colors that have already been matched and about 2-3 weeks for unmatched colors.
With a new color request, customers can choose to have an exact match or simply a close match to their desired color reference. Customers may also select FDA or EU approved compositions.
ColorFabb’s Color On Demand service ushers in a new era for 3D printing enthusiasts. With very reasonable order processing times and prices points, users now have the ability to customize the color of their printed objects to match virtually any color imaginable.
Though I consider the current pricing for custom color PLA spools and pellets are very fair, I would expect prices to come down even further as ColorFabb’s production increases with new orders.
While this post has focused on ColorFabb’s Color On Demand service, the company has leveraged their experience with polymers and relationship with Eastman Chemical to develop other 3D printing filaments that provide unique options for the 3D printing enthusiast
For example, ColorFabb’s nGenFLEX filament is a semi-flexible material that can be printed at speeds compatible with PLA filament and even fed through Bowden extruders which typically have problems with flexible filaments.
In addition to ease of printing, nGenFLEX is compatible with other ColorFabb materials to enable dual material extruded prints and the material can handle temperatures up to 125 Celsius enabling users to print objects that need to withstand sterilization temperatures.
With their unique material formulations and Color On Demand service, ColorFabb is advancing the 3D printing revolution and making it easier for home users to truly personalize their prints.
What will you create?
If you have questions about or experience with ColorFabb’s Color On Demand or other services and materials, please share your insights in the comments section below.