Arcus-3D-M1 evolves from junkstrap into full color 3D printer

As impressive as many 3D printing developments may be, one area where the technology has faced real limitations is color. Initially only conceivable in monochrome, 3D printing saw possibilities open several years ago with the introduction of dual color extrusion methods, while more advanced industrial printers offer more comprehensive color options. Now a new machine has been demonstrated that could finally bring full-color printing to everyday FDM printer users who want to watch out for their wallets.

The Arcus-3D-M1 is a filament-based, FDM (fused deposition modelling) 3D printer that was recently unveiled at the MidWest RepRap Festival. This annual gathering in Goshen, Indiana is one of the largest 3D printing events in the world and sees the latest breakthroughs in 3D printing technology shown off to a crowd of enthusiastic hobbyists. One of these gifted amateurs, Daren Schwenke, had started the Arcus last year as a junkstrap, which is to say he cobbled it together from whatever mechanical parts he had lying around and could make use of. Now the machine is a fully fledged 3D printer that could be the start of a Technicolor revolution.

Arcus-3D-M1's full multicolor printing works by mixing five differently colored filaments together. Much like the spectrum used with color inkjet 2D printing, these filaments are designated C (Cyan), M (Magenta), Y(Yellow), K (Key, i.e. Black) and W (White). Combining these colors in a user-specified ratio gives a huge range of different color options, effectively offering any color imaginable. The results that the Arcus 3D has managed to achieve are so far being received with real enthusiasm and excitement.

The Arcus-3D-M1 has a number of unique mechanical and design features. According to Schwenke, the current design is based on the Beaglebone Black dev platform, running a Machinekit velocity extrusion branch. Its hotend extruder feeds six PTFE tubes into a water-cooled assembly that mixes and squirts 1.75 mm filament out of the nozzle, making use of a small brushless motor. The end effector of the hotend is surprisingly light- weighing only about 150 grams. This means its weight isn’t significantly different from any other delta printer currently on the market. The impeller spins at a relatively high speed and is designed such that it also generates it's own extrusion pressure to feed the nozzle, greatly reducing the feed pressure required. This design allows this printer  to move very fast, providing a multicolor print in the same amount of time many machines would create a regular monochrome one. The Arcus-3D-M1 also uses a CRAMPS controller board, and its code is available to access remotely.

(Images: Hackaday)

The Arcus-3D-M1 isn’t by any means the first multicolor 3D printer, but could be one of the simplest and most effective yet seen, and it is encouraging to see such impressive results achieved by open source design. Its success suggests that we will only see the technology improving in the coming years, perhaps looking back at this project as the first in a new wave of accessible machines that bring the full potential of color to the 3D printing masses.

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