Major changes are afoot in the color 3D printing market with multiple new technologies expected to become widely available this year. A quick rundown on everything that is happening: HP is expected to launch their new color 3D printer; the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 full-color 3D printer is expected to become more widely available; and additional software updates are expected to come to the Stratasys J750 color 3D printer that will help enhance color quality. In this post we’ll go over how each of these color 3D printers work, show sample 3D prints and discuss where each fits into the broader market compared to one another. Here is quick summary:
- Stratasys J750- It’s been on the market for a few years now and through a recent software update color accuracy has greatly improved to now be on par with the Mimaki 3DUJ-553. That said, it is the most expensive of these three 3D printers machine and material-wise.
- Mimaki 3DUJ-553- The Mimaki color 3D printer just recently became available in the U.S. Of these 3 printers, it has the best color quality, but loses to the HP Jet Fusion 580 when it comes to machine and material cost. You can read our full review here.
- HP Jet Fusion 580- The HP color 3D printer is expected to be released later this year. Details are still scant, but the printer could be quite impressive if it lives up to the hype that HP is putting around it.
Current State of Color 3D Printing
Before we dive in, let's discuss the current state of the color 3D printing market. While there are multiple full color 3D printers currently on the market, the Projet 660 has largely remained the industry standard. While there are a few nuances, the 2 main reasons it has remained on top are it’s resolution and material cost when compared with competing full-color 3D printers. You can read more here on why the Projet 660 is specifically the most popular 3D printer for 3D printed figurines, one of the main applications for color 3D printing. Despite all of this, the Projet 660 still leaves a lot to be desired with regards to reliability, quality, consistency and material cost- all things that we hope to see this latest generation of color 3D printers improve upon.
How it works
The Stratasys J750 color 3D printer uses a polyjet 3D printing process, similar to the Mimaki color 3D printer. The polyjet printing process consists of resin that is jetted out of ink heads and then later cured by UV light to harden it. One downside of the polyjetting approach with resin is the need for support material which typically increases the cost of printing and can sometimes prove difficult to remove
Machine and Material Cost
The Stratasys is rumored to cost between $300k and $400k and has a material cost that is 60% more expensive than the Mimaki 3DUJ-553.
|Build size||490 x 390 x 200 mm|
|Print Mode / Thickness||
High Speed / 27-micron
High Quality / 14-micron
(X-axis: 600 dpi; Y-axis: 600 dpi; Z-axis: 1800 dpi)
Where it fits in
While the J750 has gotten a lot better with color accuracy since it was first launched, it is still a more expensive machine and more expensive to operate than the Mimaki full-color 3D printer. From a 3D printed figurine perspective, unless you want to use one of the J750’s other qualities, such as being able to 3D print in transparent material, it probably makes sense to always print with Mimaki. See below for a sample print from the J750:
Check out our recent blog post for a full write up on the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 full-color 3D printer.
How it works
Similar to the Stratasys J750 full-color 3D printer, the Mimaki uses a polyjetting printing process to 3D print. The basic process is:
- Resin is fired out of inkjet print heads and cured by a UV LED light
- Once it completes a layer, a roller flattens out the layer and the UV LED light is fired again
- After a layer is complete, the build platform moves down and the process repeats
*Dissolvable support materials are used in cases where a part has an overhang
The Mimaki costs ~$250k and has material costs ~4x over the 3D Systems Projet 660 color 3D printer.
|Build Size||508 x 508 x 305 mm|
|Print Mode / Resolution / Thickness||
Fast / 600 dpi / 42 micron
Standard / 800 dpi / 32 micron
High Quality 1270 dpi / 22 micron
Where it fits in
Excerpt from our prior post on Mimaki:
Although, the Mimaki can produce very high quality parts, the major caveat is that the material is much more expensive compared to the material used for the Projet 660. This makes it cost prohibitive to 3D print at the larger sizes on the Mimaki full-color 3D printer. Until material prices come down, the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 full-color 3D printer will likely be limited to 3D printing only small, high resolution parts when it comes to the 3D printed figurine market.
Below is a sample print from the Mimaki 3DUJ-553:
HP Jet Fusion 580
How it works
As the name implies, the HP Jet Fusion 580 uses a multi jet fusion process to 3D print. Multi jet fusion works by first spreading a thin layer of power over a bed. Inkjet nozzles then pass over the power and release agents (to both fuse and prevent from fusing) on different parts of the powder bed. Next, a high energy IR source passes over the power to sinter the powder together. The process repeats many times until a full 3D object is created. Once complete the unsintered powder is recycled to use in another print build.
We still don’t have full details on what the color version of the HP Jet Fusion 580 will cost, but past press articles have mentioned ~$100k. As for materials, it is still anyone’s guess until HP releases their new color 3D printer.
The current monochrome HP Jet Fusion 580’s specs are:
|Build Size||332 x 190 x 248 mm|
|Layer thickness / Resolution||80 micron / 1200 dpi|
Where it fits in
Of the 3 3D printers we’ve reviewed today, the HP Jet Fusion 580 is the most difficult to evaluate since it is still unreleased. If materials are priced similar to the HP Jet Fusion 580 monochrome 3D printer, then HP’s new color 3D printer could very well replace the Projet 660. Stay tuned. We’ll update this blog post as more details get released in the coming months.
Only time will tell how these full color 3D printing technologies get adopted by industry. With this latest wave of color 3D printers, we'll likely see new applications for 3D printing made possible just as we did with 3D printed figurines in the last wave circa 2014. The main things to watch in this wave are increased resolution, stronger materials and cheaper material costs. As a company whose product is deeply connected to the capabilities of full-color 3D printers, we're very excited for what these new technologies will mean for our customers.
Want to see examples of what the current generation of color 3D printers can do?