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April 22, 2015

The Palette brings multiple colors to your 3D printer

by John_A

3D printers are great for homemade toys. But most affordable desktop machines can only print monochrome models. Mosaic Manufacturing, a Montreal-based startup, has created The Palette, a filament feeding system that turns a single extruder 3D printer into a multicolor printing machine. It acts like a bridge between your current printer and ever-evolving filament options. You can feed it up to four colors or play around with wood, steel or conductive varieties. It works in tandem with your machine, so it calculates and cuts the filaments needed for each element in a design before fusing them into one continuous string for your printer.

To print in multiple hues, you would need to buy an exorbitant color printer (3D Systems’ latest Cube Pro C costs $4,990) or you’d hack your single color 3D printer to add calibrated nozzles for more options. But the add-ons are clunky and they usually slow down the printing. The Palette does away with the paraphernalia that comes with a multi-nozzle printer. It works with almost any printer that uses a 1.75mm filament, a common diameter for most machines, so it doesn’t need any additional hardware or modifications.

The creators, Mitch Debora, Chris Labelle and Derek Vogt went with open source firmware and software so The Palette fits into the collaborative ecosystem that’s driving the 3D printing community. And like most of their 3D printing peers, they also followed the crowdfunding route. You can back their prototype on Kickstarter for $899, which is pricey for an extension device. But, if you already own a 3D printer, it’s a whole lot cheaper than upgrading to a swanky color machine.

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