3D Printed Programmable Filaments and Applications

Not Just About Colors

We have been used to single-color fused filament fabrication (FFF) and are excitedly inclined to explore the potential of multi-colored, multi-material printing, typically reserved for higher end binder jet and inkjet technologies. Generally, multi-color printing allows more opportunities, particularly if with add-on hardware. Programmable Filament, a novel technique that enables multi-material printing using a commodity FDM 3D printer, requires no hardware upgrades.

Researchers from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Texas A&M University (working also with researchers from Japan) have developed an interactive system for 3D printing with multiple colors and multiple materials using a single printhead – and without any hardware updates necessary.

Working with existing, inexpensive 3D printers, Programmable Filament splices multiple filament segments into a single thread. At the start, the process prints a new strand of filament made up of different existing filament strands. The filaments are of different colors and used different materials, and are built upon computational analysis and experiments. After splicing, one long spiral is produced.

The new rainbow filament can be used just like standard 3D printing filaments. As it is programmable, it can be adjusted as to thickness, roundness, and more, including how much material is needed and how long the length. Programmable Filament is meant to streamline previous challenges found in dual printing, cutting down on shifting and mixing of colors and materials between segments. Most helpful of all, as the filament has already been pre-processed, all the printer has to do is to fabricate the multifaceted filament.

One application for the programmable filament is customized filament manufacturing on-demand. Specifically in medical and the healthcare fields, in electronics and other industrial productions, programmable filaments may be needed as smart electron emission controllers for hot filament when and where needed.

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Accessibility and Affordability

Like what 3D printing companies say – what makes 3D printing so exciting and watchable? That’s because there’s always advances in new hardware, software, and materials to catch on.