50 Shades of PLA: The Importance of Colour

50 Shades of PLA: The Importance of Colour

So why does colour matter?

Its an interesting question, colour is something that most of us take for granted in this world. Colour television, colour (paper) printing, our coffee cups have different colours, our clothing, our houses, our appliances, our toys, almost everything in our lives is made up of multiple colours.

Colour is a way to communicate, a way to beautify, a way to showcase our imagination. Imagine a world in grey-scale, or a world made up of a red hue.

That would absolutely suck!

Colour is a tool to make objects look, and sometimes even feel, more real.

How does all this apply to 3D printing?

More and more 3D printers are appearing in our schools and our libraries. Places where our children are being given the ability to make things that would blow any (normal) parent’s minds. (If you’re reading this you're probably the exception, not the rule). You don’t give a child a box of red crayons, you give them a box with 64 different colours.

By enabling colour for 3D printing you can increase a child’s interest in an emerging technology, and help spur them to go on the path to becoming an engineer, or an artist, or a designer. Colour has an effect on how unfamiliar people view 3D printing, and the objects that come off our printers. In order to move 3D printing into 2015, colour is a must.

….yeah, yeah 3D printing isn’t for trinkets, trust me, we understand.

So what else can it be used for? How is colour practical?

There's a really great example of colour's importance to clarity, funny enough it's found on the bottom of a vacuum cleaner... the Roomba.

The people who create the Roomba understand the importance of colour as a tool of communication. Every part that is replaceable by the consumer on their vacuum is made of yellow plastic, instead of the black/grey that the rest of the parts are made of. Think of the clarity in the explanation there:

Remove the yellow part in the top left corner


Remove the small square piece above the third screw in the second row from the left.

Well yeah, but I'm not planning to print a vacuum...

We understand, but the point is simple. Clarity for communication. 3D Printing is a way to bring the digital world into physical existence, it’s a form of communication. Without colour you cannot communicate the concept, the prototype’s purpose, its strong points, its potential weakpoints, or the points you want to draw attention to without reverting to the “square piece above the third screw” example from above.

And that’s discounting the huge amount of communication benefits you get strictly from the visual appeal of a print. Whether it be a name plate, an art piece, an architectural model, or a product’s final design iteration colour lets you make all of your parts more appealing than you could before.

We’ve been absorbed in the importance of colour 3D printing from the second we wake up, to the second we go to bed for the past nine months now. We wanted to take a chance to communicate its importance, and to help illustrate examples of how something as simple as colour can help 3D printing technology progress to the next stage.

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