Yesterday (which happened to be 3D Printing Day) Apple submitted a patent for a 3D printer that can create full colour prints using a single filament type. It does this using two printer heads: one that actually creates the print with traditional filament, and a second one that applies colour to that print.
Printing in multiple colours has always been a problem. A not-so-elegant way to get colour into prints is to use multiple filaments, but that’s a massive can of worms involving multi-headed printers and/or delicate changes during printing to swap out the filaments.
The filed process called “Method and apparatus for three dimensional printing of colored objects” sets out multiple ways to solve the problem. In terms of the colour-applying head, it could either apply it after a few layers have been printed or after the entire print is finished.
As for what that colour will actually be; inkjet, spray paint, and even coloured markers are being considered.
The inventors credited above include Geoffrey Stahl, Apple’s director of games and graphics software engineering.
As with all patents, there’s no word as to whether Apple will take it any further than this. That being said, the thought of heavily-protected, Apple-branded 3D printing scares us more than a little. We’ve already seen the devastating effect first-party meddling has had on regular paper printing, and the horror of your printer telling you that “This cartridge is not genuine!”.[Source – 3Ders]