LaserWriter 2.0

Apple has Filed a Patent for a Full Color 3D Printer

full color 3D printer

Technology giant Apple has filed an application with the U.S. Patent Office for a full color 3D printer. Exciting new product in the pipeline?

full color 3D printerIt’s been a long time since Apple was in the business of manufacturing printers. Way back in 1997, to be precise, with the LaserWriter 8500.

But a U.S. patent application disclosed yesterday — by sheer coincidence on International 3D Printing Day — suggests that the company has been conducting research and development on a full color 3D printer.

Published under the name “Method and apparatus for three dimensional printing of colored objects,” the patent application describes a 3D printer that’s capable of not only printing three-dimensional objects, but finishing them in a multiple colors.

Apple’s patent describes a machine with two different print heads, one used for depositing layers of material (presumably thermoplastic), and the other for applying color via inkjet technology, airbrushes, spray nozzles or airbrushes.

Will Apple Release a Full Color 3D Printer?

We shouldn’t get too excited, however. Whether Apple actually gets round to releasing a full color 3D printer is open to question.

Apple put its line of consumer printers out to pasture after Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s. Up until that point, the company had produced multiple models each year going back to 1980. The most popular model was the LaserWriter in 1985, which was one of the first mass-market laser printers to become commercially available.

Moreover, this patent was first filed in May 2014. That’s an eternity, in technological terms. The 3D printing industry has since experienced the “Trough of Disillusionment“, and Apple could have moved on to other projects since then. This idea may have been parked with the patent office as a way of hedging their bets for future projects.

But a full color 3D printer from Apple remains a tantalising prospect. If anyone is capable of developing and releasing a 3D printer that’s safe, reliable and user-friendly, it would be Apple. They have considerable expertise in making complex technology palatable to the general consumer.

And they certainly have an incentive to go down the path of additive manufacturing, if only to maintain their image as an innovator that “democratizes” creative tools.

But would such a machine be affordable? That’s another question entirely. In 1985, a LaserWriter would have set you back $6,995. Adjusted for inflation, you’re looking at the cost of a small car.

Say, isn’t Apple rumored to be working on one of those, too…?