Something we are always interested in is what you can do with a desktop 3D printer at home. Like, what can you really make and create?
At the moment, there are two projects on Kickstarter that promise to enhance the multi-material capabilities of desktop 3D printers. They eventually turn a simple 3D printer that can only use one sort of filament at a time (that means, one color and material per print) into a device capable of changing the material mid-print. What this means is that you can create beautiful multicolor designs that previously needed to be ordered from a professional 3D printing service. You can mix colors or incorporate flexible, more rubbery materials, e.g. to achieve a more ergonomic handle of something you are printing. Also, conductive or metallic filaments can be used for mechanic and electric parts. A simple wiring integrated into 3D printed parts renders working electrics in 3D prints possible.
The existing solutions that made it possible to use multiple (most of them could handle two) materials at the same time have not been really usable, so far: They require a separate extruding nozzle for each material. This means you have to calibrate the nozzles absolutely perfect to not let them mess up your prints. If one is just a millimeter lower than the other, the print can get caught on the nozzle and the layer gets smeared. If the x- and y-axis are off, the materials do not get printed seamlessly when the material changes in the print. Lastly, the nozzle that is not in use has to be kept almost at working temperature so the plastic does not cool down and clog or burn inside the heating chamber. Then the hot filament can drop on the print and mess it up.
But this is not 2013 (when dual extruders where the killer!). Multi-material printing with a single nozzle is the new thing, and currently there are two projects on Kickstarter revolving around it. One of these two projects is The Diamond Hotend, the other one is called The Palette.
Hotend #1: The Diamond Hotend
The Diamond hotend is a creation of the Danish 3D printer shop reprap.me. The Diamond Hotend is a single-nozzle hotend that allows precise timing of color changes and has three feeds for different types of filament. It is affordable and does not waste much filament. Its mixing chamber is as small as possible to make color shifts (filament blending) fast.
+ good pricing
+ easy calibration (only one nozzle)
+ minimal filament waste
+ prints with 3 different colors or materials
++ almost unlimited color blending possible
– The nozzle has to be built in first
– no explanation how exactly the filament switch works yet
Price: ~ $180
Hotend #2: The Palette
The Palette takes in four filament inputs and combines them. Your printer gets one single filament input so you do not have to mess around with the machine. The Palette automates the whole process of measuring how much of which filament is required. All you need is to include the Palette and its software in your 3D printing routine. You use the same software as you would normally, import your files into the Palette software, put its output into the Palette device, and then continue printing.
+ easy calibration (only one nozzle)
++ practically no filament waste
++ prints with 4 different colors or materials
+ no hardware modifications
+ open source software and firmware
+ works on any standard 3D printer with access to the filament input
– color blending not possible (yet, they say it may be possible)
License: The text of "Kickstarter: Two great hotends for 3D printers" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.