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3D printing Surface Treatments - PLA iPhone Case

by norcalbarney, published

3D printing Surface Treatments - PLA iPhone Case by norcalbarney Jun 24, 2012
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Well, I went a little crazy with Ceterumnet's iPhone case, thing #22572. The images are roughly in the order they were created. This is absolutly inspired by RichRap, who was the first that I saw do live filament swaps. Most of the credit should go to Alexrj at slic3r. org for All the cool patterns in Slic3r.

I modded the Greg's Wade's Adrian's extruder so that I can switch filament on the fly. I basically made the hole below the hobbed bolt into a funnel, so that the Cut-N-Follow filament switch would work. I did this with a single extruder, 3mm filament and a 0.46mm hottip. I also uploaded my modded Greg's with a Budaschnozzle mount because Thingiverse requires a model to publish.

I only print in PLA because ABS is bad for the planet. It's also pretty.

If you use this technique, please upload your images as a derivative. I can't wait to see where people go with this.


I use Slic3r to slice my files, which has five built-in solid fill patterns. I'd always used concentric, so I started by stumbling onto two color concentrics. After that I tryed all the other fill patterns while switching to smaller and smaller pieces of filament, down to about 1" reliably now.

Switching to transparent colors lets you see the layer below, so I started swapping in clear pieces every other swap. This gives the cool plaid look with the rectangular infill option at 100%. Transparent PLA colors can also mix colors, so you get some beatiful effects. You should also play with the infil angle for fun.

Next I played with the Hilbert Cruve solid surfaces, which is quite striking in person. Oohs and aahs all around. I let the parimeter be normal Z height (Prusa!), then after the outlines are done I manually lift the Z about .5MM so that the filament is coming out round on the heated bed (required!). Then I manually lower the Z on the second and consecutive layers back to normal smashy smashy. This lets the different color second layer show and accent the Hilbert curve.

Another interesting style is to use the Hilbert Curve (or other) solid surfaces, but make that whole layer clear and bumpy (raised Z first layer) for 3d touch effect.

Then someone suggesting cutting logos into the back of the case. I made the case 1mm thicker, then did boolean cuts with extruded DXFs I downloaded form the web (non-commercial!) By cutting the logo 1mm deep with 0.30mm layers, you can get the outline, surface fill, one infill layer, then the backing bridging for the logo, so you can get lots of color changes.

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Would love to see how you did it! Looks great!

Wow! Could you post a video to show the hot-swapping filament?

Crazy amazing!How is ur machine now?

These prints are incredible !! Love the abstract look !

Now I want to try again to fill a bowden with many little piece of color :)

(I hadn't seen this thing at the time and discovered it with the latest Richrap post)

Absolutely fantastic patterns, love the play with transparency!

This is seriously inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing this!

just. effing. amazing. I've done some multi-color stuff that I thought was pretty epic, by breaking my designs into multiple prints and printing them separately. based on the amount of waste plastic between color swaps I never would have expected that you could get such pronounced color definition.

hats off to you! I hate you! in the best possible way. :)


The Saturday Killer
by br3ttb
4-Color Self-Portrait
by br3ttb

Thank you for the kind words. I hate you too! lolz.

I like your project in OpenSCAD. Thanks for the links. Having more info on multicolor techniques in one place should help stimulate more ideas.

That is really stunning, very nice Job !!!!! 8-) Love it, Love it, Love it !

Sir, I am honored! Your work inspired me to get my machine running in the first place.

I'm excited to see what's next!

Gorgeous effect. Brilliant!

Awesome proof of concept. How long until someone automates it? =)

Indeed! There was a machine on Kickstarter that woulda done it, but sadly wasn't funded : http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756440631/indymaker-color-3d-printerhttp://www.kickstarter.com/pro... . I'd like to see how that mahine does the cut-n-follow.

Also the "raise the Z" effect could be added manually to the gcode, or integrated into the slicing software. Please!?!?!? 8-)

It probably didn't get funded because it didn't have a goofy intro video.

 or, probably, because the printer prints incredibly slow, and look sooo much like makerbots...

Umm this is absolutely amazing! I can't believe how awesome you made these look by switching out filament. How could you have been so accurate regarding the perfect time to start feeding the next color? Since there is already melted filament in the extruder"tube," I mean. Really cool stuff! 8-) =-O

Awesome. Thanks! :-D

Accuracy of color switches isn't really required. I just picked colors that blend well and kinda time it. I get three one inch colors loaded in top before they come out, but extruder/ hottip length can vary. An inch of 3mm is about one square inch of surface with 0.30mm layers.