Let us start out by saying we have had a Form1 and a Form1+ printer and have loved both printers for the unbelievable finish and detail that the printers output but we have been disappointed with the resin color options. We often print finished products from our printer and after a while, the lack of color resins was really limiting the fun quotient! There are only so many times you can make unique items and sell them in black, white, clear or grey. Yes, we could always paint the models, but since many of our models have text that is too small to sand around, it becomes an almost impossible task at best.
About a year ago, we experimented with putting metal flakes in clear Formlabs resin. We discovered that if we used just the right amount of flakes, we could turn the clear resin a slightly different color while giving it a unique sparkle in certain lighting. We first tried Alumilite’s Copper Metallic Powder in clear resin. After a few batches, we discovered that perfect ratio and managed to print some earrings successfully! The look completely surprised us. We had expected a shiny coppery look, but what we got was even more unique. In some light, the copper infused clear resin looks pinkish, in some light it looks more tan, and only in certain light or in larger pieces can you see the actual flakes sparkle. It was a great and successful first experiment into the world of resin additives! We then took the remainder of the copper infused resin and added Alumilite’s Silver Metallic Powder to it along with more clear resin. We achieved success a second time and this time the result surprised us even more! The slight pink hue achieved with the copper flakes was replaced by a slightly more yellow or cream colored hue. Again, the color really changes based on lighting conditions and colors around it. We loved the two different looks that the metallic flakes achieved, but we were not content with just flakes. We moved on and experimented with some other companies colored resins, but still the options were limited.
Copper Metallic Infused Clear Resin Earrings
On April 1, 2016, Formlabs played an April Fool’s Day joke of scented and dyed resin. Now, we knew this was a joke, but we were wondering if dyed or colored resin was going to be offered soon. Alas, that was not to be the case. However, soon after, they announced a method of dying the clear resin with epoxy dye. They gave the recipe and instructions, but never listed a brand/type of epoxy dye and when we tried it here, it didn’t work.
Recently, in our continuing quest to successfully print with colored resin, we used Rit dye (that we had already purchased for dying nylon filament) in clear resin. Of course the particles from the Rit dye didn’t dissolve immediately so we protected the container from UV light, and waited until a majority of the particles dissolved and we had a beautiful cobalt blue color! When pouring it into the resin tank, we were careful not to add any un-dissolved particles to the tank. It was stunning as you can see in our images below. However, it did not reliably print in large scale (which was what we had intended it for). We successfully printed one pair of earrings with it, then we diluted the cobalt blue color with more clear to make a more transparent and lighter blue. The jewelry pieces that we printed with this blue are unique and beautiful. Again, larger scale objects did not print – we assume that the dye was affecting the resin’s cohesion when the object became too heavy or large.
Cobalt Blue "Clear" Resin Earrings
But, it gave us hope for more colors and more options. We created syringes of concentrated dye in clear resin to be able to use it to infuse into a clear tank of resin. Those syringes, each in a different color, sat in the dark for a few weeks until this past weekend when we decided to try out our experiment with some of the last of our clear resin. We filled the tank with clear resin and began a print of custom bottle openers – 9 openers on the tray. About 15% into the print, we added a different dye color to each corner of the vat – red, yellow, blue, and orange. A short time later, we added a bit of green to the hinge side of the vat. We had limited amounts of each color, because again, we wanted to be sure that we didn’t introduce any un-dissolved particles into the resin. As we mentioned above, this was the last of our clear resin and as the print was about half way complete, we realized that we were not going to be able to get anymore color from the syringes, so our last option was to add our cobalt blue color if we wanted this print to actually succeed and produce bottle openers for us. And it worked! We have variegated bottle openers – each one is unique based on where it was positioned within the vat and what colors were near it.
Leftover dyed resin in syringes
Side view of variegated bottle openers
Top view of variegated bottle openers
The process of printing with dyed resin worked beautifully and we plan to do some more experiments with color soon – perhaps with Formlab’s white resin! And if that doesn’t work, at least we know we can buy more clear and get the same gorgeous results!