MIT’s 3D printing technique allows objects to change colors

/ 05:13 PM January 29, 2018

Imagine having your shoes match your blue shirt today and your yellow dress tomorrow without spending more for an extra pair. The thought alone seems outrageous, what with all the time-consuming fastidious attention that comes in color-coding one’s accessories to pantsuits and socks, and the frantic nagging questions among the likes of Does this bag go with my shoes?, all stress-inducing enough to resign one to the safe shades of black and gray.

Crazy as it seems, it isn’t so farfetched as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) makes this quite possible, minus all the hassle.


The MIT CSAIL recently developed a new technique in 3D printing called ColorFab that gives objects the ability to change colors after being printed, as reported by MIT News. ColorFab makes use of a custom-made ink which has light adaptable dyes that bring out the base dye’s color when thrust under UV light. Under visible light, though, the colors vanish and the ink turns transparent.

Image: Screengrab from YouTube/MITCSAIL

Image: Screengrab from YouTube/MITCSAIL

Image: Screengrab from YouTube/MITCSAIL

All one has to do is upload their 3D model to its interface and then choose a color pattern. The parts of the object that can change color assume a pixelated design, and one only needs to choose which pixels to activate or deactivate to make the color switch.


The creation of ColorFab, however, didn’t just sprout from a gimmicky idea of instantly changing an object’s color when one so wishes to. It was borne out of a noble intention as well.

The researchers at MIT plan that once the ColorFab technique has been refined enough, they can start introducing it to the textile industry in the hopes of helping lessen the waste people produce, which often end up in landfills.

“Largely speaking, people are consuming a lot more now than twenty years ago, and they’re creating a lot of waste,” explained Stefanie Mueller, the X-Consortium career development assistant professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. “By changing an object’s color, you don’t have to create a whole new object every time.”

Their goals alone may seem lofty, but with the groundbreaking technologies available in laboratories today, as well as the ever-upwards trajectory of science, the idea of instant color-changing clothes no longer warrants an indignant “Impossible!” in response.

The rest of the ColorFab video may be accessed through this link: ColorFab: Color-Changing 3D PrintablesCody Cepeda/JB


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TOPICS: ColorFab, garment industry, landfill waste, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, waste
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