FiberForce Partners with Pantone to Bring Professional Color to 3D Printing Filaments

There are lots of reasons companies want 3D printed items in their corporate colors and for those colors to be portrayed accurately. With some systems, white materials are used, which then can be painted. But this can be an expensive and time-consuming process. What if the items could be printed in the actual target colors?

This partnership between Pantone and FiberForce sets the industry on that path. FiberForce has just released its first range of solid filaments in a subset of Pantone colors. According to Francesco Berton, FiberForce CEO, “These initial filaments are based on a PLA compound. Later this year, we plan to release a second range of materials, including Smart ABS and Glass Fiber Reinforced nylon. We also plan to add a flexible filament range by the end of 2019.”

While only a subset of Pantone colors is currently available from FiberForce, the company plans the release of 16 additional colors in March and states that this is just the beginning. FiberForce is choosing the colors to be released based on sales data and customer feedback collected over the past four years. These Pantone-compliant filaments will carry a slightly higher cost than non-Pantone filaments, but the company states the pricing is still in line with the average cost of high-quality filaments made in the U.S. and Europe.

According to Iain Pike, Director of Partner Business Development, X-Rite and Pantone, “We do a lot of work in materials licensing for Pantone colors, ranging from ink companies to companies producing embroidery thread, vinyl materials, plastics, and textile dyes. This is the first time we have licensed colors to a company dedicated to the 3D printing industry, and we expect to expand further into this application.”

According to Pike, FiberForce contacted Pantone to explore the possibility of licensing Pantone colors, adding, “They have a large number of colors in their standard product line. They were interested in creating a filament based on the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, and that’s how we got started. Eventually, they decided they wanted to create filaments in many more colors matching colors from both our PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM (PMS) and our Fashion, Home and Interiors library. While our PMS system features a lot of bright colors and pastels, we don’t have a lot of colors in the white, cream, tan, brown, and light gray ranges. So, it made more sense for them to select colors from both libraries and cross-reference each FiberForce color to the most relevant system.”

Pike explains that the intent here is not to create process colors, but rather, to be able to use multiple spools, each with its own color, Pantone or standard, to create objects either in one pass on a printer that can accommodate multiple spools, or in multiple passes. “We believe most objects, at least at this stage, are likely to be one or two colors,” Pike states.

Due to nondisclosure agreements the company has in place, FiberForce declined to comment on which 3D printer manufacturers it is working with, but one could assume that FiberForce has reached out to most of the key players in the market.

It is likely that users will want to use Pantone colors for a variety of items. Promotional items jump out as the most likely to create uptake in the market, although there will likely also be demands for special colors in industrial products. Another popular application for 3D printing lies in the architectural market, for making models. This is another area that could benefit from special colors. There are also potential applications in the fashion industry. For example, when Ariel Swedroe presented her fashion show at EFI connect, one of the dresses featured a 3D-printed butterfly. We also wrote a story about Israeli-based fashion designer Danit Peleg who uses flexible filaments to create 3D printed garments, including a dress for Amy Purdy to wear for her dance at the Paralympics Opening Ceremony in Rio in 2016.

As more Pantone colors become available in 3D printing materials, through this partnership and others, expect to see brands, designers and others take advantage of the opportunity to bring more color fidelity to their creations.

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