3D printing is currently a big buzz word in the design, arts and crafts, and technology worlds. With the growing awareness and access to 3D printing technology, more and more hobbyists, designers, and crafters are creating their own projects and products with this technology. Online services like Shapeways and Ponoko allow you to 3D print your project for a marginal cost dependent on the volume of your piece and without the startup costs of owning your own printer. For the last three and a half years, I've been making jewelry with 3D printing, and in the time I've learned a lot about ways to manipulate the material to change its color and appearance.
If you are making objects with 3D printing and printed your piece in polyamide, you can dye it at home to whatever color you want. Polyamide is a porous material that accepts color really well. This material is known by different names at different printing companies. Shapeways calls it White Strong and Flexible, Ponoko calls it Durable Plastic, Sculpteo White Plastic, and iMaterialise Polyamide. Some companies offer dying of your prints for you, but that adds extra processing time and is only available in a small range of colors. If you're tired of the boring white that many 3D prints come in, this instructable will show you how to your own color your own prints.
This is a tutorial for dying nylon (or polyamide) 3d prints with fabric dye. We'll use Rit brand dyes in our tutorial since it is easy to find in craft, fabric, and grocery stores. You can also dye your 3D prints with Jacquard brand acid dyes in a similar process, but that will require carefully measuring vinegar to change the acidity of the solution and constantly heating the solution. This process is very similar to dying fabric. In this tutorial, I'll be showing you how I dye my bike planters. This process is the same for all prints made with polyamide.
These instructions were originally published on my blog (http://www.wearableplanter.com/blog/2014/6/4/how-to-dye-your-3d-prints). These instructions also appeared in Make: Magazine's 3D Thursday column (http://makezine.com/2013/05/09/how-to-dye-your-3d-prints/) and on the Adafruit blog (http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2013/05/09/colleen-jordan-of-wearableplanter-shares-techniques-to-dye-3d-prints-3dthursday/). If you would like to purchase your own bike planter to dye, they are available from Shapeways (http://www.shapeways.com/model/429972/small-bike-planter.html?materialId=78) along with other 3D printable objects.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
The first thing that you will need to do is gather your materials. You'll need your nylon 3D prints, your desired color of fabric dye, an appropriate size bowl to do the dyeing in, measuring spoons, and boiling water (not pictured). We also recommend having access to a microwave to reheat your solution while dying as need.
Decide which color you would like to dye your prints. Rit has a great guide to tell you which colors you can dye your prints with their dyes and other brands of dye will have similar guides. Nylon absorbs the dye really quickly, and we usually use slightly less dye than the guides recommend. For this batch of bike planters we will be dying them using Rit's Sunshine Orange. We're using 1.5 tsp of powdered dye to 1.5 cups of boiling water. Remember that you are working with fabric dye that will stain clothes and skin. If you care about the clothes that you are wearing, now is the time to put on an apron or to change into something that you don't love as much. Fabric dye can also stain your skin, so wear latex gloves if you don't want tinted hands. Rit dye will come off easily with scrubbing, so if you do get some on your skin, it can be easily removed.
Step 2: Soak Your Pieces
Before you begin the dying process, soak your prints for at least 30 minutes. We recommend doing this overnight if you have the time. Having your prints saturated will allow the dye to color the piece more evenly. Stirring the water will also help remove any dust on the surface of your prints left over from the printing process.
If there is residual powder on the surface of your prints, it can affect the color of piece. The loose powder will be dyed, and will come off easily when the piece is dry, leaving a white spot underneath. If you have a shelled or hollow piece, make sure all the loose powder is removed before proceeding.
Step 3: Add Color
Carefully measure your required amount of dye and add your boiling water. Stir it really well so all of the powder is dissolved in solution.
Add your prints to the the solution and stir. Agitate the solution frequently to ensure that your prints are colored evenly. The longer that you leave your prints in the solution, the more saturated the color will be. These prints stayed in the dye for about 6 minutes to achieve the color. If you need to leave your prints in the solution longer, microwave it at 15-30 second increments to reheat the water to near boiling temperatures. We've noticed that some dyes require higher temperatures to stay in solution than others. In our experience pink and blue dyes require hotter temperatures and longer dying times to achieve their desired colors.
Step 4: Rinse
Rinsing your prints is very important to prevent color bleeding. You can rinse it with cold water to remove the excess dye. We also like to let the pieces sit in boiling water for a few minutes to allow any excess dye to soak out. If you're going to be dying jewelry or anything that will be worn close to the skin, this is a very important step as excess dye could stain the skin or clothes.
Step 5: Dry
Place your dyed prints onto a clean paper towel to dry. Drying time will depend on the size of your print and the humidity of the room. Placing your prints in front of a fan will speed up the drying process.
Once your prints have dried, sealing them with an acrylic sealer will protect the color and prevent the nylon from absorbing any particles or dirt. We recommend using a polymer varnish (like liquitex) or clear acrylic paint to protect the color and your piece from getting dirty.
Now that your prints have been dyed, you're ready to show them off!