How To Change Filament Colour Mid Print? Should You Do It!


There are a number of ways to make a 3D print really come to life. Smoothing for example can take the rough edges out of your print and make it look more professional.

But if there is one thing that can really make a 3D print pop it is adding color. There are two ways you could go about coloring your 3D print. 

One way would be to simply paint it in post-processing. This is possibly the cheapest way to do it. This method does have one downside to it in that paint peels off. This happens especially fast when your print is exposed to chemicals, heat, or even just water. Also, check out “How To Cut, Drill And Weld 3D Printed Plastic ?

The second and slightly more expensive way to color your 3D model is to use different colored filaments. We say it is more expensive because you are likely to spend more on filament than you would on primer and a few spray cans of paint. 

This method has the advantage of being more permanent than paint. It does involve a little manual dexterity in that you have to swap out filaments to get the different colors in mid-print. In this guide, we share a few tips on how to do just that.

But can you switch filaments while you are printing?

Can You Pause A 3D Print To Change Filament?

Modern 3D printers have pause and resume capabilities. Pausing makes it possible to change a spool of filament that has almost run out for a full spool or to swap for a different color. Once a new spool has been inserted printing can resume. 

How Long Can You Pause A 3D Print?

In theory, a 3D print can be paused indefinitely. For example, it might be necessary to pause a print overnight or longer before a fresh spool of filament becomes available. This might happen if a specific brand of filament is needed and it has to be shipped for instance.

In reality, however, you would not want to pause your prints for more than a few hours or overnight at best. Temperature changes might cause the layers in your paused print to shift and make resuming difficult. 

For more details on this, we highly recommend that you check out our post “How Long Can You Pause a 3-D Printer? the Downside of It !

Does Pausing A 3D Print Ruin It?

3D Prints can be paused and resumed without affecting the print. The important factors to note are keeping the print bed warm and reducing moisture absorption to prevent print failure. 

Filament absorbs moisture.

Certain types of filament like nylon for example absorb moisture at a higher rate. Nylon can become saturated and unusable in a matter of hours. Fortunately, ABS and PLA are not as absorbent and fair much better. 

A second factor to consider is your print falling off the print bed.

When you pause your print and turn off the machine the print bed will cool down. This may reduce the adhesion of your print to the print bed and result in it falling off. Alternatively, it might warp. ABS is particularly prone to warping but this could also happen with PLA or PETG filament. 

To counteract this, you can pause the print but keep the machine on. This ensures the print bed stays warm while the printer is paused. Printing inside an enclosure would also help in keeping temperatures regulated.

An added precaution you can take is to apply adhesive to the print bed before you start printing if you anticipate having to pause the print.

Glue will help keep your partially completed print stuck to the bed and prevent warping. Find out more by checking our post “Should You Use A Glue Stick On Print Bed? (3D Printing)

We also recommend that you check out our post “What Happens When Filament Runs Out? How To Save Your Print!

How Do I Change The Color Of My Filament When Printing?

Color can enhance the appearance of a 3D print. The most common way of changing color while printing is to manually pause the print and swap colors. An alternative automated way to do this is through the G-Code commands. By using G-Code commands the print is paused automatically at a set point.

Manual Filament Swap On A Single Extruder

To alternate between colors manually:

  1. Pause the print by pressing the “pause print” button. This will move the print head to its home position. Be careful not to press the “stop print” button as this does not pause the print but stops it and once it stops you cannot resume.
  2. Feed your new filament making sure it pushes out any old filament. 
  3. Once the previous color has been removed and the new spool has been inserted, simply press the “resume print” button to resume printing. 

G-Code Assisted Swapping

If you know how to manipulate your G-Code then this method might serve you better.

  1. Generate the G-Code for your model as you normally would.
  2. Identify which layer(s) you want to swap filament on using the layer preview.
  3. Insert your pause command(s) using the Z20 command. This raises the nozzle by 20 mm. 
  4. Now your printer knows when to pause the print. 

You still have to manually swap the filament but with this method, you don’t have to manually pause the print. Source

What Happens If Filament Runs Out During Print?

If a filament runs out during a print one of two things can happen. Firstly, the print head might keep moving while not extruding any filament. In this case, there is a high chance of print failure. On the other hand, the printer might simply pause the print if it has a runout sensor.

The best way to prevent a failed print from running out of filament is with a run-out sensor. If your printer does not have one you can still buy and retrofit one. This saves a lot of time and effort compared to the tedious job of trying to rescue your print using G-Code. 

sherifjallad

I am a very well experienced techie civil engineer who's extensively interested in 3D printing technology and even more captivated by the potential of 3D printing livable structures

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