All That Glitters: A Tale of Shock and Au

In second grade I was exposed to the concept of Raw Umber when I laid covetous eyes on the well-to-do kids’ crayons, with the sharpener in the back and the 64 colors and the full-priced hot lunch with no unintended seasoning of classism sprinkled on top.

I made do with reliable BROWN, but was at least primed for fifth grade when I had some mental connection to the Umber Hulk in the 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual.

Everyone sees color differently; every printing press and every monitor is a little different from its siblings, and so other industries have put tremendous time into standardization of color. PANTONE is the gold standard for print, and even the crummy, now-archaic NTSC made at least some effort to keep colors consistent across platforms.

The world needs PANTONE for 3D printing filament.

gold variants

OK, so check this out. My Faire Play Kickstarter was a success, and now I’m into printing rewards for backers. I used up my first two rolls of this gold PLA printing Athena Makeover Kits. It’s the gold you see all of the Faire Play photos to date. Unfortunately the distributor I was using seems to have run out of this particular gold and I can’t find another roll anywhere.

So I picked up a new spool off Amazon. The vendor used the same stock image of “GOLD PLA FILAMENT 1.75” as the earlier filament, so I says to myself, “Self, just how different can these be?”

I’m used to some variation between batches of filament, but these colors are wildly different. The leftmost spear is the new gold, which looks more like Butterscotch to me.

Butterscotch is kinda gold, I guess? But definitely doesn’t match the original gold used in the aegis and center spear.

These weapons are going to be used to arm Barbie dolls. Can you imagine the Queen of Fashion wearing an outfit that doesn’t match? Horrors.

This will not stand. So Butterscotch gets relegated to the noble, but inglorious role of prototyping feedstock. The world needs ditch diggers too, Danny.

I try again, with a new gold filament. This is the rightmost spear. Still not a match. It’s a more lustrous, metallic gold, but still wildly different than the gold I’ve been using.

So it’s back to Amazon to twiddle my supply chain again. This time I print some winged boots:

gold boots

Nope. Completely different, once again. This time: same distributor as my first two rolls, different tone. Original gold on the left, newest gold on the right.

I like the antique look of this one, so I’m going to call it Burnished Gold.

I’m making excellent progress on printing the fifty or so Athena Makeover Kits that I need to ship to backers. Everyone’s kit will be an internally-consistent match in one of three gold tones.

No Butterscotch, though. It be fugly.

Shucks. Now that I’ve been chewing the cud of this blog post, I’m convinced that somebody’s gotta dig this ditch and create a standard.

I can’t think of anyone else dumb enough to try it, so 毛遂自荐。 I’ll volunteer. Filament manufacturers. Start sending me samples and I’ll develop and curate a color standard. I’ve always wanted to learn SQL anyway.

5 thoughts on “All That Glitters: A Tale of Shock and Au

  1. Cymon

    I would think, as long as each backer’s full set comes from the same roll that it won’t matter that much. It means you can’t print 1000 shoes in a batch and then switch to spears, but at least they’d match.

    Reply
    1. zheng3 Post author

      I agree Joe. Fortunately I’ve got fewer than 50 of these to print, so it’s not a tremendously difficult mountain to climb.

      Reply
  2. designmaketeach

    Filament making right now seems like a craft brew process where each batch is different. We need a Crayola of filament that provides consistent color and quality for each and every roll.

    Reply
  3. Kabong

    It would be interesting to see if more expensive (premium?) filament vendors have better batch-to-batch consistency. I’m specifically thinking of places like Ultimachine and MakerBot that charge $50 a roll. I would think (or hope), that this is something they’ve worked out.

    Reply

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