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I have a 3D printed object that I'd like to print on. Adhesive stickers are an option, but as the surface is rounded it's difficult to get a good film to stick well.

Is there any system to print on a 3D object (e.g. ink jet). I need at least 300dpi. Black in the first instance, but color would be nice for future projects.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also you may try to use a heat shrinkable film instead of adhesive sticker. There are industrial technologies to print on curved objects, but they are not available for home use. $\endgroup$ – A-student Apr 27 '17 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Have you any experience of letting professional printers print on homemade objects? $\endgroup$ – Sonya May 8 '17 at 4:32
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Rather than post a series of links for various services and vendors, consider to use as a search term "hydrographic film at home" to find results to suit your purpose. The first search results I found excluded "at home" and indicated it was not suited for home/hobbyist use, but the modification resulted in vendors supportive of home users.

In advanced circumstances, the image printed on the film is topographically matched to the model to which it is to be applied. For home users, I suspect that is somewhat out of reach. Most of the products aimed at the home user are patterns or solid colors, although with care, one could combine films in sequential applications.

Effectively, the process involves a colored film floating on a water filled container. Certain products are applied to the film and to the prepared model to ensure bonding. Additional processes are required to protect the graphic-coated model after removal from the bath/container.

As with the other responses, it's not likely one will achieve 300 dpi resolution without resorting to the topographically matched commercial methods.

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A possible alternative, depending on the resolution limit of your 3Dprinter, is to embed the text into your design so the final result has the text raised a mm or so above the surface. You can then easily (!!) paint just the raised surface to highlight the lettering.
This is not going to work for 300dpi, though.

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One option is to hire a painter to paint the image onto the surface. With a skilled painter, you could have a very photorealistic finish. Not sure if this would cost more or less than other routes.

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There are printer types that can print images into the material as it's being printed. SLA and SLS type printers are capable of this but I believe Polyjet printers are the best suited.

At 300 dpi though you might be pushing the edge of what is capable. to get that fine of detail your best option may be to look into getting a vinyl wrap for your part that is applied after it's printed. If you've seen cars with really high detail images on them, a vinyl wrap is typically how they're done.

Note

I should state that the SLA and SLS embedded images are still in the R&D phases and being experimented with. Possible now, but not in production phase. The SLS version essentially ran another print head over that worked similar to an ink jet before sintering the layers. The SLA version I saw worked somewhat similarly, but had some 'unique' clearing processes.

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  • $\begingroup$ This answer seems incorrect. I do not think there are SLA or SLS printers capable of printing images. $\endgroup$ – Tom van der Zanden Apr 28 '17 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ I should have stated probably that the SLA and SLS embedded images are still in the R&D phases and being experimented with. Possible now, but not in production phase. The SLS version essentially ran another print head over that worked similar to an ink jet before sintering the layers. The SLA version I saw worked somewhat similarly, but had some 'unique' clearing processes. $\endgroup$ – Diesel Apr 28 '17 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ I've undeleted this answer as it is rather interesting. If you feel that I have done so in error, please feel free to re-delete. $\endgroup$ – Greenonline Dec 17 '18 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Diesel, could you add some details, as to where you saw these printers demonstrated? Was it at a fair/demostration/early prototype? Why did you delete it? See the chat $\endgroup$ – Greenonline Dec 17 '18 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ There were a couple of people working on the sls printer at UofManitoba in 2012?? (Not sure on the year) as well as a couple of universities in Southern Ontario (Waterloo and whatever the one is just east of Markham, they were playing with SLA). As for why it was deleted, I don't remember deleting this so I can't comment on why I did anymore. What I saw and the people I talked to about it, made it fairly clear the development wasn't near ready for production, just a possible solution. I haven't been active in 3D printing tech for almost 2 year now so its hard to say where that research is now $\endgroup$ – Diesel Dec 18 '18 at 20:18

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