Home » Steam Dyeing® process Update October 2023

Steam Dyeing® process Update October 2023

Steam DYEING® is a revolutionary way to apply colour to a plastic component, a polymer or an elastomer. Its story begins in the field of the Additve Manufacturing, or 3D printing of polymers, composite materials or elastomers. Suitable parts are manufactured, just to make an example, with SLS (Selective laser Sintering), Multi-Jet Fusion™ (MJF) by Hewlett-Packard and other similar technologies using, additive powders like PA12, PA11, also charged with glass, TPU, PEEK, BIO-Polymers and similar powders.
Some of them are premixed with nano technologic fibers, like carbon fibers, offering light weight combined with extraordinary mechanical resistance, with final look inhomogeneous.

For example, most or even all components manufactured with Multi-Jet Fusion™ (MJF) by Hewlett-Packard, are frequently outcoming with inhomogeneous dark grey colour thus inviting to provide suitable dyeing post-process, most frequently with a deep black colour.

The classic dyeing method

The most popular and classic dyeing method is using water, pre-mixed with dyeing colour, heated to a temperature in the range of 80° – 90°C, into a suitable stainless steel tank.
The plastic components to be dyed, are submerged into the liquid for a certain time.
The typical ratio of colour/water is generally: 1/10 of colour + 9/10 of water.
To produce a volume of about 5 to 10 liters of plastic components, a suitable tank is generally of about 30 liters volume, where 3 kg. of colour are added to 27 liters of water.
Part of the pigments contained into the dyeing colours are passing by the pre-mixed liquid to the surface of the parts, therefore a second application would need to be integrated by new dyeing colours.
The operation is mainly done by experience, with dosage/re-integration of colour by hand, with lot of competence depending almost on the operator skills.

The innovative Steam DYEING® method, by IntegrAM

Steam DYEING® is a technology based on the use of DRY SATURATED STEAM, duly mixed with a very small quantity of dyeing colour (compared with the classic method above described), where parts are “sprayed” by the steam, and not submerged into a big volume of water.
The parts are also continuously moved in a three-dimensional circular loop, in order to be exposed several times to the Steam Nozzle, in the beginning to be heated up and, in a second time after reaching the suitable temperature, to be dyed by STEAM+DYEING COLOUR.
Instead of a stainless steel tank, the Steam DYEING® process is happening into a circular bowl of a vibratory finishing machine, made of special type of polyurethane, specially adapted to do the Steam DYEING®, thanks to the revolutionary design SM3 by Rollwasch®.
Additionally, inside the working bowl are loaded special elastic media, that maybe pyramid or cones or ellypses of several sizes, named QF MEDIA (Patented by Rollwasch®).
Those kind of MEDIA are extremely delicate, they have just a “vectorial” function to move three dimensionally the components to be dyed into the working bowl and, with the use of a special gel, between one process and a second one, in case of change of colour, they can be automatically cleaned.

The work flow of a Steam DYEING® machine, available in capacities of 25, 50 and 120 liters, is generally:

The operator does the parts loading, cover closure, activation of the wished recipe;
Example of recipe – all happens in full automatic mode:
5 minutes heating with combination of hot air+steam
5 minutes Steam DYEING of red colour
5 minutes Drying with hot air
The operator opens the cover, does the parts unloading;
Parameters reported in this and the following examples are just to make an example – data could change depending on parts geometry, quantity, material, start temperature, humidity, etc.

The operator does the parts loading, cover closure, activation of the wished recipe;
Example of recipe with colour change – all happens in full automatic mode:
10 minutes media cleaning with special gel
5 minutes rinsing of the gel by the media, by the parts and by the working bowl
5 minutes heating with combination of hot air+steam
5 minutes Steam DYEING of red colour
5 minutes Drying with hot air
The operator opens the cover, does the parts unloading;

The operator does the parts loading, cover closure, activation of the wished recipe;
Example of recipe with SMOOTHING CYCLE – all happens in full automatic mode:
90 minutes parts smoothing with special gel
5 minutes rinsing of the gel by the media, by the parts and by the working bowl
5 minutes heating with combination of hot air+steam
5 minutes Steam DYEING of red colour
5 minutes Drying with hot air
The operator opens the cover, does the parts unloading;

The classic dyeing method,
Compared to the Steam DYEING®
to dye 5 – 10 l. volume of plastic parts



27 liters of water needed

About 1 to 1,5 liters of water needed, to generate the dry saturated steam

3 kg. of liquid dyeing colour needed

0,13 to 0,3 kg. of liquid dyeing colour needed

Waste produced: 30 liters

Waste produced: 1,13 to 1,8 liters – from 16,6 to 26,5 times less waste produced!

Skillfull operator needed (!)

Any operator can do the Steam DYEING®

Repeatability depending on the operator

Repeatability assured by recipes, automation, technology

Concept of the seventies, still alive just because of skillfull operators, near to retirement

Modern technology, open to the challenge of future generations, easy to manage and with Return Of Investment in brief, thanks to reduced production of waste, reduced consumption of dyeing colours

Dyeing time + Drying time are almost similar in both technologies, classic and Steam DYEING®

The today technology offered by well made ultrasonic systems, with stainless steel tanks, based over 1 dyeing (heated) tank + 1 rinsing tank + 1 drying oven, in total, could have an equivalent investment or even majour respect to a Steam DYEING® system complete.
Possibly, also in space, the afore said configuration of a “classic” solution, could even need more than a Steam DYEING® unit of equivalent capacity.

The Steam DYEING® R&D project, in pills

2019                                             –0–   Conception and Vision by Techno Surface

2020                                             –0–   Patent demand by Techno Surface

2020-21                                        –0–   Experiments, trials, tuning

2022                                             –0–   Construction at Rollwasch of unit#1

2023                                             –1–   Unit#1 at TCN for Year 1 of R&D (Black)

2024                                             –2–   Unit#1 at TCN for Year 2 of R&D (Colours)

2025                                             –3–   Unit#1 at TCN for Year 3 of R&D (BIO)

The START flag to go out on the market with the first machines dedicated to the black color takes place at the beginning of October 2023, the date on which the results consolidated from over five years of research, finds the first concrete and repeatable results based on the combination of multiple technologies of excellence.
During 2023, over 60 documented tests with process parameters, formulation changes, adaptations and variants allowed three fundamental levels of quality to be achieved:
1. repeatability of results, based on fully automatic recipes (as option, industry 4.0 compliants)
2. homogeneity and depth of the applied color based on top quality of TCN formulations
3. high containment of the quantities of water and colors used, with consequent drastic reduction in waste production

Why IntegrAM

IntegrAM is a network of specialists, an excellence in terms of innovation, R&D, know how and multidisciplinary solutions.
The IntegrAM brand includes, as far as Steam DYEING® technology is concerned:

Techno Surface, an Italian company founded in 2015 and specialized in various technologies, with strong convergence towards Additive Manufacturing.
As far as the Steam DYEING® technology is concerned, Techno Surface had the original idea in 2019, that has experienced the efficient interaction between dry saturated steam and dyeing colour on the surface of polymers made by 3D printing.
Techno Surface decided in 2020 to protect this peculiar technology with a Patent Demand. Since the beginning the partners for this project have been, on one hand TCN, who offered important support providing dyeing colours for many hundreds of tests and, on the other hand Rollwasch®, who offered to be the manufacturer of the first prothotype and, then the machine destinated to the Laboratory of TCN in France.

Rollwasch®, an Italian company founded in 1950 in Milan and specialized in surface treatment. Manufacturer of machines and consumer finishing products.
The reliable partner to produce the special range of machines dedicated to the Additive Manufacturing field for Techno Surface;
Since 2019 Rollwasch® has be one of the founding members of the IntegrAM network, beeing available also to provide its test room (for trials with participation to the costs), its after sales support for technical assistance and its participation to some challenging projects like the DCK ALL IN ONE, Patented from Rollwasch® and distributed by the IntegrAM network.

TCN, a French company born in 1963 following the encounter between a passionate chemist and a craftsman from Oyonnax in the Auvergne-Rhônes-Alpes region of France. This close collaboration led to the development of a new chemical coloring process for eyeglass frames. Acclaimed by local users of cellulose acetate, this groundbreaking process quickly became popular among manufacturers of hairdressing ornaments, costume jewellery and tokens.

Manufacturer of dyeing colours for plastic, polymers, elastomers.

TCN has shared the vision of the Steam DYEING® technology from the beginning, providing samples to Techno Surface for the tuning of the first hundreds of trials, then signing a cooperation agreement for an R&D Plan starting with the dying with black colour in 2023, then passing to all other colours in 2024 and offering the first BIO formulations in 2025.
TCN will be the supplier of colours for all the investors of the machines for Steam DYEING® technology provided by IntegrAM.

For any doubt, dyeing test, information, feel free to get in touch with:



Spencer Williams


Post Process & Finishing for AM, Dyeing, Powder recovery & selection, Surface Finishing, Unpacking or Decaking, Coating

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Post Process & Finishing for AM; Scientific Head of R&D; Webinars & Seminars; Circular Economy Technology;