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Apple has built its legacy by taking new technologies and innovating on them for ease of use, as seen with the iPod, iTunes, iOS, and so forth. Now their latest patent describes a full-color 3D printer that could possibly do the same for additive manufacturing.

The patent, filed today and titled “Method And Apparatus For Three Dimensional Printing Of Colored Objects” describes a two-head printer, one that deposits filament, and another that applies coloring to the model as it prints. It includes a simple illustration of the machine, but with detailed notes of various configurations being researched, including cartesian, articulated arm, and rotating platform styles.

A patent doesn’t guarantee that Apple will produce a printer, however — as with most large design companies — the tech giant files and receives thousands of patents, for everything from haptic feedback systems to staircases to public transportation systems. And it’s highly unlikely that anything they might make would be open hardware, despite the historically open nature of the 3D printing community.

But Apple’s foray into this market would mean that 3D printing would get its brightest spotlight yet, putting these tools into the hands of people that would otherwise not be looking into this field. That’s a fascinating proposition.

[Via 3Ders]