Large Format

One of the most fascinating frontiers of 3D printing is finding out exactly how large it can go. In astronomy, the physics of the very small can sometimes help us to understand what happens in the very large (for example in the first few seconds of the existence of our Universe). However, it’s not always easy – or even possible – to reconcile these two aspects. Similarly, in additive manufacturing processes there are similarities but also great differences in how these technologies operate at the nanoscale and the macroscale. Nevertheless, the size of large format 3D printing seems to be expanding at a steady pace, doubling every couple of years or so.

There are many different approaches to large format 3D printing, especially in light of the fact that very few technologies have inherent size limitations. In theory, just about every technology could be scaled up indefinitely. You could build a huge inkjet head or an enormous powder bed for binder jetting. Material extrusion could theoretically be scaled up infinitely by adding more and more extruding robots working together.

Many of these approaches have already been tested successfully. Some of the largest 3D printers ever built are pneumatic extrusion systems – cartesian or robotic – working with cement. Others, also working with sand-like material are based on a binder jetting powder bed approach. Plastics were initially limited by material warpage but the introduction of carbon and glass fiber reinforcement enabled cartesian printers (often evolved from large industrial CNC systems) to produce plastic parts several meters long.

In the meantime, more and more industrial SLA systems are becoming available with vats as wide as two meters. It’s not a matter of resolution, just patience. The process may be slow but it is now sufficiently reliable that the laser can be trusted to photopolymerize without error for days and days.

In metals, while PBF processes are also now able to produce parts larger than one cubic meter, using multiple lasers and larger, multi-area powder bed, the biggest breakthroughs in terms of size come from increased adoption of DED and WAAM based processes. These systems are able to deposit very large quantities of material to produce complex parts to near net shape. Since in many cases they are built by large machine tool companies, they can also leverage extensive expertise in digital multi-axis motion controls as well as strong financial backing.

3D printing is now larger than ever, and it’s just gonna get bigger. This section is where we keep you updated on the biggest achievements in large format 3D printing. If you would like to know more about the companies that produce the world’s largest 3D printers, make sure you visit the dedicated section on 3D Printing Business Directory.

  • Photo of MX3D successfully installs 3D printed Robot Arm

    MX3D, an Amsterdam-based company that has invented a large-format metal 3D printer, has made an exciting announcement for those following its progress. The company has successfully installed a newly optimized industrial robot arm. The part, designed by a team of engineers at Altair and 3D printed by MX3D, can be…

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  • Photo of Modix releases three new large-format AM systems

    Modix, an Israeli-based 3D printer manufacturer, has expanded its portfolio of large-format AM systems for the aerospace, automotive and prosthetic markets. The new systems, which bring the company’s total offering to six 3D printers, are the Modix BIG-Meter, the Modix BIG-180X and the Modix BIG-40. The new large-format 3D printing…

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  • Photo of Open Additive to advance large-format LPBF with $2.94M USAF CRP contract

    Ohio-based metal AM company Open Additive has been awarded a 27-month Air Force Commercial Readiness Program (CRP) contract worth $2.94 million to industrialize and scale its large-format laser powder bed fusion metal additive manufacturing technology. The CRP contract, called Open Systems Platform for Multi-Laser Additive Manufacturing, is sponsored by the…

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  • Photo of Australian companies 3D print life-sized Homer Simpson

    Well if this doesn’t cheer you up after a weekend in isolation, I’m not sure what will. Australian signage company Coleman Group and local large-format 3D printing service Mammoth 3D teamed up to produce a three-dimensional, life-sized Homer Simpson—donut and all. It is unclear if the large-scale cartoon model was…

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  • Photo of Protolabs invests in GE Additive Concept Laser X Line 2000R

    Minneapolis-based manufacturing service provider Protolabs has announced it will be adding a GE Additive Concept Laser X Line 2000R to its production capacity in late summer 2020. The system, which has a maximum build volume of 160 liters, is one of the largest powder bed metal AM systems on the…

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  • Photo of Modix releases BIG-120Z large-format 3D printer

    Modix, an Israel-based manufacturer of large-scale 3D printers, has announced the commercial release of its BIG-120Z 3D printer. The system, which was first unveiled last June, has a build volume of 600 x 600 x 1200 mm and is being marketed to industries like fashion and advertising where low-cost large-scale…

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  • Photo of Thermwood introduces LSAM 1010 3D printer with enclosed configuration

    Indiana-based manufacturing company Thermwood has just unveiled a new version of its Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) system: the LSAM 1010. The new system, a low-cost enclosed AM machine, was built to meet the needs of Thermwood’s clients. Last November, Thermwood introduced the LSAM MT, a lower-cost, moving-table version of…

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  • Photo of CGTech and Thermwood simulate hybrid LSAM technology

    CGTech, a specialist in simulation software for CNC machining, is partnering with Indiana-based manufacturing company Thermwood to simulate the additive manufacturing and subtractive machining capabilities of its hybrid LSAM systems. The hybrid manufacturing technology, notable for its ability to build large-scale objects, will be simulated using CGTech’s VERICUT software platform.…

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  • Photo of BigRep announces Boston HQ and expanded 3D printing services

    Large-format 3D printing company BigRep has announced the opening of a new headquarters and the expansion of its North American 3D printing services. Based in Boston, the new American headquarters will house the BigRep 3D PARTLAB. Scheduled to open on February 10, the BigRep 3D PARTLAB will offer customized ordering…

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  • Photo of WAAM3D secures major investment from Accuron Technologies

    WAAM3D Ltd has secured what it calls a major investment from Singapore-baed engineering and technology company Accuron Technologies Ltd. The backing, raised through a Series A funding round, will enable the company to speed up the commercialization of its Wire-bAsed Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) technology for the aerospace and energy sectors,…

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