One of the most fascinating frontiers of 3D printing is finding out exactly how large it can go, and that’s what large format additive manufacturing, LFAM for short, is for. 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 additive manufacturing seems to be expanding at a steady pace, doubling every couple of years or so.

There are many different approaches to LFAM, 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 LFAM 3D printers ever built are extrusion systems – cartesian or robotic – working with cement and composites. 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 LFAM 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.

  • Collaboration inspires innovation. This is the motto under which companies Colossus, known for application-driven large-scale 3D printing, and colorFabb, known for the development of high-quality specialized filaments have formed a new partnership with the goal of bringing LW materials – and specifically lightweight foaming materials – to the FGF market.…

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  • Massivit 3D Printing Technologies (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange: MSVT), a leading provider of large-scale 3D printing systems, opened its Americas Experience Center, located in metropolitan Atlanta Georgia. A Massivit 5000 is already installed and the new Massivit 10000 is coming in 2022 The new Americas Experience Center is equipped with…

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  • Dimensional Innovations bench IDS Center

    Dimensional Innovations, the Kansas-based company responsible for 3D printing the 93-foot-tall Al Davis Memorial Torch for the new Allegiant Stadium in Nevada (home of the Las Vegas Raiders), has been put to work again, this time delivering a series of large-scale 3D printed benches for the IDS Center in Minneapolis.…

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  • Thermwood was a key development partner in a Navy ManTech-funded program issued to Boeing Research and Technology to produce a large-scale composite AM cure tool. The ManTech program was managed by Advanced Technology International (ATI) for the Office of Naval Research (ORN) with funding provided from the Naval Air Systems…

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  • To join in on the celebrations for the Chinese Communist Party’s 100 year anniversary, Kings 3D, one of the largest industrial SLA 3D printer manufacturers and service providers in China, 3D printed the life-size statues of its past and present Presidents. It is somewhat ironic that life-size statues of the…

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  • More than two years ago, CEAD‘s first robot extruder was installed in the Netherlands. That first model, the E25, was a custom-designed, high-temperature stand-alone printhead dedicated for large-scale 3D printing with a maximum output of 12 kg/hr. CEAD is now introducing the new E50 robot extruder. The E25 is currently…

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  • Cincinnati Incorporated, a U.S.-based, build-to-order machine tool manufacturer, has used its Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine to demonstrate that recycled materials can be used for 3D printing by producing one of the largest monolithic multi-material objects to date. The demonstration successfully proved that large-scale multi-material printing can be done…

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  • In 2018, CMS, a leader in industrial CNC machines for composite processing, began a collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute, to develop an original LFAM solution, for improving the competitiveness of composite and their applications across various industries. Now the company is ready to present the result of that collaboration, the…

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  • To streamline tool production within the aerospace supply chain, Caracol worked with large international groups, supporting them in substituting traditional processes with composites AM. In particular, the company has been producing large-scale aerospace tools for the positioning and vacuum gripped drilling of airplane fuselage panels for aerostructures, bringing to life…

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  • Massivit 3D recently unveiled the new industrial-grade Massivit 5000, which will enable manufacturers and service providers across a range of industries to expedite their lead times for manufacturing large parts, prototypes, and tools by up to 30 times the production speed of existing technologies. Based on the company’s unique, patented…

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