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.

  • EV truck manufacturers are emerging as leading innovators in manufacturing. After Quantron used VJET X technology to produce an engine housing, Nikola Corporation has now invested in a large-format FFF additive manufacturing system, the BigRep PRO, to streamline the design and manufacturing processes of their zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell…

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  • Royal DSM is introducing EcoPaXX AM4001 GF (G), a new high-performance material for fused granulate fabrication or 3D pellet printing. This 3D printing optimized version of the EcoPaXX material used in end-use parts is a fit-for-purpose material that delivers on performance and sustainability. “EcoPaXX AM4001 GF (G) is the first…

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  • Scaled Ltd, a UK firm specializing in large format 3D printing via a robotic extrusion process, unveiled its Project Chameleon 3D printed electric vehicle. The company started working on the Chameleon vehicle less than half a year ago, aiming to demonstrate how the way vehicles are manufactured can be revolutionized…

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  • Large format composite pellets 3D printing firm Thermwood recently printed several sections from a 51-foot long yacht hull mold to demonstrate how a single hull mold may be sufficient to manufacture even larger vessels, such as yachts. The printed sections of the test mold are made of carbon fiber reinforced…

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  • Al Davis Memorial Torch Dimensional Innovations

    Almost a year ago, we got wind of an immense 3D printing undertaking in Nevada: the new Allegiant Stadium, soon to be the home of the Las Vegas Raiders (formerly Oakland Raiders) NFL team, was installing a giant 3D printed structure to commemorate the late Al Davis, a long-time owner…

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  • Thermwood General Atomics

    Indiana-based Thermwood, a machining and large-format AM manufacturer, has once again demonstrated how its LSAM system is a viable tooling production method for those looking to save on cost. The company recently worked in collaboration with San Diego-based energy company General Atomics to manufacture a CNC trim tool that resulted…

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  • Solid Print3D Massivit 3D distribution

    Large-format 3D printer manufacturer Massivit 3D has signed a distribution agreement with Solid Print3D, a UK-based supplier of 3D printing technologies serving the British and Irish markets. Solid Print3D will broaden its portfolio to offer Massivit 3D’s range of 3D printers and services to its client base of over 19,000…

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  • Thermwood LSAM vertical

    Thermwood Corporation has demonstrated a new approach to large-scale 3D printing, one that builds parts up vertically rather than horizontally. The unique process, which has been adapted for the company’s low-cost LSAM MT printer, is enabled thanks to Thermwood’s patented Vertical Layer Print (VLP) technology. Thermwood’s VLP technology is capable…

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  • MX3D 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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  • Modix 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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