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.

  • CEAD and Belotti formed a strategic partnership combining expertise in additive and subtractive manufacturing to bring the new BEAD composites hybrid LFAM system to market, with support from Siemens, already a CEAD partner. The acquired know-how and experiences in both fields, combined with the innovative drive of both companies, is…

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  • Rize has shipped the Rize 7XC large-format 3D printer. When the massive part size and industrial strength and other properties are needed for printing parts, jigs, tooling, and fixtures, the new machine is intended to deliver a time to part advantage and help manufacturers assure they have agile supply chains…

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  • Fabbrix introduced a new solution for FFF additive manufacturing. As a result of 3 years of development, Elemento V2.1 represents a new solution for industrial large‐format 3D printing, bringig added value to new products and fostering their development efficiently and sustainably. Built with industrial high‐quality components, this Made in Italy…

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  • A new academic-industrial partnership has been launched to pursue innovation in WAAM 3D printing technology aiming to achieve previously unattainable scales, velocities and manufacturing efficiencies through additive manufacturing. The project, known as HPWAAM, has received £1.2m of funding from Innovate UK (part of UK Research and Innovation, driving productivity and…

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  • A maritime crane developed and additively manufactured by AML3D in conjunction with Austal Australia, has received formal verification from DNV, an independent expert in risk management and quality assurance. AML3D produced an aluminum personnel recovery 3D printed maritime crane (davit), intended for naval applications, with its proprietary WAM® additive manufacturing…

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  • Thermwood Corporation, the manufacturer of some of the largest composite thermoplastic additive manufacturing systems operating in the industry today, launched a new line of lower-cost, “print-only” LSAM systems, called LSAM Additive Printer. Thermwood’s current LSAM line of large scale, dual gantry, “print and trim”, near-net-shape additive manufacturing systems use an…

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  • An example of a Mighty Buildings construction that will be used for the Palari Group project.

    Palari Group and Mighty Buildings are teaming up to 3D-print fifteen zero-net-energy homes that will form the first 3D-printed community in the United States. The project is as much a business proposition as another proof of concept. Additively manufacturing homes has become increasingly feasible in recent years; manufacturing a community…

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  • The Orbex booster, which will be printed in large part by the largest industrial 3D printer in Europe.

    Orbex, a Scottish space exploration company, commissioned AMCM to build the largest industrial 3D printer in Europe. This new printer will allow the space launch company to rapidly print complex rocket engines in-house. The custom-made, large-volume 3D printer will allow Orbex to print more than 35 large-scale rocket engines and…

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  • A model of the World Housing vision for additively manufactured communities.

    World Housing and Twente Additive Manufacturing (TAM) collaborated with other companies in British Columbia, Canada, to construct a 3D-printed affordable community. The project will be located in Nelson, B.C., where there is a great need for housing and the support needed from the local community and government. It is also…

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  • The Italian firm World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP) has completed the printing phase of its TECLA supporting structure, a 3D printed house based on natural materials that is made with multiple 3D printers operating at the same time. The habitat model was engineered by WASP and designed by MC A, Mario Cucinella Architects.…

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