Largest 3D Printers

The 3D printing industry is pushing the print envelope to larger form factors.   What could you accomplish by using the largest 3D printers and objects?  This desire can come from seeing a model in its full glory, or more importantly, the need to print a real product that is of sufficiently low volume that it would not justify tooling costs.  In this article I highlight two of the largest 3D printers:  The D-Shape printer by Enrico Dini, and the 3D Printer by Yao Shan of Dalian University.

Examples of the largest 3D printers

Professor Yao Shan of Dalian University has developed a 3D laser sintering printer in collaboration with Unit Science and Technology Development Co. Ltd.  It prints models with a maximum linear size of 1.8 meters.  It is in the prototype stage, and offers  35% faster processing time and 40% lower costs than traditional laser sintering due to its “contour scanning technology”.   Some of the challenges in making large parts are expensive material cost and deformation of large parts as they cool.   To tackle the expense, an industrial sand/resin combination is used.   Dramatic material cost reductions are possible since the sand based material costs 1000 Yuan per ton, or about $164.

The printer reduces time — and therefore cost of printing by printing a contour outline of the part rather than a full volume.  Therefore, the printing time, which is proportional to the volume of material used, is vastly reduced.  It seems that such a printer would be used primarily for demonstration prototypes.  To learn more visit: Dalian site

Printing Structures

Enrico Dini is printing large sandstone structures with what may be one of the largest 3D Printers in the world.  He is a visionary who dreams of building digitally conceived structures layer by layer.  This film trailer shows Enrico’s dream of  building houses, components of the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona.

The film focuses on the great deal of sacrifice that an entrepreneur must make to realize his dreams.  It has caused him a lot of hardship financially and struggles with family life.   He is driven and passionate about his goal.    One of the more modest examples of printing with his machine is construction of a Trullo, a small Italian home design.  Below is a 2m high sculpture printed by Dini’s machine D-Shape.

largest-3d-printers-radioA much more futuristic objective is to print structures on the moon using moon dust.  For this he is partnering with the European Space Agency and Foster + Partners.  See a great summary of this effort here.

Naturally, the largest 3D Printers are unlikely to compete directly with established manufacturing techniques for quite a while.  There are some possibilities for such printers in making unique shapes that cannot be easily made in other ways.   Or, as in the case of the moon building opportunity, taking a building factory to the moon, and with a small amount of binder and local dust making the stuff of dreams.

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