Massive Benchy 3D Print as a Benchmark for Large-Format 3D Printers

The most frequently 3D-printed object in the world, 3D Benchy, is a 3D model in the shape of a boat that was designed as a benchmark to test all sorts of 3D printing parameters. BigRep put its large-format 3D printers to the test by producing the world's largest Benchy, measuring at 816 mm tall. Let's have a close look at this giant Benchy and what its features can show about BigRep 3D printers' capabilities.

What is a 3D Benchy?

A 3D Benchy is a computer model that is specifically designed to test the capabilities of a 3D printer. Its name derives from "benchmark," which reflects its relevance in 3D printing. The Benchy was first released as an STL file in 2015 and is often the first thing one prints with a new 3D printer it has a set of features that determine the printer's capabilities and possible limitations.


Benchy Features

The most common Benchy features include overhangs, bridges, surface finish, and dimensional accuracy. These features are all important in 3D printing, and help evaluate the printer's ability to produce intricate designs, handle complex geometries, and maintain precise measurements. By looking closely at the quality of Benchy prints, one can identify issues or limitations with their 3D printer and make necessary adjustments for better results.

overhang dfam


Overhangs are horizontal or inclined surfaces extending beyond more vertically oriented parts of a 3D print. Successful overhangs showcase the printer's ability to handle complex geometries and maintain structural integrity without supports.

Bridging - Design for Additive Manufacturing

Dimensional Accuracy

The 3D printed Benchy's dimensions can be compared to the 3D model's original specifications. Accurate dimensional reproduction is an important indicator of a printer's ability to maintain precise measurements and avoid scaling issues.

Bridging front view - Design for Additive Manufacturing


Bridges are horizontal gaps between two vertical structures. Bridges demonstrates the printer's ability to create even and sturdy horizontal spans, without sagging or drooping in the middle. The length of possible bridges depends on a printer's capabilities, slicing settings, and material used.

Part Orientation - DfAM

Surface Finish

The surface finish of the Benchy model is an essential feature to evaluate. The smoothness, texture, and overall appearance of the 3D printed Benchy can be examined for any imperfections such as layer lines, warping, or inconsistent extrusion, which can affect the final print quality.

Benchy in BigRep PRO

Advantages and Challenges of Printing 3D Benchy

The Benchy is widely recognized in the 3D printing community for its successes and challenges. One of its major strengths is its ability to assess various 3D printing technologies and how they work with various materials. This versatility allows users to evaluate the capabilities and performance of different printers and materials, providing a first-hand understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Another advantage of using the Benchy is its focus on evaluating print quality and accuracy. By using it as a test model, users can assess the level of detail, dimensional accuracy, and surface finish achieved by their 3D printers. This information is crucial for ensuring the desired level of quality in the final printed objects.

However, where there are opportunities, there are also challenges. One of the major challenges is the time-consuming nature of the test. The benchmark requires printing a complex model, which can be lengthy, resource-intensive, and particularly demanding for users who need quick results or have limited resources at their disposal.

Another limitation of the Benchy is that it may not fully represent real-world printing scenarios. While it is designed to incorporate various features and geometries to challenge printers, it may not capture all the complexities and nuances of real-world objects, potentially leading to limitations in its usefulness as a benchmark for real-world applications.

Benchy in BigRep BLADE
Giant BigRep Benchy

BigRep Benchy Specs

The world's largest Benchy was printed at the BigRep headquarters in Berlin. And while it is definitely a huge 3D print, it was not BigRep's biggest, heaviest, or longest running print.

Here are the printing specs for the BigRep Benchy:

  • Printer: BigRep ONE
  • Material: BigRep PLA
  • Nozzle Diameter: 1.0 mm
  • Layer Height: 0.6 mm
  • Dimensions: 864 x 864 x 816 mm (x, y, z)
  • Printing Time: 121 hours
  • Material Weight: 11.1 kg

How Does the BigRep Benchy Measure Up?

While it's a beloved and whimsical 3D model, Benchy does also function as a useful benchmark to evaluate a wide range of 3D printing parameters. Let's have a closer look at the giant Benchy results.

Giant BigRep Benchy Overhangs


The layer height, nozzle diameter, and overall 3D print dimensions greatly effects the quality of overhangs. This gigantic Benchy has large overhangs spanning ranges up to 90 and 50 mm long. They were not printed with support to help demonstrate the limits of the printer's capabilities. The BigRep ONE achieved an even, consistent quality with minimal deviations in layer appearance.

Giant BigRep Benchy Dimensional Accuracy

Dimensional Accuracy

Accuracy is highly dependent on what tolerances are required for a part to be acceptable for its use case. There is no noticeable warping of this giant Benchy and only small deviations in layer quality in the most challenging aspects of the print. For a real-world accuracy analysis, a 3D scan of the print can be compared to the original design to determine tolerance.

Giant BigRep Benchy Bridging


Some of the bridges in Benchy are too long - in this case, up to 180 mm - to be printed without sagging, and therefore required support. The image above shows the top section of some circular cutouts which were printed without support. There are some slight imperfections, but the overall quality is surprisingly good at such a large scale.

Giant BigRep Benchy Surface Finish

Surface Finish

The more vertically oriented the surface, the smoother the appearance of the layer lines. As a surface is more horizontal, the layers become more pronounced with the appearance of the staircase effect. With a relatively large layer height of 0.6 mm, the differences between vertically and horizontally oriented surfaces is visually apparent.


The Benchy 3D model has become a cornerstone in the world of 3D printing, serving as a reliable benchmark for evaluating the capabilities and limitations of different 3D printers. Its various features, such as overhangs, bridges, surface finish, and dimensional accuracy, provide valuable insights into the printer's ability to handle complex geometries and produce high-quality prints. By closely examining the quality of Benchy prints, users can identify issues with their 3D printers and make necessary adjustments to achieve better results.

However, it is important to acknowledge possible challenges with using the Benchy. The test can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, which may not be ideal for users who require results very quickly or have limited resources, such as filaments. Moreover, the model may not fully capture the complexities and nuances of real-world printing scenarios, potentially limiting its usefulness in certain applications.

Nevertheless, the Benchy remains a valuable evaluation tool within the 3D printing community. It provides a comprehensive assessment of printer capabilities, highlights potential areas for improvement, and allows users to make informed decisions when selecting printers and materials for their projects. By understanding its strengths and limitations and using it with other evaluation methods, users can maximize the benefits of the Benchy for their specific printing needs and applications.

Want to learn more about large-format additive manufacturing?

Register to download the eBook, Guide to Integrate Large-Format Additive Manufacturing.

Learn how Increasing the build size increases the possibilities for builds: users can create larger parts, removing the constraints of more standard sizes of build envelopes. 3D printing a large part all at once means less time is spent designing around multiple print jobs, less time assembling multiple parts, and more time getting those parts to work for you. Don't miss out, download the eBook today:



The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE


The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Nika Music <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Nika Music

Digital Marketing Specialist

Nika is a Social Media Manager with a background in the philosophy of technology. After obtaining their MA, Nika's passion and expertise in this field naturally guided them towards the exciting world of 3D printing. Currently, Nika is thriving at BigRep, enhancing the company's social media presence and creating brand awareness.

How to Overcome Six Common Manufacturing Challenges

Whether you are an experienced manufacturer or a new entrepreneur, the business landscape is continually evolving with greater acceleration and more significant changes.

In this article, we will consider six common challenges for manufacturers and how they can be overcome with smart solutions that really work. By anticipating these issues rather than firefighting problems as they arise, you can secure a more sustainable business model to scale your business and grow revenue.

Let’s explore six manufacturing challenges producers face and how you can ensure success for your business.

1. Lack of Skilled Workers


A troubling trend is steadily rising around the globe: the lack of skilled workers in the manufacturing sector. This is the product of lower employment rates in many countries, an aging workforce, a lack of tech-savvy labor, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, just to name a few factors. A report by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting concludes that 22% of workers in U.S. manufacturing will be retiring in the next ten years. Additionally, they predict that the manufacturing skills gap could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. A report by Eurofound in 2019 found that Europe is not exempt from these struggles, as 39% of European manufacturing companies reported that their production was limited by labor shortages. This year, the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) explained that more than half of Germany's companies struggle to fill vacancies due to a lack of skilled workers.


The accessibility of 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing, allows a broader range of workers, including those with limited traditional manufacturing skills, to aid in product development, low-volume production, and full-scale manufacturing. 3D printing simplifies the production process by creating complex parts and prototypes directly from digital designs, carrying out intricate manufacturing processes with minimal human intervention. This reduces the need for highly skilled labor to operate machinery and perform manual tasks.

One solution to simplify the digital design process is scanning an existing part to create a 3D model, which can be 3D printed. Another option is using a design configurator to customize and adapt 3D-printable designs without needing in-depth design expertise. To learn more about design configuration, have a look at BigRep FLOW configurator apps.

BigRep PRO 3D Printer

2. Inventory Management


Inventory management can be a real puzzle for manufacturers. Picture this: You've got to predict what customers want, but their desires are like a roller coaster, up and down. Plus, suppliers might send things late, putting your production on hold. Holding onto too much inventory costs you money, but running out is a disaster. And don't forget about products that can go bad or become outdated fast. It gets even trickier when you have many different products to handle, and deciding which ones to keep or drop is no simple task. Then there's the balancing act between having just enough inventory when you need it and keeping extra in case things go unexpectedly.

Forbes reports that today’s average manufacturing company carries thirty days more inventory than at the beginning of 2007. While adequate inventory is a crucial buffer for supply chain issues, it is also the primary source of waste for companies. Holding excess inventory ties up capital and incurs costs such as storage, insurance, and depreciation. In a world where everything is always changing, figuring out how to handle your inventory is like playing a game of strategy to stay ahead in the manufacturing world.


As a means of rapid production, 3D printing allows for just-in-time manufacturing, where parts are produced precisely when they are needed. Thanks to significantly reduce lead times compared to traditional manufacturing methods, you can quickly respond to changes in customer demand to deliver on time. Often called the digital warehouse, 3D designs can be stored on a cloud or server to be 3D printed once an order is placed. This also reduces the risk of overproduction and minimizes the cost of holding excess inventory. The number of business 3D printing components, products, and spare parts on demand is steadily increasing with early adopters such as Deutsche Bahn, Bentley, Miele, and Shell, leading the way. If you want to learn more about 3D printed spare parts on demand, read the eBook Deutsche Bahn Goes Additive with BigRep.


3. Supply Chain Dependency and Transparency


As a manufacturer, you always depend on suppliers for materials, components, and services. However, each supply chain dependency introduces a potential risk of delays, lack of availability, or price increases. As your business grows, so do the potential risks of supply chain failures along with the complexity of logistics. And as we saw with the global supply chain gridlock during COVID-19, one issue can have massively far-reaching repercussions.

In addition to these practical supply chain concerns, consumers increasingly demand greater manufacturing transparency from companies. Today's customers prioritize quality and ethically produced items, plus they're willing to spend more for those products. A study conducted by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management revealed that consumers may be willing to pay an additional 2% to 10% for products with greater supply chain transparency. So, not only do manufacturers need to manage their supply chains to keep their business running, but they must also consider how those supplier choices will affect consumer confidence. 


With additive manufacturing, companies can produce locally, reducing dependence on distant suppliers and minimizing the impact of global disruptions. By using a digital warehouse, you can even produce locally with distributed manufacturing from afar: send your 3D file to be printed on location wherever the part is needed, With greater control of your supply chain, you also have more influence over lead times and fewer unexpected or increased costs. 

By implementing 3D printing for in-house production, tracking and controlling your supply chain is much easier, allowing you to satisfy consumers' growing demand for transparency. You own your own production process, plus fewer steps and logistics require oversight. Localized manufacturing can allow more environmentally friendly production with reduced shipping and other logistics. For more information about how 3D printing can reduce supply chain dependency, read the eBook How to Reduce Lead Times with In-House Supply Chains.

Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM)

4. Mass Customization


An increasing number of industries and businesses are embracing the trend of mass customization. This movement encompasses well-established brands that have introduced customization features to expand their product offerings and boost their sales. It also includes niche manufacturers and startups, which benefit from not having costly legacy factories and intricate supply chains. Forbes claims that custom products are the future of small and medium-sized businesses, and The Deloitte Consumer Review reported that more than 50% of consumers showed interest in purchasing personalized products.

Customers are willing to pay more for unique products, and traditionally, manufacturers also spend more to produce them. For example, many plastic products are produced using expensive CNC-milled molds. This is cost-effective at scale, but the costs skyrocket for low-volume and unique production. Manufacturers are faced with the challenge of how to produce customized products at scale in a cost-effective way.


With additive manufacturing, there are no added costs in unique and low-volume production. That means you can print identical or modified products, and the only factors changing the manufacturing costs are material usage and printing time variations. You have the greatest freedom of customization without added costs when 3D printing end-use parts and products. While traditional tooling, such as CNC-milled molds, is durable and long-lasting, the cost is prohibitive for single or limited use. 3D printed tooling may be less durable but can be the perfect solution for limited production and robust enough to get the job done. Read this blog to learn more about mass customization and the power of 3D printing.


5. Scaling Your Business


One of the most unexpected challenges that manufacturers encounter is choosing the right time to scale your business.  Scale up too early and you risk financial strain, operational challenges, and loss of quality. Scale too late and risk market saturation, missed opportunities, and a competitive disadvantage to more established companies. To decide when the time is right, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Is your product ready for market? If your product is not performing well, do you need to pivot the product offering or redesign it? Do you have the capacity to meet production requirements if demand increases? 


To ensure adequate quality, good product-market fit, and best product offering, you need to iterate your product design. With traditional production methods, this typically requires outsourcing and/or hand-made prototypes, and unfortunately, both of these are expensive and slow to produce. 3D printing is widely accepted as the best solution for rapid prototyping, so much so that the two are practically synonymous. Additive manufacturing lets you quickly produce a design or functional prototype, make changes as needed, and reprint until your product is perfect.

Large-format 3D printing also allows you to produce larger prototypes in full scale. If you find that your product is not performing well after you launch, you can repeat the iteration cycle to change the product as needed. And what if your product is perfect and demand is high? 3D printing can help you meet those demands with in-house production, simplified logistics, and reduced supply chains.

In short, additive manufacturing lets you get to market faster, plus it helps you ramp up production. To see some success stories of how 3D printing helped companies iterate fast, produce faster, and get to market faster, see the webinar Improve Time To Market for Commercial Vehicles.

Nowlab BigRep Gripper 3d printed

6. Keeping Up With Automation


New technological advancements seemingly occur every day, increasing demand and putting pressure on manufacturers to fulfill larger orders. Automation boosts productivity, increases quality, saves costs, and perhaps most importantly, it can collect and analyze data to influence decision-making for continually improved outcomes. The robotic process automation market was valued at $2.3 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 40% from 2023 to 2030. This is concerning for small and medium businesses as they compete with large corporations that can afford to use AI to make their production lines more efficient. As automation has taken a foothold, it simply cannot be ignored as the future of manufacturing. 


A digitized workflow can help your business catch up to the automation super trend, and 3D printing can play a huge part in that. The key is choosing what processes and technologies need updating and how to integrate those within an existing workflow to become more agile and efficient.

Consider digitizing your prototyping process to iterate faster with more data-driven design iterations. Once in full production mode, you might produce 3D printed tooling to streamline your production process. Perhaps you choose to scan components to create perfectly customized 3D printed tools. Maybe you want to embed technology like sensors into those custom tools to provide valuable feedback during production. With an industrial 3D printer, you can expect reliable results with automation across the calibration and printing phases. You might incorporate 3D printing with robotics, milling, or AI so that the strengths of each technology can truly shine as part of an intelligent, automated solution.


3D printing is a transformative solution for manufacturing challenges. It simplifies complex processes, reducing the need for highly skilled workers. It also enhances supply chain resilience through localized, on-demand production, streamlines inventory management by minimizing stock needs, and enables cost-effective mass customization. With 3D printing, scaling your business becomes flexible and efficient, and automation seamlessly integrates into production, boosting productivity while cutting labor costs. Embrace 3D printing for a more agile, efficient, and future-ready manufacturing approach.

Want to learn more about manufacturing challenges overcome by adopting additive?

Register for the webinar Maximize Efficiency for Localized Production on Sept 27, at 17:00 CET / 11:00 EDT.

Learn how additive manufacturing can make a huge impact to reduce production costs and speed up manufacturing times. Particularly for low-volume and custom parts, highly skilled labor and outsourcing can massively inflate costs and lead times. Learn how large-format 3D printing can streamline processes, simplify logistics, and minimize supply chain risks to deliver the biggest business impact. Don't miss out, register for the webinar:



The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO


The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

About the author:

Lindsay Lawson <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Lindsay Lawson

Head of Product Marketing

With an MFA in New Genres, Lindsay's background in sculpture and animation eventually led her to the world of 3D printing. She is primarily focused on applications using large-format 3D printing with additional emphasis on post-processing techniques and design for Additive Manufacturing.

How to 3D Print Channel Letters and Signs

3D Printed Illuminated Sign

Channel letter manufacturers face a rapidly changing industry landscape. Traditional methods are reliable, but 3D printing offers a new level of efficiency and customization. By adopting 3D printing, manufacturers can enhance production speed, reduce costs, and meet diverse client demands.

This article explores the benefits and implementation of 3D printed channel letters.

The Basics of 3D Printing for Channel Letters

What is 3D printing? 

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process that transforms digital designs into physical, three-dimensional objects. By depositing material layer upon layer, 3D printers can recreate intricate designs with precision and accuracy. This technology has found applications in various sectors, from healthcare to automotive, and now, in the realm of business signage. 

Why 3D printing for channel letters? 

The primary allure of 3D printing for channel letters lies in its unparalleled flexibility. Traditional signage methods can often be limiting, especially when it comes to custom designs or rapid modifications. In contrast, 3D printing offers the ability to produce bespoke designs tailored to a business's unique brand identity. This means that businesses can now have signage that is not only functional but also a true reflection of their brand ethos. 

BigRep ONE Large-Format 3D Printer

The Simplicity of the 3D Printing Process

1. Designing Your Channel Letters

The first step in the 3D printing journey is creating a digital design. With the advent of intuitive software tools, even those with minimal design experience can craft a digital model of their desired signage. These tools allow for easy adjustments, ensuring that the final product aligns perfectly with the business's vision. 

2. Choosing the Right Material

Material selection is crucial in determining the durability and aesthetic appeal of the final product. For 3D printed signage, there's a wide array of materials to choose from, ranging from robust plastics to metals. Each material comes with its set of advantages, allowing businesses to select one that best suits their needs and budget. 

3. 3D Printing and Post-Processing

Once the design is finalized and the material selected, the actual printing process begins. Modern 3D printers are efficient, translating digital designs into physical objects with remarkable precision. After printing, some post-processing might be required, such as sanding or painting, to enhance the appearance and longevity of the channel letters. 

Channel Letters - CAD Design

Designing Your Channel Letters

Designing for 3D printing might seem daunting, but with the right approach, it can be a seamless process: 

Software Selection: Start by choosing a 3D modeling software that aligns with your skill level. Beginners might find tools like Tinkercad or SketchUp user-friendly, while those with more experience might opt for software like Blender or Fusion 360. 

Typography Matters: When designing channel letters, ensure you select a font that is legible and aligns with your brand's identity. Remember, thicker fonts tend to be more durable and easier to print. Consider the 3D printer’s capabilities regarding the dimensions of your sign; for example, very thin letters may not be printable. 

Scaling and Dimensions: Ensure your design is to scale. Measure the space where the sign will be placed and adjust your digital model accordingly. This ensures that the final print fits perfectly in its intended location.  

Save in the Right Format: Once your design is complete, save it in a format compatible with your 3D printer, typically .STL or .OBJ. 

Filament Material Samples
BigRep Filament Material Samples

Choosing the Right Material

Selecting the appropriate material is paramount, as it dictates the longevity, appearance, and overall effectiveness of your channel letters: 

PLA (Polylactic Acid): A popular choice for 3D printing, PLA is bio-based, user-friendly, and cost effective. Available in a myriad of colors, it's perfect for indoor signs due to its sensitivity to UV rays and high temperatures. 

ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate): Known for its exceptional UV resistance and durability, ASA is an excellent choice for outdoor signage. It retains color and mechanical properties even when exposed to prolonged sunlight, making it superior to ABS for outdoor applications. While it offers a finish similar to ABS, it's essential to note that ASA requires a heated print bed and might be a bit more challenging to print with than PLA. 

PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol): Merging the printability of PLA with the resilience of ASA, PETG stands out as a versatile choice. Its UV resistance and strength make it suitable for both indoor and outdoor channel letters. In addition, PETG has the highest light transmission of the commonly used FFF materials. This can be a benefit when producing channel letters and signage.

Consider Finish and Durability: When deciding on a material, factor in the environment your sign will be placed in. For outdoor signs, UV-resistant and waterproof materials like ASA and PETG are ideal. Also, envision the desired finish—whether glossy, matte, or textured—and select your material to achieve that effect. 

BigRep Fiber-Ready PEX (Power Extruders)
3D Print Post Processing Powder Coating

3D Printing and Post-Processing

Once you've settled on a design and chosen your material, it's time to bring your channel letters to life. 

Printer Calibration: Before starting, ensure your 3D printer is calibrated. This means checking that the print bed is level, the nozzle is clean, and the temperature settings align with your chosen material. For instance, ASA usually requires a higher extruder temperature than PLA. 

Support Structures: Depending on the complexity of your design, you might need to add support structures. These temporary structures help in printing overhangs or intricate details and can be removed post-printing. The support structures can be created during slicing when you make your 3D printing file, called gcode. Slicing software like BigRep BLADE can automatically create the needed support structures from default settings. 

Layer Resolution: Decide on the layer height for your print. A smaller layer height will give a smoother finish but will take longer to print. Conversely, a larger layer height is quicker but might require more post-processing to achieve a smooth appearance. 

Post-Processing: After printing, some cleanup and finishing touches might be necessary. This can include: 

  • Support removal: To remove the support structures, by either breaking them off manually or dissolving them if you use water-soluble support material, like BigRep BVOH. 
  • Sanding: To smooth out layer lines or imperfections. 
  • Painting or Sealing: Especially if you want a specific color or need additional protection against the elements. 
  • Assembly: If your sign consists of multiple parts, you'll need to assemble them, which can be done using strong adhesives or other joining methods. 
Break Off Support Structures
Support structures are designed to break away easily after 3D printing.

Cost Implications for 3D Printing Channel Letters

Initial Investment

While there's an upfront cost associated with purchasing a 3D printer, materials, and software, the long-term benefits often outweigh these initial expenses. When compared to the recurring costs of traditional signage methods, especially for custom designs, 3D printing can offer substantial savings. 

Long-Term Savings

The ability to print in-house eliminates the need for outsourcing, reducing lead times and costs. Moreover, the flexibility of 3D printing means that design alterations can be made swiftly without incurring significant expenses. This adaptability is especially beneficial for businesses that require seasonal or promotional signage changes. Aside from creating 3D printed channel letters, a 3D printer can be used to make virtually anything, so if you have one in house, you will surely find many additional applications that are made simpler and less expensive with 3D printing. 

Real-Life 3D Printing Success Stories

ProLicht Makes Complex and Custom 3D Printed Signs

ProLicht develops and produces solutions for illuminated advertising and complex advertising installations for brands and corporate designs worldwide. They rely on modern technological, including their BigRep ONE, to be able to create highly individualized products with superior quality.

The BigRep ONE is integrated into ProLicht's streamlined workflow with 95% in-house production. This guarantees quality management so that control of implementation is almost exclusively in their our hands.

ProLicht boasts a complete portfolio that meets all requirements for inside and outside CI/CD of global brands.

Through quality and sustainability in the development, production, and installation of their signware solutions, ProLicht can create long-lasting value.

BigRep Headquarters Illuminated Channel Letters

The BigRep creative team shows how they 3D printed a large-scale customized sign with the size, font, and color of their choice. The sign was designed to be printed on a BigRep ONE without any support filament, which made the print very fast and inexpensive. With dual extrusion, two different filaments (one colored and one transparent) are integrated into a single print to blend the branded colors with light diffused through the transparent material.

Tips and Tricks for 3D Printing Channel Letters

Maximizing the Lifespan of Your 3D Printed Channel Letters

Regular maintenance can extend the life of your sign. This includes periodic cleaning to remove dust and debris and checking for any signs of wear or damage. If your sign is outdoors, consider applying a UV-resistant sealant to further protect against the elements. 

Creative Ideas

3D printing offers a realm of possibilities. Think beyond just letters. Incorporate logos, symbols, or even interactive elements into your signage. With 3D printing, you're only limited by your imagination. 

Maintenance and Care

Ensure your sign is securely mounted to prevent any damage from strong winds or other external factors. Regularly inspect for any signs of wear or damage and address any issues promptly to maintain the sign's integrity and appearance. 

3D Printed Channel Letters
3D Printed Sign by ProLicht

The world of business signage has been transformed by the capabilities of 3D printing. For manufacturers, this technology offers an avenue to create distinctive, durable, and cost-effective signage that truly resonates with their brand's identity. As the world of 3D printing continues to evolve, it's a well-timed moment for businesses to embrace this innovation and stand out in a competitive market. 

Embracing innovation is the hallmark of a forward-thinking business. If you've been inspired by the potential of 3D printed channel letters, now is the time to take the leap. Whether you're just starting out or looking to revamp your existing signage, 3D printing offers a world of possibilities. 

Have you already ventured into the realm of 3D printed signage? Or perhaps you're teetering on the edge of making the decision?  

Get in touch! Let's redefine the future of business signage! 


The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE


The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

Head of Growth Marketing

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

How to Choose Which Features You Need on the Modular BigRep ONE 3D Printer

BigRep ONE Large-Format 3D Printer

How to Choose Which Features You Need on a Modular BigRep ONE

BigRep ONE Large-Format 3D Printer

The BigRep ONE is a modular large-format FFF 3D printer designed to produce high-quality, long-lasting parts while saving you time and money. With a massive build volume of one cubic meter and versatile modular feature configurations, it’s perfect for a wide range of applications, including prototypes, furniture design, creative exhibitions, automotive components, tooling, and more.

The latest version, the BigRep ONE.4 can be configured with various modes and add-ons. Customize the specific large-format 3D printer for your current needs, while you also have the possibility to upgrade as those needs change in the future. It’s important to understand the BigRep ONE’s standard features and capabilities as a modular 3D printer, so you can adjust the ONE to meet your specific Additive Manufacturing needs.

Which Features Does the BigRep ONE.4 Already Have?

The newest iteration of the BigRep ONE has an array of fantastic features that give you full control over your prints.

Massive Print Volume

The ONE.4’s massive one cubic meter build volume firmly establishes it as one of the biggest 3D printers in FFF manufacturing, giving you the ability to unleash your potential in a way that smaller printers simply cannot achieve.

Enclosed Safe Frame

The ONE.4 has a plexiglass enclosure, perfect for monitoring print progress as well as showing your work to any potential visitors. It also provides CE-compliant operator protection: if you open the enclosure mid-print, the machine will stop running. The enclosure reduces temperature fluctuation within the build volume, which is important for maintaining quality and consistency, especially during longer prints.

PEX Fiber-Ready Extruder

Featuring 0.6mm, 1.0mm, or 2.0mm nozzles, the fiber-ready Power Extruders (PEX) provide versatile solutions from maximum detail to high-flow 3D printing. While producing amazing results with BigRep materials including biopolymers, water-soluble support, engineering-grade materials, and fiber–reinforced filaments, the fiber-ready Power Extruder is open for printing with 3rd party materials.

BigRep Fiber-Ready PEX (Power Extruders)

Semi-Automated Print Bed

The 1M2 print bed is covered with polyimide foil to ensure that your print stays fixed to the print bed, with additional adhesion possible with glue such as Magigoo. The ONE.4 features semi-automatic print bed calibration to ensure proper extrusion and adhesion of the first layers of your print. For fully automatic calibration and even more control, however, it’s worth checking out the BigRep PRO.

Out-of-Filament Sensor

The BigRep ONE’s out-of-filament sensor pauses all prints when you are out of filament, essential for large prints that may use up multiple spools. Simply replace the filament and continue your print.

Intuitive User Interface

For full optimization and calibration of your print, the BigRep ONE is equipped with an intuitive user interface. It helps you remotely load gcodes onto the system, or manually with a USB stick, calibrate the print bed, stop and start operations, and monitor systems in conjunction with BigRep CONNECT.

BigRep ONE.4 Intuitive User Interface

Filament Enclosure

The filament enclosure has been designed to fit all standard spool sizes, including two spools up to 8kgs. This allows for longer, more continuous printing time.

Standard Camera

For extra-large prints that can take days or even weeks, it’s important to be able to monitor your prints remotely from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. The ONE.4 comes with a webcam attached to your printer, allowing for worry-free prints. The camera also allows you to make time-lapse videos, which can be useful for boosting your marketing outreach.

Which Configuration Works for Me?

The ONE.4 is customizable to meet your specific needs, which begins with the extruder combination you choose.



Single Mode is the most affordable option, a basic configuration with a single Power Extruder and a 1mm nozzle. This option is great for prototyping and testing large-scale prints on a lower budget, however, water-soluble support isn't possible in Single Mode.

BigRep ONE.4 Single Mode
BigRep ONE.4 Dual Mode


Our most popular configuration is Dual Mode, which allows for dual extrusion. This is perfect for producing complex geometries when you need water-soluble support for easy removal after printing. Some customers prefer to keep different nozzle sizes on either PEX to avoid swapping out nozzles for different prints. Another advantage of dual extruders is having two different primary materials readily loaded for fast switching between filaments.



Twin mode is perfect when you want multiple prints of the same geometry, speeding up your output by 100% and doubling your production. As both extruders work simultaneously, you can print two versions at once, cutting costs and reducing time-to-part by 50%. With Twin Mode, each extruder can print within one-half of the build volume, so Dual or Single Mode is required for larger prints needing build volumes over 0.5m2.

BigRep ONE.4 Twin Mode

Which Additional Add-Ons Are Available?

The BigRep ONE is a modular printer, so you can choose features to optimize your 3D printer based on your specific needs. Here are the useful add-ons that you may want to consider:

Keep-Dry Add-On

If you want to improve quality and make the highest-quality prints possible, then it’s important to keep your materials dry, particularly engineering-grade and hygroscopic filaments. The keep-dry box protects filaments from environmental moisture and dust, which is especially important for materials such as TPU, BVOH, and HI-TEMP.

BigRep ONE.4 Keep-Dry Box

Connected Camera

For additional peace of mind, the ONE.4 can be equipped with a USB camera and integrated into BigRep CONNECT, a new monitoring and analytics software that lets you keep track of prints, job queues, material usage, and more... plus, BigRep CONNECT is free.

Dual Mode Add-On

If you already have Single Mode, you can upgrade to as your needs change to print with two extruders instead of one. This is also necessary to install first if you want to print in twin mode.

Twin Mode Add-On

If you have Dual Mode already enabled, the twin kit add-on allows you to upgrade to twin mode as well.

Custom Color

The BigRep ONE is easily identifiable with its trademark orange corners, but you can rebrand your ONE.4 with the custom color add-on to match your company's color scheme or corporate identity.

BigRep ONE.4 Custom Color

Three Different Personalities of the BigRep ONE

In the race for 3D printing success, knowledge is half the battle. Understanding the full capabilities of the ONE should give you an indication of which features you need to get the most out of your 3D printer. It’s always worth considering exactly what your aims are before tailoring the ONE to meet those desires. To give you an indication, we have three potential combinations you could work with:

The Sprinter

As the name suggests, the Sprinter is all about speed and is great for ramping up output of batch production. Once design and calibration, material usage, and bed-leveling are set, the Sprinter works quickly and efficiently to simultaneously produce two identical parts. A Sprinter setup could include the Twin Mode extruder configuration with a 1.0mm nozzle, doubling production capabilities, and a CONNECT camera to monitor 3D prints over long periods.

The Essentials

When you want a large-format 3D printer at a smaller price, you may want only the Essentials. Opt for a no-thrills, all-business Single Mode ONE.4 configuration perfect for rapid testing and production. The Essentials includes a single fiber-ready Power Extruder with a 1.0mm nozzle. Perfect for beginners, it's a robust solution at minimal cost.

The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist is a ONE.4 configuration suited for applications requiring the best quality using materials that deliver. For complex geometries, Dual Mode is recommended to enable the ONE.4 to print water-soluble support, like BigRep BVOH, together with a range of compatible materials. To keep sensitive materials in optimal condition, add on the Keep-Dry Box to protect filaments from environmental moisture and dust. For maximum detail, this Perfectionist approach utilizes a 0.6mm nozzle for finer-quality prints and lower layer heights.

Don’t Limit Yourself

In the 3D printing world, there are no limitations to what you are capable of. With the BigRep ONE, you are given the opportunity to create a 3D printer completely in line with what you want to achieve.

As your 3D printing needs evolve, simply upgrade your ONE with additional features to grow along with you. If you need a custom solution for your needs, please feel free to contact our team today.


The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE


The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Lindsay Lawson <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Lindsay Lawson

Head of Product Marketing

With an MFA in New Genres, Lindsay's background in sculpture and animation eventually led her to the world of 3D printing. She is primarily focused on applications using large-format 3D printing with additional emphasis on post-processing techniques and design for Additive Manufacturing.

Design for Additive Manufacturing: Best Practices for Superior 3D Prints

Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM)

Design for Additive Manufacturing:
Best Practices for Superior 3D Prints

Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM)

The possibilities for designing custom, innovative solutions using 3D printing are endless. While this is undoubtedly true for 3D printing hobbyists who want to create and optimize DIY projects, the advantages to Additive Manufacturing (AM) grow exponentially at an industrial scale, especially when you own a large-format BigRep printer.

Aside from freedom of design, 3D printers offer the added benefits of low-cost customization, agile iteration, faster time-to-market, reduced material waste, and a way to avoid complicated logistics and supply chains. However, not all designs are suited for Additive Manufacturing. Having the right knowledge is crucial to get the most out of your printer, especially regarding the earliest design and conceptualization stages.  This is where Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) can make or break the success of your project.

What is Design for Additive Manufacturing?

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the process of creating an object by building it up one layer at a time. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, where an object is produced by cutting away at a solid block of material until the final product is complete, such as CNC machining. While the terms are often used interchangeably, the most common form of Additive Manufacturing is 3D printing. DfAM is a method of designing parts specifically for Additive Manufacturing, which have unique requirements different from other common manufacturing processes such as injection molding or casting. The critical difference between DfAM and traditional design is that DfAM principles guide designers to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of 3D printing while avoiding some of its limitations with smart solutions.

This guide will explain some factors that make a design well-suited for 3D printing, plus it will introduce DfAM principles so you can maximize your 3D printing results.

3D Print Speed

Why DfAM Matters

Understanding DfAM is essential to ensure successful, repeatable, and scalable results that maximize 3D printing capabilities. What will you get from following DfAM guidelines?

  • Reduced material and part costs: By implementing DfAM principles, unnecessary supports are avoided, reducing materials and lowering the cost to print. By using generative design software and AI, parts can be designed to minimize material usage while easily still meeting all of the necessary part requirements.
  • Faster print times: Large-scale 3D prints may run for days or even weeks! However, when components are optimized for Additive Manufacturing, you can implement the most effective printing plan, ensuring the shortest print time that is possible.
  • Increased scalability: By designing with DfAM principles, designs can be printed on various printers and scaled up or down without requiring significant adjustment. 3D printers can also produce sequential batches of prints or, in some cases, parallel prints that drastically speed up the time required to produce each part.
  • Improved part strength: With Design for Additive Manufacturing principles, you can increase the strength of your 3D print, plus you can alter factors like part weight, flexibility, and more. CAD software with generative design functions uses algorithms to produce geometries that meet strength and performance requirements.
new_f1_frontwing (1)

DfAM Best Practices

Design for Additive Manufacturing principles result in many overall benefits, but some specific design choices will be influenced by the type of 3D printing technology used. However, DfAM best practices will help you reduce material use and printing time, consolidate parts, and optimize topology and performance, no matter what 3D printing technology is implemented.

1. DfAM Depends on Your Specific 3D Printer

Before you start designing for 3D printing, you must understand the different types of processes available. The most popular 3D printing processes include FFF (also commonly referred to as the trademarked term, FDM), SLA, and SLS.

  • FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printing consists of layers of melted plastic deposited onto a build platform. The plastic, in the form of a spooled filament, is fed through a heated nozzle that softens the material and extrudes it in a thin stream. The printer then lays down the melted plastic according to the design specifications of the printed model. Once each layer is complete, in the case of large-format FFF 3D printers, the extruder moves up in the Z axis exactly one layer height and another layer is deposited on top. In the case of some smaller desktop printers, the build platform lowers by the amount of one layer height to print the next layer. This process continues until the model is complete. Desktop FFF 3D printers are relatively simple and inexpensive, making them one of the most popular types of 3D printers among hobbyists and home users. However, large-format and specialized FFF machines can produce high-quality results, making them a viable option for professional and industrial applications. Any FFF 3D printer will require support structures for parts with overhang angles and bridging distances beyond limits. Depending on the model of FFF 3D printer, minimum wall thickness, layer heights, and other settings will vary. FFF 3D printers can print with a variety of materials, but virtually all filaments are some type of polymer which may also include fiber, metal, wood, or other additives. Some FFF printers can use water-soluble materials for printing support structures, which can then be dissolved in water for easy removal.
  • SLA (stereolithography) uses ultraviolet (UV) light to cure and solidify photosensitive resin layers one at a time. As each layer is printed, the vat of resin also containing the print in progress lowers by one layer thickness. SLA prints may require some support structures, which are slightly different from FFF supports and are not available in water-soluble materials. SLA prints typically require cleaning after printing to remove any residual uncured resin otherwise, the print would be sticky and harmful to human skin.
  • SLS (selective laser sintering) uses a laser to fuse powder materials, layer by layer, to create a 3D object. After each layer is printed, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness so another layer can be sintered on top. SLS prints do not require support structures because the print is surrounded by unsintered powder during the printing process. Finished SLS prints typically require cleaning, sometimes with specialized machines, to remove loose powder from the 3D printed part.

2. Reduce Material Usage and Printing Time

When designing a 3D model for Additive Manufacturing, it is crucial to consider the amount of material required and the time it will take to produce the finished product. Reducing material usage can reduce overall production costs and speed up the manufacturing process. You can minimize material by:

  • Reducing the surface details in the model: Most 3D printing software has specific tools for reducing the surface details in the 3D model.
  • Tweak the slicer settings: You can reduce the infill percentage, the number of walls, and more.
  • Reorient the part: Reduce printing time, material usage, and support requirements with optimized part orientation.

3. Part Consolidation

One benefit to 3D printing is that parts that would traditionally need to be produced separately and later assembled may be 3D printed as a single, consolidated part. By doing this you can reduce printing time, increase production speed, reduce assembly time, and enhance part strength. As an added bonus, part consolidation may only be possible with 3D-printed parts, and by utilizing DfAM guidelines you may be maximizing the benefits of Additive Manufacturing. Part consolidation benefits include:

  • Reducing the overall number of parts that need to be manufactured as multiple parts are combined together
  • Reducing the amount of time needed to manufacture each individual part
  • Reducing the amount of waste material generated during the manufacturing process
  • Improving the mechanical properties of the final part by reducing internal stresses

4. Topology Optimization

Topology optimization principles aim to use the minimum amount of material that can meet given performance requirements while minimizing the weight of the component. First, you must specify the mechanical performance requirements (such as stiffness or strength) and design constraints (such as maximum allowable stress or displacement). Some CAD software can simulate how your part will respond under different loads. Based on the results of the analysis, you can then automatically adjust various design parameters until an optimal solution is found.

Topology optimization can improve a component's strength, stiffness, or weight as well as reduce manufacturing costs. It is often used with finite element analysis (FEA) to assess the effects of design changes on the component's performance. The results can then be used to create a new design that is more efficient and effective.


Design for Additive Manufacturing Guidelines

Like any other manufacturing process, there are best practices to produce quality 3D-printed parts.

1.    Minimal Feature Size

Minimal feature size refers to an object’s minimum width or height that a 3D printer can accurately print. Sharp corners, holes, protruding text, and cutouts are the types of features where a minimum size can be critical for success. No matter on which axis the feature is oriented, it is usually constrained by the 3D printing technology used, as well as the specific hardware (e.g. nozzle size) or machine accuracy.

If your 3D-printed part requires holes, the minimum diameter will be dependent on different factors depending on the 3D printing technology. With SLS, for example, the holes must typically have a diameter over 1.5 mm to prevent powder from getting stuck in the holes. With FFF 3D printing, the minimum hole diameter is mainly dependent on nozzle size and layer height.

One DfAM recommendation is that all sharp corners should be chamfered or filleted to reduce stress. Applying chamfer and rounding the sharp edges ensures that shrinking forces concentrating on one specific point in the design are dispersed.


2. Wall Thickness and Layer Height

Wall thickness refers to the thickness of the printed object's walls, which are made of perimeters that are sometimes called the wall line count. The absolute minimum wall thickness is a single extruded line (a wall line count of 1) that is dependent on nozzle size: it must not be smaller than the nozzle diameter and usually slightly larger than the nozzle diameter, typically by a factor of 1.2. Additional wall lines such as inner walls, as well as infill, may be printed thinner than the nozzle diameter but is typically a minimum of 60% of the nozzle diameter.

A secondary factor determining minimum wall thickness is the overall geometry and intended use of the 3D print. If it is a functional object subject to stress or force, it is important to use thicker walls with a higher wall line count. If the object is a prototype for design iterations or fit checks, then thinner walls with fewer lines may suffice. The thicker the walls, the longer it will take to print the object and the overall part weight will increase.

Layer height, which is the thickness of each layer measured in the Z axis, will also factor into your DfAM choices. Although layer height settings are determined during the slicing, your design can be informed by which settings you plan to use. For example, a minimum feature size is dependent on layer height, so you should avoid designing features that your 3D printer cannot produce.

Layer height is dependent on the nozzle diameter: the height must be less than the nozzle diameter, typically a factor ranging from 0.3 to 0.6. The higher the layer height, the faster the print and the rougher the appearance of the layer structure on the surface. Part strength is somewhat impacted by interlayer bonding and the strength is slightly increased with higher layer heights. Typically, lower layer heights are used for finer, more precise prints with smoother surfaces, while higher layer heights are beneficial for faster printing when surface smoothness is not important or can be managed with post-processing.

Desgign for Additive Manufacturing: Layer Height

3. Support Structures

While not technically part of the design process, support structures may be avoided by following DfAM principles, thereby reducing printing time and material usage, and improving surface quality.

Suppoort Structures - DfAM

Support structures are temporary structures that help to reinforce 3D objects, prevent them from collapsing during the printing process, and improve their overall strength and durability. 3D models with overhangs or elements with a small contact area with the build plate require support structures during 3D printing. Parts with delicate features or low-density areas may need support structures to prevent them from being damaged during 3D printing. However, each 3D printer and material has its own threshold for requiring supports; a rule of thumb is that parts with a vertical angle of 50 degrees or less don't require it. 

Support structures are designed to be removed after the printing process. Breakable supports can be printed with the same material as the print and are manually removed when the print is completed. Another solution are supports, printed in a water-soluble material, that can be dissolved after printing. These are usually easier to remove and result in better surface quality. By following DfAM guidelines for overhangs and bridging (as noted below), you can reduce or entirely avoid the need to print support structures.

4. Overhangs

An overhang is any geometrical shape extending beyond the previous layer without any support structure. If an overhang is too steep, typically over 50°, it will sag or collapse without using a support structure.

When designing for Additive Manufacturing, you can adjust these angles to keep within maximum overhang angles, thereby avoiding overhangs that require support. The benefit of this is threefold: the printed surface will look better, the print will be faster, and it will require less material usage. With the BigRep BLADE slicer, the support structures can be created automatically based on material and machine-specific profiles. To experiment with higher maximum overhang angles, you can change this setting and reduce the automatically generated supports. The choice of material will also affect the maximum overhang angle achievable without support. If your project allows, you can choose a material that tolerates higher overhang angles to avoid printed supports.

Overhangs - DfAM

5. Bridging

Bridging occurs when material is printed in mid-air spanning two or more otherwise disconnected segments without a printed layer below. To successfully bridge, the material must be able to keep its weight as well as the weight of the model itself. The maximum length of a bridge will depend on the material and the 3D printer. Beyond that limit, the bridge will sag unless support structures are printed below. By choosing a material with better bridging properties, you may be able to avoid printed supports without altering your design.

As seen in the image below, the quality of a bridge degrades the longer it is. In other words, past a certain (material, machine, and geometry dependent) threshold, the bridge will sag. The image below shows a test print demonstrating various bridge lengths printed with a BigRep ONE using PLA filament. Here we see that the bridge quality begins to suffer when longer than 50mm. Keep in mind that this test print is a simplification of a real-world 3D printing application, so your 3D print will likely require shorter bridges or support structures when compared to this test print.

Bridging - Design for Additive Manufacturing
Bridging front view - Design for Additive Manufacturing

6. Orientation

Part orientation is a setting determined during slicing, but your part design can be influenced and improved with this setting in mind during the design stage. By changing the orientation of the part within the printer's build volume, you can increase part strength, reduce printing time, improve surface quality, and avoid 3D-printed support structures. For stronger parts, the print should be oriented so that the printed layers are perpendicular to the direction of the force that will be applied to the part. This is because the inter-layer bond, where each layer touches the next, is the weakest part of the print. By orienting the layers perpendicular to the forces the printed part must withstand, it will be more resistant to breaking.

Part orientation can affect the overall print time by reducing travel moves (when the print head moves the extruder to a new location without printing) and by reducing the need for printed supports.

The surface quality is negatively affected by part orientation in two ways: support structures and the staircase effect. Support structures can impact the surface quality of a 3D print which may appear rougher, more irregular, and may be damaged during the process of support removal. The staircase effect occurs when the ridges created by the printed layers are more pronounced on a 3D print, as seen on the image to the right. This can be reduced in a few ways to make the print surface appear smoother. First, the layer height can be reduced, but this will increase printing time. Secondly, the part can be oriented so that the layers are built up perpendicular to the surface of the 3D print. If it is important that a particular surface is smoother, the print should be oriented so that surface is as vertical (in relation to the print bed) as possible.

Part Orientation - DfAM

7. Tolerances

In Additive Manufacturing, tolerance measures how much deviation is acceptable or expected from the original 3D model. It is, in other words, how closely the 3D print measures up to the digital model. It is essential to consider tolerance when designing parts for 3D printing, as the build process can introduce inaccuracies.

Support structures can affect tolerance if they leave an overly rough or distorted print surface after the supports have been removed. Understanding tolerances is essential because they determine how well a part will fit and function as intended. For example, a loose tolerance may cause the 3D-printed part to be loose and wobble if fitted within another structure while a tight tolerance may cause a part to be difficult to assemble or create excessive wear.

The achievable tolerances of a 3D print are dependent on the accuracy of the 3D printer itself, its components, and the material used. Accurate tolerances can be negatively impacted by the 3D printer when it is not properly calibrated or vibrates too much during printing. Tolerances are also determined by nozzle diameter and layer height. A 0.6 mm nozzle will be able to achieve smaller tolerances than a 2 mm nozzle. Higher layer heights will give a rougher surface resolution, which also affects the achievable tolerance of the 3D-printed part.

Tolerances in Additive Manufacturing

8. Infill

Infill is a 3D-printed interior structure, typically a lattice pattern, that fills the interior cavity of a 3D print. The type and density of infill are determined in the slicing, but it can be useful to know what infill is needed when initially designing your part.

Infill serves two functions: it increases the strength of the part and is necessary to support the top layers of certain geometries. The infill can be a variety of patterns like a grid, triangle, or gyroid, and its density is determined by the slicing settings ranging from 0-100% of empty versus solid space. With 0% infill, the part will be lighter and print faster, but the part will be weaker. It is virtually never necessary to print with 100% infill, as the increased part-strengthening effect of infill is typically negligible above a certain percentage. The second function of infill, to support top layers, is only a factor depending on the part geometry. If the top area is smaller than the distance that can be achieved by bridging, then no infill may be required unless part strength is a factor. In practice, most 3D prints require infill to support the top layers and the infill density required for adequate top layers depends on the number of top layers, the machine's capabilities, and the material used. If a 3D print only has one top layer, the space between the printed infill walls may sag, but with additional layers, the final top layer may compensate and appear as intended.

The correct settings depend on your project requirements. For example, if you are 3D printing an object that does not need to be strong, you can use a lower infill setting to save time. When designing for Additive Manufacturing, the infill should be as strong as possible while using the least amount of material. This helps to reduce the weight of the object and the overall cost of printing.

If your design constraints allow, you can change the geometry of your part to minimize the need for infill or avoid it altogether. This can result in a faster 3D print, better surface quality, and reduced material usage.

Infill Patterns & Density

Testing and Validating Your Design

After following DAM principles, the success of your design can be evaluated before or after printing.

DfAM Software

Design for Manufacturing software, like DFM Pro, verifies if design rules for Additive Manufacturing are followed. The software takes the 3D part, identifies possible manufacturing issues, and suggests fixes. Automatic fixes can be applied.

FEA Software

FEA (Finite Element Analysis) software can be used to analyze the mechanical properties of your design before printing. You can alter your design using DfAM guidelines, AI, and/or dedicated software to improve the parameters within your digital 3D model.

Test Printing

Assuming that your 3D printer is calibrated and functioning properly, you can 3D print your part to evaluate the success of your design and iterate as needed. The ability to easily print tests, evaluate, redesign, and reprint is one of the great benefits of Additive Manufacturing.

Break Off Support Structures

Limitations of Design for Additive Manufacturing

Although designing for Additive Manufacturing has many benefits, it still has some limitations to what a specific 3D printer, material, or 3D-printing application can achieve. While DfAM guidelines can result in better 3D prints, they can not overcome inherent design flaws that may affect the overall functionality of a part.

One limitation of DfAM is human error. On one hand, expertise can greatly benefit the quality and outcome, but without the use of algorithms or AI, there is a limit to what experience can achieve, particularly in novel situations. The need to iterate designs and reprint can increase costs and delay timelines. When the time for design iteration is limited, analysis software (like DFM or FEA) and hardware (3D scanner) can reduce the likelihood of mistakes, however, these may require additional tools and software competence.

Some critics of DfAM suggest that stringent design rules result in less original or innovative designs, becoming more homogeneous in style. Others counter that the use of Additive Manufacturing opens up a world of design possibilities not achievable with other production methods.

Design for Additive Manufacturing


The DfAM approach is a powerful set of design tools that can improve the end result of additive manufactured products and parts. DfAM is essential for efficiency and consistency when designing models for 3D printing and is particularly essential for industrial 3D printing, improving the performance of products by making them lighter and more robust.

In many cases, DfAM can also benefit aesthetic choices to result in beautiful, quality 3D prints. DfAM is an evolving set of rules and best practices, which can be modified for specific design tasks and as 3D printing technology evolves.

Want to know more? Watch this webinar to learn about industrial design for Additive Manufacturing.


The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO


The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

Head of Growth Marketing

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

Carbon Fiber 3D Printing: Everything You Need To Know

Carbon Fiber 3D Printing

Carbon Fiber 3D Printing: How to 3D Print Strong Parts

Adding carbon fiber (CF) to filaments improves both strength and stiffness. The added strength and increased stiffness provided by the addition of CF leads to a better strength-to-weight ratio, achieving lighter, stronger parts with less printing time.

Read on below to see how carbon fiber can benefit your manufacturing business and learn about the unique properties of CF filaments.

What are Carbon Fiber Filaments?

Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) bring together the qualities and performance properties of carbon fiber with the polymer material they are reinforcing. Printability and ease of use of a standard thermoplastic like PLA, ABS, or PET gains superior performance properties by including carbon fiber content.

Chopped fibers are mostly used for industrial production and also 3D printing. These carbon fibers come as a "filler" material in thermoplastic materials for injection molding or as carbon fiber filaments to use in 3D printers. They can be processed like any other thermoplastic material. But they have extra requirements which will be explained later on.

FFF (extrusion-based) 3D printing uses chopped carbon fibers. These small fibers are then mixed into a standard thermoplastic as a reinforcing material.

Why do you need Carbon Fiber 3D Printing?

Industrial environments often demand specific mechanical properties and finely tuned precision. Fortunately, by bringing together the capabilities of a high-strength material and the many advantages of additive manufacturing, carbon fiber 3D printing offers exceptional dimensional stability in strong, stiff parts with a fine surface finish and a high heat deflection temperature - ideal for functional, high-performance applications.

With 3D printing moving ever deeper into end-use production, the ability to manufacture both parts and tooling using carbon fiber filaments is increasing in demand.

Whether using these materials in molds, jigs, fixtures, tooling or high-performance race cars, specialty aerospace equipment, or professional cycling equipment, carbon fiber 3D printer filament enables you to create the high-strength parts you need. Of course, as a relatively new offering in the manufacturing industry, carbon fiber 3D printing may have many pros, but it's also worth being aware of the printing requirements before you get started.

Carbon Fiber Filament
CF Filaments
This pattern was printed in BigRep Hi-Temp CF and is used to create drones parts made of carbon fiber prepreg.

Pros of Carbon Fiber 3D Printing

The advantages of carbon fiber 3D printing come down to their performance properties:

High Strength

Perhaps the most-touted property of carbon fiber 3D printer filament, high strength is key to its performance — and desirability as a 3D printing material. Carbon fiber offers a strength-to-weight ratio that enables high performance with low density.

Dimensional Stability

By lessening the tendency for part shrinkage, carbon fiber's high strength and stiffness contribute to its excellent dimensional stability upon usage, essential for parts that require precise dimensions and tight tolerances.

Light Weight

Hand-in-hand with its strength is the light weight of a carbon fiber 3D printer filament.  Light weights are a key advantage of 3D printing in general, and using carbon fiber materials enables that weight reduction without a loss of performance-grade strength.

High Heat Deflection Temperature

Compared to standard 3D printing materials like PLA, ABS, and PETG, carbon fiber filaments can withstand significantly higher temperatures. Carbon fiber composite materials — such as BigRep's PA12 CF — enhance the heat deflection temperature of the base material for better performance at elevated temperatures.


CF filaments make layer lines less noticeable. This gives you better surface quality and haptics, reducing the need for any post-processing operations such as sanding.


3D-printed carbon fiber parts maintain their shape under high stress. In contrast with other materials that trade off strength and durability for stiffness, the rigidity possible with carbon fiber ensures structural integrity.

Requirements to Work with Carbon Fiber Filaments

Carbon fiber filament is more abrasive than many other materials and has specific heat requirements. As is typically the case with engineering-grade materials, they cannot simply be swapped out for standard 3D printer filament and be expected to print with the same settings.

print bed

Heated Print Bed

Hand-in-hand with an enclosed 3D printing environment is a heated print bed, which is crucial to ensure that the first print layer adheres to the print bed. Without this strong foundation, the success of the remaining print layers may be compromised.

nozzle pro

Hardened Nozzle

Over time — which can vary from one to a few print jobs — carbon fiber filament will wear down a standard 3D printing nozzle due to its abrasiveness. A brass nozzle, for example, will wear out when extruding these materials and will ultimately be rendered functionally useless. Hardened steel is a requirement for a 3D printer to handle CF filament.

Of course, designers, engineers, and operators working with any CF-inclusive project must all be well-trained in the requirements for working with carbon fiber filaments. Training and upskilling must be considered when considering bringing CF filaments into operations.


Print Orientation

The addition of CF increases tensile strength but when managed incorrectly it can lead to a reduction in layer adhesion. To compensate for the material's low ductility, orient the part in the direction of the stress or the load.  This can be adjusted during the orientation of the part in a slicing software such as BLADE.

Composite Mould 3D Printed with Carbon Fiber Filament

Where are CF Filaments used?

Carbon Fiber 3D printing is best put to use in manufacturing environments thanks to its high strength-to-weight ratio and overall stiffness. Among the primary uses for these materials are the creation of molds, jigs and fixtures, and tooling.

Composite Molds & Thermoforming Molds

3D printed molds are one of the most cohesive ways advanced and traditional manufacturing technologies work together in an industrial environment. 3D printed molds offer the complexities and speed of production of 3D printing to the mass production capabilities of mold-based manufacturing. When it comes to composite molds and thermoforming molds, the performance properties of CF materials are a natural fit.

Composite molds are one of the most common manufacturing methods to cost-effectively produce large batches of identical parts. As their name implies, composite molds are made using composite materials, which can be made in complex shapes and stand up to repeated use — all at a significantly lower cost than aluminum or steel molds.

Thermoforming molds use heat and pressure to shape a flat thermoplastic sheet into a form using conduction, convection, or radiant heating to warm the sheet before conforming it to the mold’s surface. Thermoforming molds must stand up to repeated high-heat usage, requiring specific performance capabilities that can be well delivered via CF materials.

Jigs & Fixtures, Tooling

Often viewed as supplemental to manufacturing processes — but vital in their own right — are jigs, fixtures, and tooling, using in milling, drilling, and other subtractive operations. Jigs and fixtures are used to hold specific parts in place throughout different stages of their manufacturing, and tooling is used throughout.

These all-important tools often perform best when customized to the application at hand and may be worn out through highly repetitive use. For these reasons, jigs, fixtures, and tooling are increasingly 3D printed on-site. They can be custom-fit to their specific need and reproduced on demand without outsourcing or waiting to be restocked.

When made of reinforced materials like CF filaments, 3D printed jigs and fixtures and tooling last longer and perform better — especially in terms of long-lasting durability. You can learn more about replacing high-cost CNC milling with agile, cost-saving solutions for low-volume production here.

Automotive and Aerospace Industries

The design freedom of carbon fiber allows you to realize complex geometries that are not cost-effective with traditional methods. This design freedom enables you to rapidly iterate and then, due to its increased stiffness and temperature stability, create more functional prototypes. The enhanced aesthetics of the object, including complex curvature achieved with 3D printing and better surface quality with CF filaments, can open up innovation in automotive, aerospace, and other related industries.


BigRep PA12 CF and HI-TEMP CF

BigRep offers two carbon-filled filaments: PA12 CF, a nylon carbon fiber, and HI-TEMP CF, a bio-based, carbon fiber-filled polymer. The critical difference between these two carbon-filled filaments is that HI-TEMP CF has less demanding hardware requirements. HI-TEMP CF is applicable across multiple printers, including the ONE, the STUDIO, and the PRO, while PA12 CF is suited to industrial applications on the PRO.

If you want the best performance, then it's better to use a PA12 CF filament. PA12 CF possesses increased tensile strength, impact toughness, and heat deflection temperature, making it well suited to applications requiring superior durability and operational lifespan in challenging industrial environments.

The trade-off for HI-TEMP CF's higher stiffness, flexural strength, and less demanding printing requirements - compared to PA12 CF - is a slight reduction of impact toughness and heat deflection temperature. This makes it better suited to applications not exposed to impact but which maintain the need for dimensional stability under loading. This increased stiffness and flexural strength is provided by HI-TEMP CF.

No matter which filament you pick, taking advantage of the many benefits of carbon fiber-filled materials empowers you to increase the performance of your applications. Although specifically made for large-format printing on BigRep machines, these materials are compatible with most 2.85mm open printers with a hardened nozzle.


Stiff and Strong Carbon Fiber

Learn More


When you decide to take on carbon fiber 3D printing, you’re committing to an endeavor that requires significant attention to parameters and specialized equipment and requirements. When those conditions are fulfilled, you can produce best-in-class lightweight, durable, functional parts that can stand up to a variety of industrial uses with all the complexity in design that 3D printing has to offer. Get in touch with a BigRep expert today to learn how CF filaments can help to improve your production capabilities.

Want to learn more?

Watch the on-demand webinar to learn about:

  • What is carbon fiber-reinforced material?​
  • What are the best applications for carbon fiber?
  • Tips and tricks for printing with carbon fiber​


The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO


The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

3D Printer Speed: What You Need to Know

3D Print Speed

In additive manufacturing, if you want to succeed, then you need high speeds. The crucial question remains: how can you maintain quality while significantly ramping up production speeds?

It helps to have a better understanding of how 3D printing speeds are defined, what they mean for your prints, and tried and tested ways of producing parts faster. To learn more, read our thorough guide below.

Defining 3D Printer Speed

Oftentimes 3D printer speed is equated with the speed of the print head: the faster the printhead moves and deposits filament, the faster a part is built. But that’s only part of the picture.

While the speed of the print head influences the deposition rate of filament on the print bed, it does not reflect the overall length of the 3D printing process. It is far from the only print setting to influence overall printing time. It’s worth taking a broader look at 3D printing speeds for the FFF process, considering the 3D printing process from beginning (pre-processing) to end (post-processing).

Each step in the FFF 3D printing process adds time, contributing to how long it takes to get from 3D model to finished product. Fortunately, this means that the end-to-end 3D print speed can be accelerated by optimizing certain elements of the print process and tweaking certain settings. We propose a slightly more encompassing metric of speed that takes into account the time and labor spent before and after printing, as well as the printing time itself.

What Influences 3D Print Speed?

To accelerate and optimize the speed of the 3D printing process, it is important to understand what factors come into play across the pre-processing, build, and post-processing stages.

3D Printing Speed
A batch of 3D prints are sliced with BigRep BLADE.


Pre-processing encompasses the time it takes to prepare the 3D model and the 3D printer for the printing process. Three pre-processing stages determine how long a 3D print will take.

3D Model Preparation

3D model preparation is itself a category that includes parameter selection and printing preferences. Decisions made in 3D model preparation have a massive influence on overall printing times. For example, choosing the right orientation for the 3D print on the build platform can reduce or even eliminate the need for support, cutting back on printing time. Some slicing programs, such as BigRep BLADE, offer automatic settings—like auto-orientation—that optimize these features so you don’t have to spend time figuring out the right parameters.


Slicing software translates 3D models into a language that 3D printers understand. This process takes time, especially if your 3D model is particularly complex or the STL file is too large. Adjusting the resolution of your 3D model as well as layer heights and infill densities can alter slicing times. Keeping your slicer software updated can also eliminate bugs that slow processing times.

3D Printer Calibration

Calibration is a necessary step that ensures your 3D printer is properly positioned and all components, such as the extruder, motors, and axes, are aligned. Manual calibration can be time-consuming and take hours, but many FFF 3D printers offer automatic calibration that can be done in mere minutes.

3D Print Speed
A sensor measures the printed structures to calibrate the extruders for dual extrusion before printing.

3D Print Time

The print time refers to how long the 3D printer spends creating an object. As you might expect, it is typically the most time-intensive element of the 3D printing process. Different print settings and hardware features can increase or decrease printing times.

3D Print Speed

Print speed refers to the rate at which the 3D printer extrusion system moves when extruding filament. Print speed is measured in millimeters per second (mm/s), and most FFF 3D printers have the capacity to print at speeds in the range of 40 mm/s to 150 mm/s. This setting can also influence print quality: the faster the extruder, the less precise the print becomes.

Travel Speed

Travel speed indicates how fast the print head moves when not extruding filament. The travel speed can often be faster than the print speed without affecting quality. However, if it is too fast, it can lead to 3D printing defects like less precise prints or even layer shifts.

The sustainable travel speed you can achieve, depends a lot on the mechanical structure of your 3D printer. A sturdier frame and portal allow for higher travel speeds without the risk of vibrations showing in your part.

3D Print Speed
Two 3D prints with different layer heights: 0.2mm and 0.6mm.

Layer Height

This measurement determines how thick each printed layer will be and thus has a direct influence on printer speed. The thicker the layer height, the fewer layers will be needed to complete a print and the faster your part will be built. As the layer height increases, however, the resolution of the print decreases.

Nozzle Diameter

The nozzle diameter is a hardware selection that can unlock faster printing rates. The bigger the nozzle diameter, the wider each printed line will be. This can eliminate the need for multiple perimeter layers to achieve a certain wall thickness. A wider nozzle diameter also allows for increased layer height.

Infill Patterns & Density
Two 3D prints are sliced with different infill percentages and wall thicknesses.

Infill Density

The percentage of infill density—the internal structure that supports the outer shell of a 3D print—can have a big impact on print speeds. The lower the infill density, the less material is required, which can reduce print times.

You should note that lower infill densities also provide less strength than a higher infill, so it’s about finding the right balance between speed and quality.

Support Structures

Generated to reinforce overhangs and bridges, support structures can also increase the time it takes to 3D print a model. Support patterns, densities, and other settings will influence support printing time. Orienting your model on the print bed to minimize supports can also speed up print times.

The white material is BigRep's BVOH filament, a water soluble support for easy removal.
The white material is BigRep's BVOH filament, a water soluble support for easy removal.


Once the 3D print is removed from the print bed, a certain level of post-processing is required. For prototypes and hobbyist-grade components, post-processing times can be minimal. For end-use parts or visual prototypes, however, post-processing can be demanding.

Support Removal

If your 3D model was printed with supports, removal is an obligatory step. The ease of removal is highly dependent on the type and number of supports.

Some supports can be removed manually in just seconds, while others require special cutting tools to avoid damaging the 3D print. The easiest and often fastest support removal can be achieved by using a dual extrusion 3D printer and a soluble support material that simply dissolves away.

Break Off Support Structures
Support structures are designed to break away easily after 3D printing.

Sanding and Polishing

Sanding and polishing are necessary steps for 3D prints that need a fine surface finish. Since both these steps are manual—requiring the use of sandpaper, polishing paste, or cloth—they can be very time-consuming, especially for larger prints.

Mechanical methods like tumbling and sandblasting are more complex yet speedier options for larger batches.

Priming and Coating

Other optional post-processing steps are priming, painting, and coating. The time each of these steps takes depends entirely on the technique used (for example spray coating, dip coating, or hand painting) as well as the scale of the 3D print and batch size.

For example, dip coating can accelerate post-processing for batches of parts, while spray coating can be more efficient for large prints.

3D Print Speed
A 3D print is post-processed with a brush-on coating to smooth and protect the surface.


3D printing speed is not as simple as knowing the mm/s rate of the print head: many other factors influence how long it will take to complete a 3D print job. In the pre-processing stage, model prep, slicing, and parameter selection can be optimized for faster processing.

In the build stage, various settings and hardware choices directly influence the speed and quality of a 3D print. Finally, the degree of post-processing required for an FFF 3D print can greatly influence how long it takes to get from a 3D model to the finished part.

By optimizing these various steps and understanding the correlation between print speed and part quality, you can achieve faster print rates and a more efficient printing process overall.

Want to learn more? Watch this webinar to see how to save time with the BigRep PRO 3D printer!

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

SEO Manager 

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

3D Printer Cost of Ownership: What You Need to Consider

3D Printer Price & Cost

The Additive Manufacturing market continues to grow at an exponential rate. This includes a significant increase in adoption from industrial manufacturers while the 3D printing industry itself welcomes new hardware, software and material companies everyday.

There are many factors to consider when purchasing a 3D printer, such as material capabilities, build size, purpose and future intention. However, one conversation that OEMs are afraid to have with prospects and clients is the true cost of ownership.

What are the upfront costs associated with my machinery? Where can I purchase consumables, resin or filament? When will my equipment become obsolete? This article will address all these questions and more.

The goal is to provide you, the end user, with enough information so that you can be prepared to present solutions to your management. Unexpected costs or limited financial transparency will become quite problematic, especially if your organization is budget sensitive.

The 3D printing market is vast. There are hobbyist-level 3D printers available for amateur enthusiasts, and then there is industrial additive manufacturing equipment used by engineers and professionals.

How much is a 3D printer?

Hobbyist-level 3D printer prices range between $200 - $7,500 with basic printing capabilities and materials. The industrial-grade 3D printing equipment has a much broader price range, $25,000 - $500,000, that is much more technologically advanced.

The price of a 3D printer rises with high resolution, bigger size and higher print speed.

But there is much more to it than just the purchasing price of a 3D printer.

Average Prices for 3D Printers
BigRep Industrial 3D Printers at Ford

The purpose of this article is to understand the professional-grade equipment and assess the costs associated. If you wish to learn more about the entry level 3D printing market, you can find more in this article at as a resource.

Part One: Capital Equipment Expenditures + Purpose

Regardless of company size or department budget, capital equipment expenditures over $50,000 will always be scrutinized. If it doesn’t fit on a corporate card then you will most likely be required to justify the purchase. And let’s be honest, your name will forever be connected to that piece of machinery once it’s installed—so it’s important to do the homework and make a good decision. In Part One, we will dissect the cost of AM equipment, and its purpose.

Industrial additive manufacturing equipment (operating with thermoplastic materials) can range from $25,000 to $500,000 depending on a variety of factors. This includes the size of the machinery, capability, reliability, ease of use, material compatibility and even brand name recognition. That’s a lot to keep track of.

For example, larger platform printers require robust servo motors and high-performance components to remain reliable and repeatable for users. Additionally, printers with advanced material capabilities operate with controlled heating chambers that will undoubtedly raise the cost of ownership and may be unnecessary for your application. You may be asking yourself, how do I determine which printer is the right one for me?

Is your department purchasing AM equipment for prototyping or production applications? What does your current process look like from a time and cost perspective? Who will be managing the machine? Analyze your current prototyping/production process and identify AM ready parts -- meaning which parts are too expensive to outsource or are too complicated with traditional machining. AM provides inherent values when it comes to designing, so understanding the intention and purpose of your equipment will help determine the return on investment.

For example, assembly line facilities have historically used metal parts for jigs and CMM fixtures simply because that was the only material available to them at the time. 3D printing with PLA plastic has become a viable alternative because it’s less expensive and lighter weight. Understanding the costs associated with traditional processes or parts helps determine the savings with 3D printing and ultimately, justify the ROI. The industry standard for equipment ROI is typically 18-24 months.

Kawasaki experienced a positive ROI after just 6 months.
Read this eBook to see how Kawasaki uses their large format 3D printer.

3D Printer Cost Return on Investment

Part Two: Service Contracts, Consumables, + Post Processing

The equipment cost is just one piece to the printer acquisition puzzle. Purchasing a service contract for an expensive piece of machinery is commonplace in every industry, but AM is unique when it comes to consumables and post processing technologies. Almost every 3D printing technology comes with proprietary materials and a recommended solution for support removal.

The best estimate for an equipment service contract is between 15-20% of the overall cost. Indicating that $100,000 3D printer may require a $20,000 annual service contract. Much of this is dependent on equipment reliability and complexity. However, the alternative of no service contract is having to purchaseing replacement parts at a much higher cost so you’re left with trying to decide what makes the most sense for your business. It’s possible that your business has separate budgets for equipment and service so we recommend speaking to your finance team first.

Every 3D printer OEM offers proprietary consumables in resin, filament or pellet form. The question is compatibility and control. Some OEMs restrict users from using 3rd party materials and consider it a breach of service contract if they do. Those OEMs tend to charge more for their materials while suggesting that the printer is more reliable because of that. However, the industry is transitioning to an open platform concept that enables end users to operate printers with third party materials.

BigRep’s approach is unique because it makes both options available. Be confident to use our suggested filaments with predefined settings embedded in the slicing software or feel free to experiment with other material providers. We simply recommend to our users to reach out and ask about the options. Oftentimes, we have experience with many materials and can point you in the right direction.

Historically, support removal and post processing equipment in 3D printing wasn’t discussed. Yes, it’s the less attractive part of the industry but it’s impossible to ignore if your AM technology requires it. For example, many thermoplastic technologies use soluble support materials which typically requires an ultrasonic bath for removal. The size of your parts justifies the size of the support removal system, which increases the cost accordingly. Alternatively, some AM technologies use breakaway support structures which require manual removal and sanding. Ultimately, it depends on your application and what type of finish your part requires. It’s not uncommon for designers and engineers to paint, weld, bond, sand or coat parts for optimal look and feel. With each process comes costs—whether automated equipment or manual labor.

These air duct fittings from Boyce didn't require any post-processing before they went into the Verizon Kiosk they produce.

3D Printing Lower Cost with less Post Processing

Part Three: Intangibles + Obsolescence

Okay, if you’ve come this far then it’s time to talk about the future of your 3D printer and how to maximize your investment. As previously mentioned, the AM marketplace is complicated and it’s challenging to discern which technology is right for you. After you have determined the purpose of your 3D printer and analyzed the cost of ownership, it’s likely that you will have several options to consider. There are so many competing technologies that exist; so which company, brand or product are you willing to commit to?

How long has this company been in existence? Who are the major investors? What are the equipment reviews and will the company provide access to users and references? There is no need to work in a bubble when there is a world of resources available. When it comes to intangibles like company reputation or service standards, never underestimate the user testimonial. The industry is constantly evolving, and it’s very common to see major partnerships between OEMs, material providers, research institutes, and industrial leaders. In 2021, we have seen several AM companies go public and multiple mergers. Take time to learn about the company you wish to invest in. After all, your name is going to be attached to the decision.

Obsolescence is a much trickier conversation, and is one of the major reasons why some companies are hesitant to adopt 3D printing. Technology is advancing faster than ever before, and no one wants to be left holding the keys to outdated equipment. How can your department proactively prepare for obsolescence? First, determine a realistic ROI and try to stay under a 24 month payback schedule, which will improve the printer’s profitability. Second, ask the OEM if they have upgrade paths or buyback programs — most organizations do and are willing to drive customer loyalty. Finally, build an internal or external network of users, customers and research institutes that want access to your equipment and would pay to do so. These are just a few examples of building purpose for your 3D printer and monetizing it as quickly as possible.

Industrial 3D Printer Price Customer Nikola Corp.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started?

"Talk to someone that has one of these. It's guys like me that are operating the machine that can really tell you. Learn from their successes and failures."

Riley Gillman,
Nikola Corporation


The industrial AM market is complicated and expansive. The technology exists to enable engineers to rapidly produce prototypes, increase new product development, and identify new methods or materials for production purposes so the cost is justified. The question is, what exactly are you trying to accomplish? There is an alternative mindset in the market to purchase equipment now and identify ways to use this machinery in the future. These businesses typically have the financial resources to make such acquisitions and the luxury to wait and see. For the rest of us, we must develop ways to justify equipment purchases and truly understand the costs associated. Every 3D printer available on the market was originally designed to solve a problem but now every printer is the ultimate solution—one size does not fit all.

We recommend taking the time to develop an ROI calculation and truly assess every aspect of a 3D printer purchase. How expensive is the annual service contract? If we find less expensive materials, can we run them through our equipment? Will my printer be reliable enough to become profitable for my business? We invite you to speak with our team of experts to learn more, and find out how BigRep can be profitable for you.

Talk to a 3D Printing Expert to help you calculate your ROI with a BigRep 3D Printer

4 Things to Consider Before Buying a Self-Assembled Large-Format 3D Printer

Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled / DIY

Would a self-assembled large-format 3D printer be worth the price tag savings?

Price of an Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled

The answer depends on a variety of factors.

The reality is there are an array of options when choosing a 3D printer, and the right system for you is going to depend on several factors, ranging from your knowledge of 3D printers, budget, and what you want to accomplish with the printer.

How much experience do you have working with 3D printers? Are you comfortably knowledgeable of every component? Can you troubleshoot most problems yourself or do you often depend on services? Even if you can troubleshoot your own printer, how large is your margin for error?

In the right situation, self-assembled 3D printers can be  an affordable option. Highly experienced users who understand 3D printer construction, maintenance, and modification with a wealth of time to build and troubleshoot their new 3D printer can make use of self-assembled offerings. Unfortunately, DIY 3D printers are too often treated as a cost-saving solution and purchased without fully understanding the expertise and time they’ll likely require.

It’s important to understand what each offering includes, and weigh them against your expectations. So, in this article we’ll go over 4 key considerations when deciding if a self-assembled (DIY) 3D printer is right for you, and why we believe premium offerings like BigRep’s 3D printers are a better choice.

Infographic: Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled

Assembly Time

Time is money and your time is extremely valuable. Assembly is one of the clearest reasons to buy a premium 3D printer, so we’ll get it out of the way first.

Many businesses invest in technologies like 3D printers with specific goals in mind. They may want to reduce the lead time on parts and tooling or decrease outsourcing expenditures. Others may need a resource for agile product development to create prototypes on demand. It’s important to consider when you want to start progressing through these goals if you’re considering a self-assembled 3D printer.

Just assembling a DIY 3D printer takes time. How much time exactly will vary from user to user depending on pre-existing knowledge and clear instructions and labeling but could take a few days up to a month or more depending on labor availability, parts and any issues that could arise.

Additive manufacturing requires high precision to function effectively. Even small imperfections – in the wrong place – can render a part useless for many applications. During self-assembly it’s easy to misalign or mistakenly construct a printer that can cause excess vibrations or other inaccuracies during operation. Experienced users may know how to troubleshoot and repair these issues if they aren’t simply the result of low-quality hardware. Less experienced users may be unable to properly assemble their new 3D printer at all. In this case, and if the manufacturer doesn’t offer onsite servicing, you would need to hire a technician for assembly – likely bridging the cost gap. Either situation, requires significant time investment to ensure a system is operating properly.

With premium 3D printers like offerings from BigRep, a highly skilled technician can install your system onsite and validate its performance in as little as one day. They’ll introduce you to your new printer, train you on typical 3D printer troubleshooting, and help you to understand large-format best practices. Better yet, should unexpected problems arise, a BigRep service technician can come onsite or through a virtual service call to remedy the problem and ensure as little productivity is lost as possible.

Assembly Time: Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled


At first glance, the price of a DIY system might seem too good to pass up. However, what many don’t realize is the price you see for many self-assembly 3D printers are “barebone” packages. These price points offer the most basic system, and a few upgrades are usually required to bring the system to an industrial standard.

Barebone systems are typically packaged en masse straight out of an affordable manufacturer, usually in China, and come with hardware of minimal quality – depending on the specific offer. If you don’t purchase upgrades before assembly, it’s likely that you’ll feel the need to once you’re using the system regularly.

When choosing upgrades, integrations are important features to pay mind. Is your build volume’s heating integrated with the 3D printer control board? If not, you might have to manually switch the heating off before the print bed can cool down. Limitations like this can severely restrict the flexibility of large-format 3D printing, like running prints overnight.

Aside from these big quality of life upgrades, there are a lot of smaller parts – like ware components – where quality will be very important.

Industrial 3D printers come fully equipped so they are ready to perform out of the box, no upgrade costs required. So yes the price tag will be more but it also comes with the assurance there are no hidden costs or components needed to bring it up to an industrial standard for printing.

Costs: Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled

Down Time

You purchase a printer to do a job. So when the printer is down, it effects the bottom line. Most users will compare a 3D printer’s key components out the gate and upgrade self-assembly systems where they feel necessary – hot ends, filament detection, and control systems are common in the first pass. While easier to ignore, it’s essential to also examine the quality of ware components. Check various gears, bearings, and straps for quality.

All moving parts are essential to replace early on cheaper systems to ensure consistency and reliability throughout operation. Low-quality parts will ware much faster than premium industrial parts or otherwise require additional intervention when compared to parts and systems that come standard with premium industrial 3D printers like BigRep’s.

Experienced users will either upgrade low-quality moving parts from the start or when they’re skilled troubleshooters, replace them as needed. It may be difficult for less experienced users to locate these smaller components when they begin to fail and overlooking these parts can lead to serious downtime and lost business if you’re not prepared.

Keep in mind that cost-cutting doesn’t stop with the quality of a system’s parts: many DIY 3D printer manufacturers maintain their low prices by offering limited support or none at all; meaning you’ll need to hire a third-party technician if you can’t fix it yourself. That’s not a slight against the companies, their systems are made to be routinely customized and upgraded by users with extensive 3D printer knowledge and familiarity. However, given to less experienced users or placed in demanding industrial environments these concessions could mean large maintenance down times and easily bridge premium cost.

Down Time: Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled

Quality Assurance

You buy a printer to produce parts – prototypes, jigs, fixtures, molds or end use parts. One expectation when producing them is that they will meet your quality expectation. The quality of parts coming off your 3D printer will be directly determined by the quality of your printer in many ways. In most cases this will be obvious parts – high-quality control boards or gantries will be pivotal to high-quality parts. Even upgrading these core components can eliminate your initial savings from many self-assembled 3D printers, but it’s important that you consider the overall quality of the system you’re purchasing.

In the wrong place even a degraded nut or bolt can lead to excess vibrations that heavily impact your production quality. While replacements for these flawed support components may be very affordable, they can be far more difficult to identify as the source of a problem. In industrial settings, those issues directly impact future revenues.

Mass manufacturing is all about cost efficiency, so many DIY 3D printer manufacturers will take advantage of these hidden concessions so they can compete better with visible features. Unfortunately, even these small components have a significant impact of the quality of your parts. If your business will be negatively impacted by reduced print quality or printer downtime, it’s vital that you consider your supplier’s commitment to their product over its lifetime. A robust service offering like BigRep’s shows that corners won’t be cut on manufacturing and assembly so your business can operate smoothly with consistent quality.

Quality Assurance: Industrial 3D Printer vs Self-Assembled


So the question “are they worth it?” is really up to your needs, time allowance, and expectations. If you have a dedicated technician who wants to know their machine inside and out, modify heavily, has endless time and is confident they can handle all servicing, a DIY 3D printer may be an option for you – even in large-scale. However, without the right staff, available labor, and 3D printing knowledge, they have the potential to cause more problems than they’re worth.

With an industrial large-format 3D printer like one of BigRep’s, uncertainties are taken out of the equation. Our products are carefully designed to balance cost with the performance and long-term reliability expected by industrial users. With German-engineered and validated systems installed onsite by a specialized technician, you’ll waste no time getting your 3D printer up and running with every assurance of its quality and reliability.

Not sure which solution is best for you? Talk to one of our experts and we’ll help you uncover which type of 3D printer could help you.

Dual Extruder 3D Printer – Two Heads Are Better

Dual Extruder 3D Printer

The old adage, two heads are better than one, simply indicates that two people can solve a problem better than an individual can. This is certainly the case when it comes to 3D printing, and why dual extruder technology is must-have for any engineer, designer, architect or artist. Single extruder technology that is available on the market today is incredibly limited and actually defeats the true purpose of a 3D printer, the ability to transform complex, digital designs into tangible, physical items. If you’re a serious designer with aspirations to bring your ideas to life, then you should never underestimate the value of a professional 3D printer. First, let’s understand the basics of 3D printing.

Limitations of Single Extruder 3D Printers

The vast majority of 3D printers available today operate with FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) technology. Essentially, thermoplastic material is fed through a heated nozzle that melts the material and simultaneously deposits it on the build platform. It’s arguably the simplest and most effective 3D printer technology that has been adopted by consumers and professionals in every industry imaginable.

With single extruder printing, you are able to 3D print very basic parts and shapes. For example, it’s possible to print a small pyramid or a six-sided box, because the geometries are not challenging and do not require additional design or rework. But 3D printers are supposed to enable the impossible. Instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, why not redesign the peg? Why not customize the hole and create new functionality for the whole system? Adding a second material extruder enables this and so much more.

The Value of Dual Extruder 3D Printers

Advancements in 3D printing materials are enabling new applications across several different industries. What we are experiencing today will look very different tomorrow with the current rate of technology improvements and adoption. Dual extruder 3D printing is the primary mechanism fostering the next generation of industrialization because it allows engineers to design with freedom and without constraints. Compared to conventional manufacturing methods or single extruder 3D printers, multi-material 3D printers will equip product development teams to enhance functionality, aesthetics and other critical requirements.

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein - Referenced in Aaron Council’s 3D Printing: Rise of the Third Industrial Revolution

A dual extruder 3D printer goes beyond design & print applications. Instead, it’s a mind-opening technology that can influence so much more. For example, single extruder 3D printers rely on the basic principles of fabrication and will simply print parts layer-by-layer with one material. This eliminates the ability to create complex parts, internal channels, or working gears which leads to a lack of functionality or purpose. Most engineers and designers operate with CAD (computer aided design) software that allows them to digitally design prototypes and products in a 3-dimensional space that doesn’t adhere to natural forces (i.e. gravity). Therefore, designs can become quite complicated and require a technology that is sophisticated and advanced enough to produce these parts.

That’s what dual extruder technology brings to the table for designers and engineers. From inexplicable art to impossible prototypes, this further supports why 3D printing is becoming the primary tool for so many different industries. To further paint the picture, or build the masterpiece, let’s dive deeper into several different dual extrusion use cases and how different industries are applying it today.

Dual Extruder 3D Printer - Support Material

Impossible Parts

The true beauty of a dual extruder 3D printer is the ability to combine model (M) and support (S) materials. Essentially, you are able to 3D print your model in a PLA thermoplastic material and simultaneously print water soluble support structures out of BVOH. This is the science that enables true design freedom and flexibility. You can design and print in a 3-dimensional space that goes way beyond surface level. Now, it’s possible to create interlocking features for workable gears or internal channels for fluid and air passageways. This is only possible with the use of support structures that are literally washed away once the 3D print is finished.

Tips for Users: Different support materials eliminate post processing nightmares or enhanced aesthetics. Contact our Engineering team today to learn more.

Enhanced Mechanical Properties

Let’s take it a step further and instead of Model +Support, why not Model 1 + Model 2? Yes, that is completely possible with dual extruder 3D printers and will provide improvements to the mechanical properties of your part. Combining Model 1 + Model 2 can be a strategic and helpful feature for those product development teams that wish to take functionality to the next level.

For example, lightweighting is a common tactic used by many transportation, automotive and aerospace companies that wish to reduce costs through design. Eliminating weight = less energy costs. A door, table or chair must retain the same strength capabilities but instead of a fully dense part, engineers can create honeycomb internal structures with lighter weight plastics. M1 is a PLA Shell and M2 is a PVA Ultralight infill material that ultimately prints a part with the same strength characteristics, but with less weight associated.

Dual Extruder 3D Printer - Multi-Material Print

Ergonomic Improvements

Ergonomics is the study of human and product (or machine) interaction. Those who design consumer products are constantly iterating prototypes to test ergonomics and user satisfaction (i.e. how to make user friendly, comfortable products). You’ll notice that the majority of consumer products and electronics are designed and built with soft touch overmolds, rubber or TPU materials to enhance comfort. Think of a grip on a power tool. With dual extruder 3D printers, engineers can combine rigid plastics with soft touch flexible materials to produce overmolds. Material 1 is a Pro-HT plastic with enhanced strength properties combined with Material 2, a TPU categorized as a Shore 98 A flexible material.

Tips for Users: Using PLA as a support material for TPU printed singularly will enhance aesthetic features. Contact our Engineering team today to learn more.

Improve Aesthetics

We have discussed functionality, now let’s turn to the possibilities for artistic features with multicolored 3D printing. We do not live in a monochromatic world, so we do not expect you to design for one. Oftentimes, prototypers will present their products to focus groups or potential customers for invaluable feedback to validate a design. It’s important to provide parts that are aesthetically pleasing and match a color scheme for the end product. Having multi colored parts is valuable for other applications - such as color coded safety fixtures on assembly lines, diagram models used in healthcare communications or other research, education or artistic purposes.

Dual Extruder 3D Printer - Multi-Color Print

True Mass Production

Unique to BigRep is that ability to print Tandem mode, which splits the printing platform in half and enables the production of parts in twice the time. The dual extruders are separated by distance, but connected by advanced software so that they mimic each other and print identical parts on the platform. This is ideal if you wish to begin batch production and want to bypass tooling, machining and other costly manufacturing methods. BigRep already offers one of the largest build platforms in the industrial market, and Tandem mode enables manufacturers to react immediately and produce parts on demand. This is unheard of in the marketplace today, and provides a significant time and cost savings advantage to users.

Tips for Users: If you have a print bigger than 8 kilos with the same material, split the STL, and print the first 8 kilos with Extruder 1. Use Extruder 2 with the remaining material which will allow you to print 16 kilos with the same filament.

Learn more about Tandem Mode by talking to our 3D printing experts today.

This is only a small collection of advantages awarded by a dual extruder 3D printer. It’s important to remember that new materials drive applications, and the book of 3D printing continues to write itself. Single extruder technology is a toy made for tinkerers and hobbyists. In order to produce parts that are functional and reliable, dual extruder 3D printers are a necessity.

The Future of Dual Extruder 3D Printers

To summarize the benefits: Industrial 3D printers and dual extruder technology with BigRep enables you to produce impossible parts with support material. It exceeds a variety of functional requirements such as mechanical property improvements or soft touch overmold applications. Dual extruders provide a pathway for artists, architects and creatives to think outside of conventional fabrication methods and bring color, realism and life to their designs.

Where does dual extruder technology go from here? Are three heads better than two? Maybe, but the evidence isn’t there to support it quite yet. In the meantime dual material printing continues to be such a major advantage for industrial engineers and designers. We recommend staying in touch with us, since we are constantly evolving our technology and materials to further the adoption of 3D printing.

Do you have a new application you want to bring to life? We want to hear from you!

Dual Extruder 3D Printers in Short

What is dual extrusion 3D printing?

Dual extrusion is the process of 3D printing with multiple filaments. You can mix colours or different materials with a print head that has two extruders and nozzles. With two spools loaded, the printer alternates between them by printing one at a time.

Do dual extruders print faster?

Many people think that a dual extruder printer finishes jobs faster than those with just one. That can be the case, but there's much more to it. A dual extruder printer is faster because it eliminates the lengthy process of swapping out one filament for another.

What is the purpose of dual extruder 3D printer?

The main purpose of dual extruder 3d printer is that you can print in multiple materials. A dual extruder 3D printer allows you to print in more than one material and / or more than one colour during the printing of a single object.

What is dual extrusion in 3D printing?

Dual extrusion is the process of 3D printing with multiple filaments. With two spools loaded, the printer alternates between them by printing one at a time. It's not actually faster at printing because it’s still using only one extruder at a time.

What is the benefit of having two extruders?

Dual extrusion provides the opportunity to reinforce your main printing material with something tougher. For example, one nozzle could print most of a part out of PLA while the other prints only specific areas using a carbon-fibre-based filament.

What is an extruder and how does it work?

An extruder is simply the machine used to complete the extrusion process. Using a system of barrels and cylinders, the machine heats up the product and propels it through the die to create the desired shape.

What are the types of extruders?

There are two major types of extruders single and twin screw (co-rotating and counter rotating). These come with a wide range of screw diameters (D), lengths (L), and designs. The single screw and co-rotating twin screw are inherently axially open-channel extruders. They can be regarded as drag flow pumps.

What does an extruder do in a 3D printer?

Extruders are used to produce long continuous products such as tubing, tire treads, and wire coverings. They are also used to produce various profiles that can later be cut to length.

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

Head of Growth Marketing

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.


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