What is Thermoforming & Vacuum Forming? How to 3D Print Moulds Easily.

What is Vacuum Forming & Thermoforming?

Vacuum forming has been used for nearly a century to make many of the products we see and use daily. From grocery store items to car parts, vacuum formed components are all around us. But how are they made - and how is 3D printing making them better?

What is Thermoforming & Vacuum Forming?

Vacuum forming is a type of thermoforming: heat used to form a design. Thermoforming processes include vacuum forming, pressure forming, and twin sheet forming. Each of these processes uses a mould or moulds to shape heated sheets of plastic into the desired form.

Pressure forming methods require that the plastic sheet be pressed between two moulds and then heated to assume the shape. In twin sheet forming, two plastic sheets are heated and fused together to form double-walled or hollow parts.

Vacuum forming is the simplest of the thermoforming methods, using only one mould at a time. As the name might indicate, vacuum forming relies on a vacuum, as suction applied to the heated plastic sheet will draw it around the mould to create the appropriate contouring.

How Does Vacuum Forming Work?

The vacuum forming process comprises a few relatively straightforward steps:

  1. Clamp a plastic sheet in a frame
  2. Heat the plastic sheet to the point the plastic is workable - soft enough to take on a new shape, but not heated to the point of melting or losing its integrity.
  3. Apply vacuum to pull the plastic around the mould, shaping the heated sheet to the desired contours.
  4. Allow the plastic to cool before removing from the mould. This may be expedited for large pieces, using fans or cool mists.
  5. Trim excess plastic and smooth edges to final part quality.

See how the process works on a Formech vacuum forming machine:

What is Vacuum Forming ?

Types of Plastic for Vacuum Forming

The ultimate result of a successful vacuum forming operation is creating a shaped plastic part. But what type of plastic should be used? That depends on what you want from the product; different plastics are applicable for different uses. For a clear plastic salad box, you wouldn’t need the same high impact strength as you would for an outdoor sign, for example, while a car bumper needs still more durability.

When choosing a plastic, considerations that should come into play include:

  • Strength
    • Rigidity
    • Chemical/impact/UV resistance
  • Specific gravity
  • Formability
  • Colours
  • Hygroscopicity
  • Temperature range for pliability
  • Availability/cost

Further, you’ll need to take into account the look and feel of the plastic for the end-use application you have in mind. A strong plastic may not be usable if it offgasses volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when subjected to high temperatures, for instance.

Among the most popular plastics used in vacuum forming are:

  • ABS – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
  • Acrylic – PMMA – Poly(methyl methacrylate)
  • HDPE – high density polyethylene
  • HIPS – high impact polystyrene
  • PC – polycarbonate
  • PET – polyethylene terephthalate
  • PETG – polyethylene terephthalate glycol
  • PP – polypropylene
  • PS – polystyrene
  • PVC – polyvinyl chloride

Each option has its pros and cons. As with any end-use material choice, you’ll need to weigh the cost and ease-of-working of a given material with its strength and performance.

Car surrounded shell vacuum forming machine

How to Create Moulds for Vacuum Forming

The moulds used for vacuum forming are critical to the process: they form the basis of the actual shape for the end product. How you choose to create your moulds will depend on the precision, complexity, and timing of your project.

While wood, aluminium, and structural foam are among the conventional options for mould making, 3D printed moulds are becoming more popular. These newer options enable more complex geometries to be made and can significantly speed up the process of mould making.

3D Printed Moulds

The benefits of 3D printing are many. 3D printing can reduce the time and costs needed to make items like vacuum forming moulds, as well as improve the geometric complexities possible. Faster turnaround and lower costs can be a major incentive when it comes to adopting a new way to create moulds, forms, and rapid tooling.

In-house 3D printing can substantially shorten timelines when it comes to producing new moulds and tooling. Without the need to outsource mould production, wait for turnaround is limited only to how fast a 3D printer can bring a CAD design to life - which can be as short as a matter of hours. Only the material needed to produce a given design need be used, eliminating waste and additional material costs. Furthermore, small features - think textures or even text - can be added without increasing the cost of a design. Customization and rapid prototyping of designs are also big benefits, getting unique designs to customers who need them quickly and for lower cost.

Working with the right 3D printing equipment is of course key to producing the best results. Industrial equipment offers professional quality, as well as the opportunity to work with heat-resistant materials like carbon fiber 3D printing filament. Furthermore, large-format 3D printers enable faster production of either large parts or several small parts in a single build job.

3D Printed Mould for Vacuum Forming or Thermoforming
3D Printed Mould for Vacuum Forming

Wood, Aluminium and Structural Foam Moulds

Traditional vacuum forming moulds are formed by subtractive processes, such as carved wood or structural foam, or by metal casting processes. While each of these processes when leveraged appropriately will produce workable moulds, their use is subject to the wait times of casting and high costs of milling.

Wooden moulds are well-known to be durable for vacuum forming. Strong wood choices can lead to moulds that can be used for hundreds, if not thousands, of vacuum forming runs. Eventually, though, most wood moulds will splinter or warp. The best usage of wooden moulds is when little detail is required or a thicker mould is desirable.

Cast aluminium moulds are among the most durable types, best-suited for scale production of 100,000+ parts. Costs of both material and production – which can take up to a few months – make aluminium moulds infeasible for shorter production runs.

Structural foam moulds are durable and can also be used for larger production runs. These moulds are lightweight yet extremely durable, and are often a lower-cost alternative to aluminium options. Many plastics are viable, as a chemical blowing agent is used to makes the plastic’s internal walls thicker for longer-lasting moulds.

Applications for Vacuum Forming

Vacuum forming is often used to create parts we interact with every day. Lightweight packaging, securely fit coffee cup lids, and car parts are just a few of the places we often encounter vacuum formed parts.


Aerospace applications for vacuum forming can range from specialty packaging to keep tools in one place to massive parts. Cabin components like large bulkhead dividers and seating needs like arm rests, footwell trays, seat backs, and tray tables are increasingly produced via vacuum forming.

Thermoforming Application: Aircraft Interior


In the automotive industry, both internal and external components are often vacuum formed. From relatively small cabin structures like the grate on an air conditioning vent to a full bumper, shaped plastics help to shape our automotive experiences.

Thermoforming Application: Automotive - Car Interior


Salad containers or sushi boxes, razor packaging, and sterilized medical device packages are just a few of the packaging uses for vacuum forming. The plastic sheets used in this process can be shaped to precisely house a premium product or made more generally to hold whatever we need to carry.

Thermoforming Application: Food Packaging

Consumer Goods

Toys, musical instrument cases, helmets, luggage, barware – you name it and the plastics we use every day often come about through vacuum forming. From the outer housing on a bicycle helmet to the body of an RC car, vacuum formed products keep us all rolling.

Thermoforming Application: Luggage


When it comes to vacuum forming, the sky is the limit. Heated plastic can be exactly shaped to match a custom mould for one or thousands of parts. When the moulds are 3D printed, they can be made with more complexity, more detail, more options – and less cost.

Premium efficiency for industrial applications

The STUDIO G2 is an industrial 3D printer specially designed for reliability with abrasive and engineering-grade materials. It's a durable, cost-effective partner for innovation with the best ratio of build-volume to resolution on the market. Contained in a sleek, space-conscious body, the G2 is perfect for the production of large-format parts in any work space - from the office to the factory floor.

Learn More

Premium efficiency for industrial applications

The STUDIO G2 is an industrial 3D printer specially designed for reliability with abrasive and engineering-grade materials. It's a durable, cost-effective partner for innovation with the best ratio of build-volume to resolution on the market. Contained in a sleek, space-conscious body, the G2 is perfect for the production of large-format parts in any work space - from the office to the factory floor.

Learn More

Carbon Fiber 3D Printer: Everything You Need To Know

Carbon Fiber 3D Printing

Carbon Fiber 3D Printer: How to Print Strong Parts

When it comes to high-strength 3D printing, one material category often comes into play: carbon fiber. Plastics reinforced with either chopped or continuous carbon fiber offer engineering-grade performance with all the benefits of 3D printing.

But what are these materials, what advantages do they offer, where are they best used, and how can you work with them? Let’s dig into everything you need to know about carbon fiber 3D printing!

Why you need Carbon Fiber 3D Printing

Industrial environments often demand specific mechanical properties and finely tuned precision. Fortunately, carbon fiber 3D printing brings the strength and stiffness of engineering-grade material to additive manufacturing.

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 high heat resistance - ideal for functional, performance applications.

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

Whether using these materials in moulds, jigs and fixtures, and tooling or in 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 has its pros and cons that must be well understood prior to investing in its use.

You want to get started with Carbon Fiber 3D-Printing right now?
Or talk to a 3D-Printing Expert?

What is Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP)?

With that understanding of when carbon fiber 3D printing might come into play, a major question naturally follows: what, exactly, is carbon fiber reinforced plastic?

Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) is, as its name suggests, a plastic material reinforced with carbon fiber. These composite materials bring together the qualities and performance properties of carbon fiber with the polymer material it is reinforcing. That is, the printability and ease-of-use of a standard thermoplastic like PLA, ABS, or PET gains superior performance properties from including chopped or continuous carbon fiber content.

What is Carbon Fiber Filament?

Carbon fiber filament is simply 3D printer filament made using CFRP.

BigRep's PET-CF Filament is an excellent example of this type of material. Made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) reinforced with carbon fiber, PET-CF offers dimensional stability and low moisture absorption that can be 3D printed to produce exceptionally strong, stiff parts with a fine surface finish and heat resistance up to 100°C.

FFF (extrusion-based) 3D printing uses chopped carbon fibers. These small — sub-millimeter-long — fibers are mixed into a standard thermoplastic as a reinforcing material. Continuous fiber strands are stronger and longer, but require a more involved 3D printing process with two print nozzles.

Carbon Fiber Filament

Pros of Carbon 3D Printing

The advantages of carbon fiber 3D printing come down to possible the performance properties. These include:

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.

Light Weight

Hand-in-hand with its strength is the light weight of a carbon fiber 3D printer filament. Lightweighting is 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 Resistance

Compared to standard 3D printing materials like PLA, ABS, and PETG, carbon fiber can withstand significantly higher temperatures. Carbon fiber composite materials — using a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer — enhances the heat resistance of the base material for better performance.


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.

Cons of Carbon 3D Printing

No material ticks every box. The downsides of carbon fiber 3D printing materials generally include investment, equipment, and brittleness, as well as the makeup of a given material option.


As an engineering-grade material, carbon fiber 3D printer filament is a premium product. That is, it is inherently more expensive to obtain and use than standard 3D printing materials. Significant engineering goes into the production of every spool of carbon fiber 3D printer filament, and this is reflected in the pricing structure of these materials.

Specialized Equipment

3D printing with carbon fiber requires specific hardware to appropriately handle these materials. For example, hardened steel nozzles — like the BigRep STUDIO G2's — rather than standard brass or aluminum nozzles must be used to stand up to abrasive carbon fiber filament as they will not erode. High heat is also required to 3D print carbon fiber with full layer bond strength.


While carbon fiber 3D printer filaments offer high stiffness, the tradeoff there is relatively low impact resistance. High impact force applications may lead to the 3D printed carbon fiber part shattering.

Material Makeup

Not all carbon fiber 3D printer filaments are made equal. Significant research must be done to ensure full understanding of the difference between filament using chopped versus continuous carbon fiber, for example. While this is not necessarily a disadvantage specific to only this material type, the relative scarcity of options when it comes to carbon fiber 3D printing means that more due diligence must be done when shopping for the best-fit material by composite makeup.

Composite Mould 3D Printed with Carbon Fiber Filament

Where is CFRP used?

CFRP 3D printing is best put to use in manufacturing environments. Among the primary uses of these materials are the creation of moulds, jigs and fixtures, and tooling.

Composite Moulds & Thermoforming Moulds

3D printing moulds is one of the most cohesive ways of advanced and traditional manufacturing technologies working together in an industrial environment. 3D printed moulds offer the complexities and speed-of-production of 3D printing to the mass production capabilities of mould-based manufacturing.

When it comes to composite moulds and thermoforming moulds, the performance properties of CFRP are a natural fit.

Composite moulds are one of the most common manufacturing methods to cost-effectively produce large batches of identical parts. As their name implies, composite moulds 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 moulds.

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

Jigs & Fixtures, Tooling

Often viewed as supplemental to manufacturing processes — but vital in their own right — are jigs, fixtures, and tooling. 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 often 3D printed at the point of use. They can be custom-fit to their specific need and reproduced on demand without outsourcing or waiting on a restock.

3D printed jigs and fixtures and tooling last longer and perform better — especially in terms of long-lasting durability — when made of reinforced materials like CFRP.

How to 3D Print Carbon Fiber Filaments

3D printing carbon fiber filaments requires a specific production environment. Because these are “exotic” engineering-grade materials, they cannot simply be swapped out for standard 3D printer filament and expected to print with the same settings.

Requirements to Work with Carbon Fiber Filaments

Carbon fiber filament is more abrasive than many other plastic materials and has specific heat requirements.

Among the necessities for 3D printing carbon fiber filaments are:


Heated Print Bed

Hand-in-hand with an enclosed 3D printing environment is a heated print bed. The first layer of the print must adhere to the print bed in order to lay a strong foundation for the full print job.


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 deform and erode when extruding these materials and will ultimately be rendered functionally useless. Hardened steel is a requirement for a 3D printer to handle CFRP filament.

Of course, designers, engineers, and operators working with any CFRP-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 CFRP into operations.

3D Printer for Carbon Fiber Filaments

Given the extensive parameters required to work with carbon fiber filaments, it helps to work with a 3D printer designed with engineering-grade materials in mind.

The BigRep STUDIO G2 3D printer is specially designed for reliability with abrasive and engineering-grade materials. Among its features are a fully enclosed build envelope, BOFA air filtration system, and temperature-controlled filament chamber, adding up to a fast-heating large-format additive manufacturing system produces incredible results with advanced materials.

Specific aspects of the STUDIO G2 that make it especially well suited for work with CFRP filaments include:

Tool Steel Nozzles

With the inclusion of specialized tool-steel nozzles for carbon-fiber reinforced filament and other abrasive materials, the STUDIO G2 is our most versatile additive manufacturing system. Made for printing with advanced, engineering-grade filaments at high speed, the specially designed extruder achieves reliable, high flow rates to quickly produce industrial tooling up to a meter long with the options you need to perfect a part's mechanical properties.

Insulated Build Envelope

The fully enclosed build envelope is the perfect environment to achieve consistent, high-quality print results. It provides users with safe and easy access to the print bed and the ability to visually monitor the printing process in a contained space. Environmental fail-safes like an auto-abort upon opening the envelope ensure a smooth and safe printing process in any setting.

Fast-Heating Print Bed

Preparation time is significantly reduced for all print projects with the G2's fast-heating print bed, capable of reaching 80°C for optimal print bed adhesion with a variety of high-quality materials in just 15 minutes. Coupled with an inductive sensor that enables semi-automatic print bed leveling to ensure optimal calibration and maximum control, the STUDIO G2 is made to work fast and work well.

Heated Filament Chambers

Two heated filament chambers ensure that engineering-grade materials with sensitive environmental requirements remain dry in a consistently controlled environment for best-in-class quality. Both the chambers, the print bed and the build envelope also feature independent temperature controls – going beyond industry standards to give you maximum control of your 3D printing environment.


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.

Premium efficiency for industrial applications

The STUDIO G2 is an industrial 3D printer specially designed for reliability with abrasive and engineering-grade materials. It's a durable, cost-effective partner for innovation with the best ratio of build-volume to resolution on the market. Contained in a sleek, space-conscious body, the G2 is perfect for the production of large-format parts in any work space - from the office to the factory floor.

Learn More

Premium efficiency for industrial applications

The STUDIO G2 is an industrial 3D printer specially designed for reliability with abrasive and engineering-grade materials. It's a durable, cost-effective partner for innovation with the best ratio of build-volume to resolution on the market. Contained in a sleek, space-conscious body, the G2 is perfect for the production of large-format parts in any work space - from the office to the factory floor.

Learn More

Rapid Prototyping and 3D Printing for Better Engineering

Rapid Prototyping - Better Engineering

Rapid prototyping changes the way you develop a product. That process, though, is subject to a variety of bottlenecks at various points throughout. Forestalling one major bottleneck that happens on the way to a final product design can make your entire process better - and faster. Rapid prototyping can ease your entire engineering process in a big way with large-format 3D printing.

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Prototypes are physical parts or assemblies that come closer to final with each iteration. Starting with conceptual mockups and building toward a functional prototype, each successive prototype is a step toward a fully engineered final design. That’s prototyping - rapid prototyping refers to the cycle of quickly iterating to reach a final design.

We say “cycle” because that’s just what it is; a few steps are required to go from idea to delivery. At its simplest, it’s a three-step process that looks like this:

What is Rapid Prototyping

The review stage of each successive prototype gets the cycle one step closer to completion, with refinement in iteration required to move toward that acceptable conclusion.

Rapid prototyping employs a few technologies, from CAD design software to manufacturing process(es), to create a series of prototypes.

Traditionally, each physical prototype would require a new design to be outsourced to a manufacturer to be made with subtractive (e.g., milling, cutting) or molding/casting processes. That may require lengthy waits and costs, as tooling and logistics come into play every time. Speeding up the process, technologies like 3D printing remove the need for tooling and can take your idea straight from design file to the physical. This shortens wait times, as feedback can translate immediately to an updated design file that can in turn be 3D printed as quickly as just a few hours. When this is done in-house, several cycles of prototyping can even be accomplished in the same day - a far cry from the traditional weeks or even months between iterations.

Rapid Prototyping and 3D Printing

Are 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping the Same?

When the technology was first developed, 3D printing was so synonymous with rapid prototyping that the two terms were interchangeable. Whether referencing “3D printing,” “rapid prototyping,” or “RP,” the conversation generally all referred to the same thing. Today, 3D printing has developed into end-use production capabilities as well and is more commonly synonymous with “additive manufacturing.”

Still, rapid prototyping was the first and remains the largest application for 3D printing. Iterations from proof-of-concept through to functional prototype can all be 3D printed. Whether outsourced or in-house, using 3D printers speeds up the rapid prototyping significantly through removing traditional bottlenecks in tooling and/or shipping. Rapid prototyping can also increasingly be done using the same 3D printing technology as will be used for the final product.

Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

At its broadest, rapid prototyping carries the significant benefits of speeding time-to-market, offers better opportunity to test and improve each iteration, is a cost-competitive process, and improves the effectiveness of communication throughout the design cycle.

Decrease Time to Market

The time it takes an idea to move from concept to deliverable should be as short as possible. Replacing months or years of traditional wait times in the iterative prototyping process with days or weeks is an easily apparent benefit of rapid prototyping. A 3D printer can precisely create your next iteration from a slightly tweaked design file much faster than could any traditional tooling-based prototyping process. Speeding the design cycle inherently improves time-to-market for a new product.

Test and Improve

Each 3D printed prototype will be one step better than the version before it, ideally. Getting hands-on with a life-sized functional prototype can allow you fuller understanding of that particular design’s pros and cons, enabling fast approval or disapproval as it can be put through its paces in testing. Your engineering team can test performance and get a feel for the look and feel of each prototype, understanding, evaluating, and improving any manufacturability issues or usability risks while still in the pre-production stages.

Create Competitive and Cost-Efficient Models

Hand-in-hand with speeding time-to-market is the reduction of costs associated with lengthy design cycles. Getting a product to market faster will inherently reduce the hefty price of longer, more tooling-intensive traditional workflows. Competitive positioning requires that development and introduction be quick, especially in the consumer market. Large-format 3D printing also allows for several different prototypes to be made at the same time, allowing for faster decision making when the choice is between a few looks or feels.

Improve Effective Communication

The fast turnaround of rapid prototyping eases communication gaps by opening up the conversation. It’s much easier if every engineer on your team has the same understanding of a process, and quickly getting a next physical prototype in hand offers a clear point of reference. As each prototype becomes closer to the feel and performance of the final design, small tweaks and large adjustments both become easier to understand for your entire team.

Rapid Prototyping - Ford MegaBox

How to Use Rapid Prototyping in Your Engineering Process

Rapid prototyping sounds great, but where can it be used in the engineering process? The answer may not be wholly surprising at this point: from initial proof-of-concept to final-look-and-feel prototype, rapid prototyping can come into play across the entire process.

Concept Prototypes

The earliest prototypes are often conceptual. Proof-of-concept prototypes serve as physical validation of the ideas that may have emerged as a sketch on a napkin. Taking an idea into the three-dimensional real world is the best way to prove viability. Getting hands-on with a concept model can help your engineering team understand their next steps at the same time as it may encourage management to simply move forward with a project. These early prototypes are often the roughest, as they are the lowest-risk representations made in the rapid prototyping cycle. These prototypes are made quickly and generally in different materials and colors than later-stage prototypes, much less final designs.

Rapid Prototyping - LOCI PodCar

Aesthetic or Industrial Design Prototypes

Once a design is validated in its roughest form, it moves next into an aesthetic or industrial design step. These next prototypes begin to hone in on how the design should look and feel, with the thought process beginning to turn toward usability and functionality – without necessarily being fully functional quite yet. To ensure a new part will fit into a greater whole, or a new product will fit with your brand’s existing aesthetic or functional line, these prototypes more accurately look like something that is moving toward a final design. These prototypes also enable engineers to consider how exactly to best manufacture the eventual final design.

Especially when working with life-sized, larger designs like furniture, having life-sized prototypes to fit to spaces and users becomes ever more important as designs move through the prototyping cycle. Large-scale 3D printing can bring these large-scale designs to life, allowing for a full iteration to be made and tested in less than the time it would take for a traditional tool to be made. Furniture maker Steelcase experienced this benefit first-hand as they use their large-format BigRep 3D printer to create new furniture designs:

Steelcase 3D Printing Furniture Prototypes

Functional Prototypes

A functional prototype does just that: it functions. These later-stage prototypes are often made of materials similar to what will be used in a final product, to validate that everything will work as intended. Engineers at this stage pay attention to performance: does it fit, does it function, do load-bearing parts bear loads? Attention must be paid to detail, to how the final part will be manufactured (especially if this will be done in a different process than the prototype; for example, 3D printing a prototype for a part that will ultimately be injection molded) as well as how the final part will be post-processed/finished.

Test Serial Production

Many products bound for the mass market are bound for mass production, and this may mean in a different manufacturing process. While 3D printing may be the right technology for both rapid prototyping and serial production of the final part – consider, for example, cases of mass customization – this will not always be the case. Prototyping must take into account the eventual manufacturing process to be used, and later-stage prototypes should use the same materials and fit into the appropriate manufacturing parameters as the final parts will be. Consideration for traditional production processes comes more into play here, for example for tooling, jigs and fixtures, or any other necessary implements. Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) may move toward traditional design for manufacturing (DFM) thinking.

Demonstration or Presentation Model Prototypes

The final look is the final stage in prototyping, the last step before full production begins. At this stage, a prototype should not only feel and operate like the final product, but needs to look like it, too. This prototype can be used for marketing materials while production ramps up, for convincing investors of final viability and feasibility, for final field testing, or for any other demonstration or presentation needs. The goal of rapid prototyping is to reach this stage faster than ever before using conventional prototyping workflows.

Rapid Prototyping - Rexroth AGV Automated Guided Vehicle

How Can I Get Started with Rapid Prototyping?

To get started with rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing you basically just need one thing: Access to a 3D printer. But there is more than one way to get there. You can buy a 3D printer in many sizes, from desktop to large-format 3D printers. Your easiest entry to prototyping in big sizes is the BigRep ONE.

If you are not there to buy a 3D printer yet, you can just order your part from a 3D printing service. With BigRep PARTLAB you can get your part in 3 easy steps: You upload you CAD file, we will send you a quote, and after your order, our 3D printing experts will do the rest.


Rapid prototyping and 3D printing work together hand-in-hand for better and faster engineering. By speeding up you workflows and removing bottlenecks and other pain points of traditionally drawn-out prototyping cycles, 3D printing enables a new solution for a faster time to market. Better-tested, cost-efficient rapid prototyping is a win for your engineering team.

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“Why does size matter and what value does it provide?” Join this free webinar to learn how the power of large-scale 3D printing can help you enhance design and reduce costs, all while accelerating time-to-market.

Mass Customization and the Power of 3D Printing

Mass Customization and the Power of 3D Printing

Mass Customization and the Power of 3D Printing

One of the major selling points of adopting 3D printing technology into operations is the ability to mass customize.

But what exactly is mass customization, why would anyone want it, and how does 3D printing enable it?

What is mass customization?

At its simplest, mass customization is exactly what it sounds like: customization on a large scale.

Customization is typically thought of as more one-of-a-kind than one-size-fits-all, which can make it difficult to achieve on a large scale. The major benefit here is in combining the low cost-per-unit of mass manufacturing with the appeal and flexibility of individual design.

Mass customization can be simple or complex, depending on the manufacturer and application. Selecting a different color or size of a design, for example, is a relatively simple way of customizing a mass-produced product. Upping the complexity, the shell of a certain system may look the same, such as in the case of a computer, while the internal components may be swapped out to affect speed or power, to create many potential configurations of customization within a single product.

In many cases, the ultimate assembled product may thus be customized, even if the individual components themselves are still subject to standard mass production. In different applications, though, a single order of many of the same object may require slight variations between each item in the run. This inherently changes the plan for manufacturing, as a single mold for injection molding can only create the same geometry time after time.


Why is mass customization useful?

From shoes to computers to widgets, there are myriad reasons why a customer might want to offer variances within a single production run. Let’s look to an example in the medical industry to easily understand why customizing on a larger scale might be helpful to a manufacturer.

One of the earliest wide adopters of 3D printing technology was the hearing aid industry. Another more recent example is the orthodontic aligner business. In both these cases, a manufacturer must make an individually fitted device for the unique anatomy of a single person. No two ear canals, nor two sets of teeth, are quite the same. When it comes to dental aligners, even a single person’s needs will change as the teeth are shifted through wearing these and new aligners will be required on a fairly regular basis.

In both hearing aids and aligners, it’s clear to see why each design must be unique to its eventual wearer. But getting there with mass production technology can be a trickier proposition.

For a manufacturer, good business sense dictates that every effort should be made to create the best possible product at the lowest cost, using the least material, time, and labor possible. That generally means producing on a larger scale, as price-per-unit can be reduced through the concept of mass production. Combining that capability with the needs of products that are customized in at least some aspect is where the idea of mass customization begins to make strategic sense.

Mass customization examples

Beyond the medical industry, mass customization comes into play across many application areas.

One of the most interactive ways to access mass customization is through co-creation, which is a collaborative effort working closely with a partner or customer. Both parties’ expertise, whether of technology or end-user experience, comes into play to together design a solution that can be tweaked as needed to individualize the ultimate experience.

Sizing and color are among the primary aspects of many designs, from furniture to clothing, that can be customized, but by no means are they the only facets.

Mass Customization: 3D printed part for special needs car

German automotive company Paravan, for example, is the market leader in producing wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The company has turned to large-format 3D printing to customize vehicles for drivers and passengers with disabilities or special needs. While a base car may be similar, each individual’s needs are different; some may need a modified steering mechanism while another may need an adapted braking system.

Comfort, style, safety, adaptability, personality, luxury – the reasons for wanting mass customization are many, though ultimately all boil down to the need to satisfy the end user.


Different approaches to customization

Just as the goals of customization differ case by case, so do the approaches to achieving it. Among the major approaches are collaborative, adaptive, transparent, and cosmetic customization.

Collaborative customization

When it comes to collaborative customization, co-creation is the key. Working closely together with your customer to identify exactly what needs must be met, and what may need to be adjusted to meet individuals’ unique needs from a base design, the co-creators are able to determine the whats and the whys to then develop the hows of appropriate mass customization.

Adaptive customization

Focused more on the end user, adaptive collaboration enables, well, adaptation. Allowing a few options to customize a product, a customer can select the fit or style that best suits them. When making products like water sports mobility devices, for example, ensuring the right fit for the rider is not only practical, but a safety measure. Large-format 3D printing is enabling just that for JAMADE’s AMAZEA underwater scooter.

Transparent customization

Sometimes customization seems obvious - and when needs are apparent, transparent customization can come into play. Here, individuals’ products are customized from the back end as the producer can reliably predict and then discreetly create designs that suit those needs. The goal with transparent customization is to make workflow easier for the client, removing the need for ongoing back-and-forth discussion.

Cosmetic customization

Customization can go into the very essence of a product, or be a bit more front-facing. Cosmetic customization comes into play for mass production that doesn’t “look mass produced.” No one wants to feel like they’re one of a crowd, so presenting essentially the same product in a few different ways can help differentiate between customers – think company logos, different colors, and other cosmetic branding.

Challenges to mass customization

As valuable a prospect as mass customization is, actualizing the concept still faces some challenges. As more industrial 3D printing capabilities are put to use in mass customization, though, these challenges can be seen as simply the next landmarks of achievement.

Higher costs

The numbers are simple: it’s more cost-effective to mass produce batches of like items. We see this same split when considering injection molding versus additive manufacturing when it comes to mass production. As of today, injection molding is a more economical option for mass production.

The same cannot be said, however, when it comes to customization. Producing quantities of slightly different items means that the same mold will not suffice for each. Making new molds in this manner would be extremely expensive, and likely more costly in terms of both money and extended lead time to make them all than a manufacturer would find agreeable.

In order to effectively mass customize, either individualized molds must be made for each or manufacturing must be done with no molding at all - and that’s where industrial 3D printing comes into play. This changes the value proposition, as the lack of molds enables the individualization of each piece in a mass production pipeline without adding to costs as would happen with traditional processes.

When considering higher costs, comparisons must be apples-to-apples; like must be compared with like. Mass customization is not inexpensive, but with increasing demand from end-use consumers preferring their specific needs be met, it is only going to be on the rise across a variety of applications and industries.

Returning of customized products

Returns are a fact of life in any production environment. For any number of reasons, customers may see the need to return their goods. Any reason may be given, from having not selected the right item for their purpose to changing their minds - and most major suppliers have return policies in place.

When those items to be returned have been customized, though, things change for the supplier. Many returned goods can be returned to the shelves with only a slight inventory adjustment. Items made to fit a specific user or need, though, cannot simply go back on a shelf.

Returns must be handled on a case-by-case basis, with consideration of the ability to resell the product to a new buyer. When it comes to personalized medical goods, for example, there simply is no other customer. When customization came in the form of a size or color, though, more opportunities are likely for different buyers.

Supply chain efficiency

Finally, mass customization may alter the efficiencies of supply chain operations. Mass production typically requires longer lead times when custom options are available.

However, through advanced manufacturing technologies like large-format 3D printing, lead times may not see much impact. Because digital designs lead directly to the physical products, with no need for tooling or molding made along the way, each print job takes a specified amount of time regardless of the variation in designs on the build tray.

BigRep Retro Seats - Additively Refurbished Airplane Seating
How can you achieve Mass Customization?

How can we achieve mass customization?

When it comes to true mass customization, making full product runs with slight-to-major variances among each object made, the single best option available today is to use 3D printing.

3D printing is a digital manufacturing technology that enables every object on a build plate, whether that be two or 2,000, to be different. By tweaking the 3D model, each design can be customized for its ultimate purpose without any additional expense. There is no need for tooling to be made, nor new molds for each individual design adjustment, significantly reducing the time and money typically involved in creating different designs.

When using large-format 3D printing equipment, new possibilities open up for industry and art alike, enabling every design to be as unique as a fingerprint.

How can we achieve mass customization?

When it comes to true mass customization, making full product runs with slight-to-major variances among each object made, the single best option available today is to use 3D printing.

3D printing is a digital manufacturing technology that enables every object on a build plate, whether that be two or 2,000, to be different. By tweaking the 3D model, each design can be customized for its ultimate purpose without any additional expense. There is no need for tooling to be made, nor new molds for each individual design adjustment, significantly reducing the time and money typically involved in creating different designs.

When using large-format 3D printing equipment, new possibilities open up for industry and art alike, enabling every design to be as unique as a fingerprint.

How can you achieve Mass Customization?

Learn more with these Additive Manufacturing Use Cases

Large-format 3D printers for education and research

Read how Kingston University, Helmut Schmidt University and more are using BigRep 3D printers for their classrooms and research.

Guide to Large-Format Additive Manufacturing

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.

Learn Industrial Design for Additive Manufacturing

Demonstrating with real-world examples of large-format designs created by BigRep and its partners, see the unique product-capabilities that designers can take advantage of with AM in large-format on an industrial scale.

Find your industrial Additive Manufacturing machine

Premium efficiency for industrial applications

The STUDIO G2 is an industrial 3D printer specially designed for reliability with abrasive and engineering-grade materials. It's a durable, cost-effective partner for innovation with the best ratio of build-volume to resolution on the market. Contained in a sleek, space-conscious body, the G2 is perfect for the production of large-format parts in any work space - from the office to the factory floor.

Learn More


Der industrielle 3D-Drucker STUDIO G2 wurde speziell auf Zuverlässigkeit bei abrasiven und technischen Werkstoffen ausgelegt. Er ist ein langlebiger und kostengünstiger Partner für Ihre Innovationen, da er das gegenwärtig beste Verhältnis zwischen Bauvolumen und Auflösung bei 3D-Druckern bietet. Der STUDIO G2 mit seinem ansprechenden und platzsparenden Gehäuse eignet sich perfekt zur Produktion großformatiger Teile in jeder Arbeitsumgebung – vom Büro bis zur Werkstatt.


HOW TO: 3 Steps to Hide the Seams and Become Design Leader

Hiding the seams with Marco


Why is it important?

If one has a good knowledge of slicing software, they can reach a higher quality of the printed object. That naturally influences the general outlook of the one. Important aspect of the final print are the seams. They might spoil the effect of the design. The continuity of the print can be lost at start and end points of every layer. Hiding the seams is important in case of creating a prototype that is true to the final product as possible. Furthermore, it’s especially meaningful if you want to print the ready-to-use objects with important details.

In 3D models a slicing program transforms the model into G-code. The code includes any preferred optimizations and parameter changes. Thanks to that, the person printing the object has much more control of the quality and final outlook of the print. If the software is not set up properly, it automatically generates random starting points in different locations. That can affect the quality of the print. However, when the settings can be changed. It means that user can also change the whole project into one united object. That includes hiding the seams or unwanted curves.

In BigRep we understand the need for the best possible finish effect of the project. That is why we try different slicing methods, to find the perfect one and apply it for the full print height. In our case it is very important due to the large-scale printable quantity.

The tutorial

How To 3D Print: Hiding The Seams

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The tutorial explains how to avoid this problem and how to, using Simplify3D slicing software, step-by-step generate optimal start points. Marco Mattia Cristofori, the Architect and 3D Printing Specialist at BigRep, explains that a few additional modifications of the start and end location of the layers can make it sure that the seam is created in an optimal spot on the print. Often there is a natural groove or corner in a print that is a hiding spot for the seam. For example, on the manifold pictured and printed on Bigrep STUDIO, the curve on the right-hand side covers up the seam nicely. “We can make the seams follow the exact path we want them to follow,” said Cristofori. “So, instead, we can optimize this when we generate the G-code”.

hiding the seams


You can hide the seams on your print in 3 easy steps:

1) Import your model on Simplify3D and figure out how many processes you need to split the part in. Make sure the seams follow the path you want.

2) Edit singularly each process on the LAYER section changing the X & Y setting where the seams should be set up closer to.

3) Slice the part generating the G-code and check for possible improvements. Try different variation of the X & Y settings until you achieve the result you need.

However, Siplify3D is not the only possible tool. The list and description of popular slicing software can be found here.


Large-Scale Hybrid Parts in Automotive

Three views of a complex exhaust manifold as 3D printed prototypes


The Automotive industry continues its ongoing race to find ways to accelerate the process of designing and developing new and better vehicles. If we examine a modern car design closely, we see that it contains around 30,000 components, of different sizes and materials, manufactured using a range of techniques. Introducing 3D printing into the process of designing a machine with this number and diversity of parts can make that process of moving from new concept to marketable product much more efficient.

When it comes to the functional testing of large automotive components, any vehicle manufacturer will be happy to have the capacity to produce prototypes with realistic mechanical properties at low cost, and with few limitations on design. The combination of large-scale 3D printing with metal plating is a powerful production solution which can deliver automotive firms this prototyping capacity.

Software render of a complex exhaust manifold design
Rendering of a complex exhaust manifold design

The Manifold

The exhaust manifold plays a leading role in a car or larger vehicle’s exhaust system.
It connects to each exhaust port on the engine's cylinder head and funnels the hot exhaust down to a single exhaust pipe. Manifolds are manufactured by metal casting and have to withstand a high-temperature environment around the engine. Finding a fast, cost-effective way to perform basic fit-form-functional manifold testing can help reduce costs and shorten the product development process.

The Hybrid Concept

As part of the mutual research BigRep and Polymertal are conducting into possible applications for large-scale 3D printing and metal plating, a large manifold was printed to which was then added a thin layer of nickel in a metal plating process. The goal was to significantly improve the mechanical properties of the prototype, bringing them closer to those of a finished, cast metal part.

Exhaust manifold: software render, 3D-printed polymer, and finished nickel-plated part
Render, polymer 3D printed, and metal-plated versions of a simple exhaust manifold

Printing data

  • Printed on the BigRep STUDIO
  • Material - PLA/PRO-HT
  • Printing Time - 15 h
  • Layer thickness - 0.3 mm
  • Nozzle - 0.6 mm
  • Material weight - 450 g
  • Material cost - under 20 Euros

Plating Data

  • Technique - Direct Metalization plating
  • Material - Nickel
  • Plating thickness - 20 microns
Inlet and outlet views of an exhaust manifold
This exhaust manifold has four entry points and two outlets

Benefits of Plating

  • Increased heat resistance
  • Increased chemical resistance
  • Increased part strength

The Result

The new manifold was manufactured quickly and at very low cost. The BigRep STUDIO delivered a precision-print of the design, the plating process improved the part’s mechanical properties making it suitable for real functional testing. The fast process and quality of the part suggest this method can be used for improved and accelerated testing of new automotive component designs. The result is increased confidence that 3D printing, and hybrid parts in particular, can give automotive firms who adopt the technology a lead over their competitors in bringing innovative vehicle designs to market.


With over 22 years in the printing industry, Gil Lavi is a Sr. 3D-Printing Specialist with vast experience in implementing diverse 3D-printing technologies in design and manufacturing processes.

Connect with Gil on Linkedin HERE.

Stick by your print bed


One key challenge presented by 3D printing, especially if there is a small area of contact for a large print, is detachment from the print bed. Add to that the fact that each material requires different printing conditions. So, even on a large 3D printer like the BigRep ONE, which works equally well for all materials, our printing experts were always on the hunt for a first-layer adhesive solution that was solvent-free and environmentally friendly, not to mention easy to work with.

BigRep and R&D startup Thought3D (based in Valletta, Malta) recently announced a cooperation to bring a first-layer adhesive to large-scale build area FFF industrial 3D printers. So, we’re pleased to introduce Magigoo – a glue stick that increases printing reliability and maintenance convenience.


What began as a meeting and casual chat between some BigRep and Thought3D staff at IDTechEx in May, ended up in a cooperation to refine the Thought3D product and make it available for testing on large-scale prints at the BigRep Berlin office. Crucial to BigRep in using the adhesive has been the fact that it sticks and holds fast to the object when the print bed is hot, and releases when the print bed is cold.

“BigRep customers expect high-quality end products," said Moshe Aknin, Chief Technology Officer at BigRep. “Magigoo is a reliable product that helps our dependable workhorse printers to achieve great large-scale results.”

In one particular instance, BigRep was printing a section of its creative team’s bionic propeller design on The ONE printer. Given the propeller model’s area of contact was rather small, the BigRep team needed Magigoo on the print bed to aid in printing the large part’s challenging geometry. Moreover, the object’s overhangs and sharp details could have led to object detachment, but with the Magigoo adhesive, BigRep was able to successfully print several sections of the model for prototyping.


“We enjoyed working with BigRep to extend our product range for large format 3D printers and we are glad to provide a product that meets the high demands of industrial clients,” said Dr Keith M Azzopardi, Co-Founder and R&D Lead at Thought3D. “We hope to continue this collaboration with BigRep. Magigoo’s development road map is underway. We are expanding our product portfolio to include an even wider spectrum of smart adhesives targeting engineering materials.”

You can read more about the Magigoo’s glue stick on their website, or on 3Dprint.com and 3D Printing Media Network, where the announcement was also covered.

Will metal plating unlock new industrial applications for large-scale 3D printing?

After metal plating, the same Plastic 3D Printed Part has a number of improved properties.


When thinking about how large-scale 3D printer technology can add value to industrial design and manufacturing processes, there are two main technologies to consider – additive manufacturing with advanced polymers, and metal 3D printer technology. In both cases, the new technology by replacing a traditional manufacturing method digitizes the process and because of that saves time, reduces costs and increases design freedom.

In recent years, more engineering-grade materials have become available for use with plastic 3D printers and these offer a good solution for metal replacement applications, including for end-use parts. But what if you could combine the advantages of plastic and metal together in one solution? That is where metal plating of large 3D printed plastic parts comes in.


Metal plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of metal, usually Copper or Nickel, on an object made of a different material. This is done in order to improve one or more of the object’s properties, for example strength; thermal or electrical conductivity; chemical or heat resistance. The result – a hybrid product and a new set of potential solutions for metal replacement applications.

Before and After Shots of a 3D Printed Component plated in Copper. Metal printing

Our experts with +25,000 hours of experience in industrial 3D printing are waiting to sink their teeth into your unique and challenging use case.


Metal-plating could enable the introduction of cost-effective hybrid products in heavy industries such as Defense, Electronics & Medical Devices. We can imagine products with the following properties provided by the metal layer:

  • EMI/RFI Shielding
  • Electrical Conductivity (Plastic antennas, Wave-Guide)
  • Barrier Characteristics (offering protection from humidity, chemicals, fumes…)
  • Enhancing Mechanical Properties – over the original plastic parta design flexibility
  • ESD Protection
Before and After Shots of a 3D Printed Component plated in Copper
3D printed component before and after copper plating


Over the past few years a range of 3D printed parts have been successfully metal-plated. Mostly these have been small and medium-sized parts. What would be the advantages of plating large 3D printed parts?

One of the barriers of producing large parts, in prototyping or end-use manufacture, is production cost. BigRep 3D printers allow one to affordably print large parts, up to 1 cubic meter in size. Adding a metal-plating option for such prints gives us a new way to produce large hybrid products which is suitable for advanced applications and at the same time implies cost reductions over solid metal production.


Currently BigRep and Polymertal - a global leader in metal plating solutions - together with a large Israeli defense company, are testing a unique large metal-plated part which was printed on a BigRep ONE. Up to now this part has been manufactured out of aluminum in a manual short-series production process.

In the coming weeks the 3D-printed version of this end-use part will be assembled and tested on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Success in testing would mean the defense company has a new option of preforming a fully functional test of such parts which allows for faster design and testing cycles before moving on with manufacturing.

When the companies share their test results, expected in around a month, we will also have a better indication of just how big the potential is for metal-plated 3D-printed parts to replace traditionally made large metal parts.

Learn more about modeling, building and testing custom products fast and cost-efficiently.


With over 22 years in the printing industry, Gil Lavi is a Sr. 3D-Printing Specialist with vast experience in implementing diverse 3D-printing technologies in design and manufacturing processes.

Connect with Gil on Linkedin HERE.

Reflections on 2017 – BigRep’s emerging global position in the Industrial Additive Manufacturing space – MADE IN GERMANY!

BigRep STUDIO, compact industrial 3D printer


BigRep’s 3rd full year in business has been one of big strides forward across the board. From doubling sales, to exciting new products and collaborations, to increasing confidence about the position we have carved out for ourselves in a fast-growing 3D printing industry, it has been a great 2017.

The backbone of our business is our resource base and in this respect, we have seen significant changes. We were pleased to announce key new investments this year from Klöckner & Co and Körber. We also made some important appointments, including those of Moshe Aknin and Frank Marangell who each have CVs bulging with world-class 3D printing industry experience.

As President of BigRep America, Frank Marangell’s arrival signalled the opening of our US office. We have wasted no time in developing a strong US team and our engagement with this crucial market kicked off with a presence at signature additive manufacturing shows AMUG in Chicago and Rapid + TCT in Pittsburgh. In a similar vein, this year we continued to grow our network of resellers, so that we can now say BigRep is a company with a global reach to match our technological ambition.


The development of that underpinning technology continues apace. This year we have been busily shipping our new BigRep STUDIO machines, as well as introducing new specialist 3D printer filaments and 3D printer software solutions. But we do not just sell machines and materials. The value we can add through hands-on work with clients to tackle big additive manufacturing challenges in their specific use cases became very clear this year. Our research and innovation hub NOWlab drives this work forward. NOWlab is playing a central role in our ground-breaking end-use parts manufacturing project with Deutsche Bahn, as well as numerous projects in other industries.

BigRep’s experts are waiting to sink their teeth into your unique and challenging use case.

Click here for more Info


The above activities are all part of BigRep’s maturation into a company with a clear and valuable role in the 3D printing industry. That transition requires that we work to our strengths and find industry-leading strategic partners with whom to work. For this reason, our production agreement with long-established German industrial firm Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG was an important piece of groundwork in establishing BigRep.



So, it has been a year of great progress for BigRep, in three key areas: the basic infrastructure to build industrial machines; our 3D printing product and service package and developing industry track record; and our growing strategic connections for the future. These developments have delivered us greater exposure and interest from a range of stakeholders and at different cross-industry events. The August visit to BigRep’s offices by Ramona Pop of the German Green Party was just one of many from potential clients and a wider audience enthused by industry 4.0. I was pleased to share a platform at bitkom’s September 3D Printing Summit with colleagues from Braunschweig University of Art and Audi to talk about our fantastic car seat project. Our work with Deutsche Bahn has created a buzz and led to my appearance with Managing Director of ‘Mobility goes Additive’ Stefanie Brickwede at CREATING URBAN TECH in October.

November’s formnext show, the high point in the year for the additive manufacturing industry, was our opportunity to assess how far we’ve come in 2017 and to further shape our vision for the future. The message I took from a supremely busy four days engaging with colleagues across industry is that we are moving in the right direction with our technology, with our research-oriented and tailored approach to clients, and with our strategic plan to build machines for industrial users. Looking forward to 2018, our mission will be to push ahead on these core aspects of our work. Our headline task within this is to apply BigRep’s 3D printing technology and NOWlab’s ingenuity to a new round of even more impressive end-use applications. For that we need professional clients willing to think big and trust in the research processes necessary to realize further breakthroughs in additive manufacturing technology.


René is the founder and CEO of BigRep GmbH, driving it to be one of the world-leading 3D printing companies, with his many years of experience in business development and innovative technologies.

Connect with René on Linkedin HERE.

Global industries are boarding the additive manufacturing train – in Berlin!

Deutsche Bahn 3D printed part


To say we’ve been focused on tapping new potential this year would be an understatement. Front of mind for BigRep has been work on exciting projects and partnerships to discover new end-use manufacturing applications for our advanced large-scale 3D printer technology.

In late October I had the pleasure of sharing a podium with Deutsche Bahn’s (DB) Stefanie Brickwede at the dynamic CREATING URBAN TECH conference in Berlin, to discuss the successful cooperation between BigRep and DB. We spoke on this again at formnext on 14th November in Frankfurt. BigRep is a member of Mobility goes Additive, a network which DB initiated to develop additive manufacturing solutions for the logistics and mobility sectors. We have been working together to explore how DB can use BigRep’s additive manufacturing technologies to further their business and improve efficiency.

DB and additive manufacturing
BigRep CEO René Gurka & Deutsche Bahn’s Stefanie Brickwede at CREATING URBAN TECH

We can highlight three key outcomes of the partnership to date. All three are typical of the benefits industrial organisations encounter when utilizing our technology.

Firstly, Deutsche Bahn has identified that 10-15% of their demand for spare parts could be met with 3D prints. This approach can reduce production time and costs, and facilitate a dramatic reduction in necessary spare parts inventory. They expect to 3D print an impressive 15,000 spare parts in 2018.

Secondly, they are finding potential to use additive manufacturing to develop new kinds of end-use products. This article describes one example, a new design for a printed part with braille on its surface.

Finally, DB believes that the development of new 3D printer materials will be the key to determining how much end-use manufacturing it can do in future with 3D printing technology.

This joint project we have with Deutsche Bahn illustrates the new value that comes when companies invest together in exploring how new techniques can be applied to existing and upcoming design challenges. It, as well as developments within Mobility goes Additive, also shows that Berlin is becoming a hub for innovative developments in the emerging additive manufacturing sector.

But the story, and especially that final point, also illustrates that we have choices to make. We have the option to pursue networking opportunities in this technology to their limits and develop the next generation of high value technologies. Or, if we pursue these opportunities less aggressively, other firms and other cities will get there first and reap the rewards.

additive manufacturing - 3d printing filament
Developing new 3D printer materials is a core aspect of BigRep’s development of new additive manufacturing applications

We are conscious of this choice when it comes to Deutsche Bahn and Mobility goes Additive, and will seek to sustain our close working relationship to develop new 3D printer materials, hardware and techniques to fully explore the potential for this cooperation. What I discussed at CREATING URBAN TECH, as well as at formnext in Frankfurt (on 14th November), is that we need to apply the same thinking to Berlin and its own potential in terms of additive manufacturing. I believe that to take ourselves from a promising hub to that central, world-leading position, we should formally nurture networking activities between businesses and other research organisations in the sector, for example, with a Centre of Excellence in Additive Manufacturing in Berlin. Can we 3D print that?

Learn more about modeling, building and testing custom products fast and cost-efficiently


René is the founder and CEO of BigRep GmbH, driving it to be one of the world-leading 3D printing companies, with his many years of experience in business development and innovative technologies.

Connect with René on Linkedin HERE.

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