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3D Printing The Next Five Years by René Gurka CEO and co-founder of BigRep

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This is a guest post in our series looking at the future of 3D Printing. To celebrate 5 years of reporting on the 3D printing industry, we’ve invited industry leaders and 3D printing experts to give us their perspective and predictions for the next 5 years and insight into trends in additive manufacturing.

René Gurka is the CEO and co-founder of BigRep. Headquartered in Berlin-Kreuzberg, with offices in Brooklyn and Singapore, he has been actively involved in the future of additive manufacturing together with his international interdisciplinary team for the last three years.

3D Printing: The Next Five Years – Industrial 3D Manufacturing is the Ultimate Goal

If you want to look at the future of 3D printing, it is worthwhile looking back in time; additive manufacturing has been around for about 30 years. But only in the past five years has it gained this big recognition. The promise was: everyone can print objects at home with a 3D printer and become a designer. “We wanted people to 3D print anything” said 3D industry pioneer Bre Pettis in 2013. But these high expectations have not been fully realized. Except for a few talented individuals, home use of 3D printers has not hit the mainstream. The reason is simple: most of us lack the necessary design and construction understanding to be able to use the devices productively, or the skills to create the necessary digital data at home.

Traditional Production will be Disrupted

The question arises that if this vision was wrong, what is the realistic development in next five years in 3D printing? For BigRep, the answer is clear: the focus will shift from individual users to industrial production. And by this I do not mean the production of prototypes, because this is already firmly established, especially with large manufacturers. The trend is rather towards automated additive production. 3D printing will become an integral part of industrial production and the traditional production process will change disruptively. This is made possible by the close interaction between software and cloud services, materials and robotics in additive manufacturing (AM). Similar to 3D printing, these have undergone an enormous development in recent years.

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The 3D Printing Process: Taking One Designer’s Idea from Concept to Reality

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Case Study #1 / Cocktail Table / By Anna Maria Mannarino of Mannarino Designs, Inc.

Our first Designer Case Study was submitted by Anna Mannarino, an award-winning interior and event designer based in Holmdel, New Jersey. For more information on Anna and her studio, keep reading to the end of this post!

The concept for this cocktail table – appropriately named The Mannarino Table after its designer – centered around reinventing a classic piece of furniture: the piece emulates a side table draped with a traditional white tablecloth. The juxtaposition of the inherently soft fabric of a tablecloth with the rigidity of recycled plastic offers a unique and beautiful spin on a classic silhouette.

For the popup we printed a 13” diameter version of the table using white PLA filament. In her design submission Anna envisioned a set of three tables in various sizes, which could be used as a set or on their own. She also suggested using bright colours or metallic finishes, which would even further transform the table into a decidedly modern and on-trend piece of furniture.

Right away, I could also see these tables being stackable or even offered in a bar-height version – complete with a couple glasses of wine and a light summer breeze on a New York rooftop. The beauty of 3D printing – and a key element of Print the Future’s vision – is the idea that designers can engage with these moments of inspiration and innovation, quickly and affordably. It sounds cheesy, but the only limit to what you can create really does become your imagination.

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A Big Perspective On BigRep

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We’ve been following the development of BigRep for some time now, and at this point the company is a significant player in the 3D space.

Started only a few years ago, the idea was to build a large-format 3D printer based on technology that had, at the time, only been used within smaller desktop models.

Since then the company has gradually improved their products and just last week announced their second machine. Actually, they have a third product in a way also, as they’ve partnered with Germany-based Kühling&Kühling to rebrand their massive delta-style heat-controlled 3D printer through BigRep’s globe-spanning sales and service network.

BigRep is itself now big: they boast of around 70 staff, 40 resellers and have multiple offices: Europe, North America and Asia. This globally-spaced office configuration permits them to deploy “follow the sun” support services: there’s always someone awake to provide assistance to their customers. BigRep says they are able to provide 4-hour response time all day long now.

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StartUp Stories: mitte meets BigRep

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Ronja Scholz from BigRep prints our latest prototype and reflects on the future of 3D Technology

While much of the process of hardware manufacture, from supply chain to assembly – is as challenging as it’s always been – prototyping, thanks to 3D printing, is faster, less wasteful and more exciting than ever before.

And so, as our hardworking mitte engineers finalize the mechanics of our machine and our development team put refining touches to the concept design, it was time to create our first 3D model.

To do this, we turned to BigRep, a groundbreaking player on the Berlin startup scene and maker of the largest serial 3D printer in the world. Industrial designer Ronja Scholz talked us through the BigRep process and philosophy, as she printed our model.
How would you describe the philosophy at BigRep?

Ronja: “The idea at BigRep is to use 3D printing really for industrial use cases. Our FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) printer – the largest printer available on the world market at the moment, is bridging the gap between 3D printers designed for modeling and industrial use. Right now most of our customers use it for prototyping – to see how shapes come off. We have customers with projects that would have taken weeks and months in CNC machining, that can be done over night. So to see what kind of new shapes and projects they realize that weren’t feasible before is already quite astonishing. But in the not-distant future, when the technology has evolved a little better, we’ll be able to print final products with it.

At BigRep we’re researching different uses cases. For example applications for architecture, such as printing shells for concrete buildings. Creating molds in architecture up to this point in time, has been a resource-intensive and complicated process. You have to build the shell where you pour the concrete in, but now we’re looking at ways to print those shells and afterwards biodegrading them to take them off. As the technology gets better, we will become increasingly capable of doing more socially good and sustainable things with it.”

Tell us about the 3D print for mitte?

Ronja: “First I take your CAD-model and slice it to see how the printer will print it. FFF technology prints in layers. So you can decide the layer height, depending on the resolution and time the print should take. And with the layer itself, you can decide how thick the walls are and how the details come out.

To make it a really nice print, I decided to split the model into several parts so they all have good adhesion to the print bed. We sliced it in a way that it needs nearly no support. With FFF or FDM technology you often need support to print. We offer two solutions of support material: either support made from the same material, or from another material that dissolves afterwards, but as the geometry is beautifully simple we will print it with very little support.

So we set it up and the slicer calculates roughly 40 hours. The material we’re using to print this is PLA – polylactic acid. It’s a bio-plastic that melts at 200 degrees, therefor great for this open print, and also, of course, it’s biodegradable.”

How did the collaboration with mitte come about?

Ronja: “I got to know Moritz first at Berlin’s Fab Lab and when I returned from NYC we got in touch again because I thought mitte was such a good product. I hadn’t forgotten it.

Water is increasingly an issue globally and I think there’s many applications for mitte – outside even home use. It can contribute to good things in the world.

One good use, by the way, would be having a mitte at our office! We have coworkers from all over the world, and many of them, though often surprised about the quality of water in Berlin, are averse to the idea of tap water. So if we had one at BigRep we’d definitely put it to good use.”

About 40 hours later…

The print went brilliantly and shows just how magical rapid prototyping is. With our model we can now test everything from size to shape to aesthetics and basic layout as we fine-tune our way to perfect form and functionality.

While refinements will no doubt be made before the machine goes into full scale production, the consensus back at mitte HQ is that the 3D model essentially proves the fundamentals of our design. And it’s saved us weeks of time and energy. So we’re excited and on track for the next phase of our journey to market.

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BigRep and TNO to develop 3D printing production process 10x faster than current solutions

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From the Web.

BigRep, a Berlin-based manufacturer of large-scale 3D printers, has signed a multi-million-euro cooperation agreement with TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. The deal was signed at the formnext trade show in Frankfurt, Germany.

Straight from one of the world’s biggest 3D printing events, here’s some big news from a manufacturer of very big 3D printers: Berlin-based BigRep has signed a cooperation agreement with TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. As part of this new partnership, BigRep will invest one million euros into a joint research project called “AMSYSTEMS,” which will involve developing a fully automatic 3D printing production process capable of fabricating numerous objects at once in the shortest possible time.

The goal of AMSYSTEMS, which has already been implemented by the Eindhoven University of Technology, TNO, and several partners, is to increase 3D printing productivity by a factor of 10. This will require a system of automated post-processing by robots, and a general overhaul of the 3D printing production process—a challenge that BigRep is more than ready for.

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