Feb. 20, 2015 | By Alec

You might not think about it when toying around with a conveniently-sized desktop FDM printer at home, but 3D printers come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. But while we come across large and unusual 3D printers all the time, even we were very amazed by the KUKA Quantec Ultra machine, developed by the Berlin-based construction and engineering company Artis Engineering. While exceptionally large, it’s especially amazing for its dual nature: it's a CNC milling machine and 3D printer in one.

Artis Engineering is an interesting company that really illustrates how continuous innovation is key to success. Established in 1994 as a producer of classic cabinetry, they have since grown to a company employing 30 people and specialized in creation unique shapes, cabinets and setups for museums, art exhibitionsm medical practices, trade fair stands and so on.

As you can imagine, bot CNC machines and 3D printers would be invaluable additions to their workspace, but their KUKA Quantec Ultra is exceptional. The current design features a huge build space of 150 cubic meters (or 13 x 4 x 3.5 meters) – easily large enough for cabinets. It also uses an impressive 7-axis system to power all of its different functions: milling, polishing, sanding, hot wire cutting, 3D printing and more. It’s the Swiss army knife of manufacturing machines.

The machine is absolutely massive.

Furthermore, the KUKA Quantec Ultra R3100 KR210 C (to give its full name) is very efficient. It has a 3100 mm reach, and features an arm capable of moving at a maximum speed of meters per second (not minute!), with a repeatability of 0.06mm. Theoretically, the home-made 3D printer function has a printing volume of 14 by 3.5 by 3 meters, though this completely depends on the geometry of the project its working on. Its extruder and nozzle are controlled through the remarkably easy setup of an Arduino 2560, and are capable of 3D printing at high speeds through either.5mm, 1 mm or 2.5mm nozzles.

The KUKA working as a polishing machine.

But as its German creators explained to 3ders.org, this robot is principally a CNC machine. "It is not initially a 3d printing robot, it is a machine mainly built for assembly chains, and we optimized it for milling tasks. The inconvenient of milling is the limits you have for some type of geometries, the time required to program & mill," they explain. "3D printing is very interesting for reaching new horizons in terms of shape innovation, and production speeds."

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to build such a robot. "Every single step is a challenge! But I would say that the main one is being able to “hack” the robot control interface, to synchronize movement & extrusion speed. Building a heat chamber / heat bed for the robot will also be a lot of work," its creators explain. "One important fact to consider is that we are a woodworking company, and to resume we build exhibits, trade fair stands, medical practices and all kinds of other exciting stuff, which are realized by using wood or other solid surface materials. So on top of this research part, which is 3d printing, the robot has other stuff to do."

For now, the KUKA Quantec Ultra is still in development, and its creators are aiming to expand its 3D printing capacity to become capable of printing objects as large as 100 cubic meters over the coming months. Theoretically, that could mean 3D printing a whole car in a single piece. It will therefore be very worthwhile to keep an eye on the progress of Artis and their machine – it would not at all surprise me if it will be capable of some commercial successes as well, though no plans about marketing the machine currently exist. Could this be the predecessor of the ultimate manufacturing tool?

You can look at the machine in 3D printing action here:

And as a CNC miller here:



Posted in 3D Printers


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