Nov.24, 2014 | By Alec

Anyone who's ever bought or built a 3D FDM printer, will know that there are currently dozens of models on the market. But despite all the available options you have to consider – complicated or user-friendly, heated or regular printbed, SD-card or Wi-Fi and so on – most of them are fundamentally about heated filament, a single extruder and a limited print size. Various options and printers can result in higher-quality results, in shorter print times or in more convenience, but the fundamentals are largely similar.

And while that might be just fine for most of us, there are always some people looking for a bit more. People like the mechanical engineer James Chang, from Taiwan. Chang had an itch that regular 3D printers couldn't scratch, so he's been working a truly unique and inspiring project for the past few months: the Super 3D Printer.

As the photographs illustrate, we're truly dealing with the monster of 3D printers here. While many 'XL printers' only add a few inches to your printbed, James's Super 3D Printer features a truly remarkable printing size of 1 x 1 x 0.8 m.

And its not just the printing size that is monstrous, its also the filament it uses. For while our 3D printers rely on a single colour filament, James's printer is capable of printing in CMYKW. Those letters refer to traditional color printing options; many older printers relied on CMYK printing, or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black, because the letter B already stood for Blue) and combinations of these to print things in color.

Newer options have incorporated the W (White) to print colors, which will allow you to blend just about every color in the spectrum of the human eye (James even mentioned a million combinations, though the mathematicians among you'll have to certify that). What James is working on, is thus effectively a giant inkjet color printer that happens to work in the third dimension.

This giant 3D printer is currently set-up in the GoodWork Studio in Taiwan and, as James revealed, he is in the process of testing and optimizing the printer's capacity. Amazingly, he's only been working on this printer since September, when he set out with a 'simple' goal: 'We wanted to build a Super FDM 3D Printer, featuring a multi-feed nozzle, capable of mixing the five CMYKW colors, with a massive build volume .'

And he's obviously getting close to reaching his goals, though the multi-feed, multi-color set-up is still quite a complicated affair. Specifically, this involves a five-into-one extrusion head, which he had to develop himself. He already had some initial successes with a two-to-one extruder, but combining all five colors is obviously a larger challenge.

However, the results are already looking promising. James has completed two main tests; the first involving a green vase of the already very large measurements 35 x 35 x 35 cm. While it looks okay, James himself claimed he was about '65% satisfied. The parameters must be adjusted, as the current set-up pulls out too much wire.' If the appearance looks a bit grainy, that's because James neglected to do any post-processing; it's a test after all.

But the second test is even more impressive: to print four Chinese characters across the entire platform. As you can see in the video below, these fill the entire 1 x 1 print bed, and are about 0.15 mm thick. The entire printing time clocked in at a total of 27 hours and 35 minutes. All in all, James called this test a success.

This behemoth of a 3D printer is thus still very much a 'Work in Progress' machine, but a truly amazing one. Next up on the agenda is high-speed 3D printing, and we're very curious to see how those turn out.

If this project is inspiring or if you have some helpful suggestions, feel free to contact James on his Facebook page, as he's doing his best to keep everything as open-source as possible. 'In the Maker spirit, sharing is the most important core value, and sharing and learning from each other ensures the fastest growth.' He also won't apply for a patent, hoping that his research will inspire others. Therefore be sure to visit his webpage if you have anything to contribute, and perhaps we can all enjoy his gargantuan multi-colored prints in the near future.

Posted in 3D Printers


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Mat T wrote at 11/14/2016 9:06:48 PM:

Do you have the 5 to 1 hotend for sale?

jj wrote at 2/7/2015 12:42:29 PM:

Hi Alec, any contacts from James? I tried to contact him via youtube but it will be nice to have a proper email. TX JJ

Jonny wrote at 1/22/2015 1:27:42 PM:

Nicely done! I love the extruder. Next project is to actually produce mixed colors. The idea I can think of will create a lot of wasted material and dramatically increase the printing time...

Jack wrote at 1/15/2015 9:16:25 AM:

A - No colour changes in a layer. There are 3 ways to do this: 1 - just switch and have a smear while the next colour comes out. 2 - have a waste pad which it prints whenever it switches colour (or each layer it prints in every colour. 3 - have it start printing the supports in the next colour to be used so when it has finished the support and moves on to the next section it is ready for that colour. Potentially break the supports into multiple colours if there isn't enough for each colour normally. B - Far more importantly, this shows no colour mixing at all. All this does is switch between the colours. For the majority, he has red, green, blue, white and black, and he prints in red or green or blue or white or black. There have been numerous prior attempts at making colour switching printers. All bar 2 that I know of are incapable of truly mixing the colours, instead producing a toothpaste effect of streaks of each colour. The only ones that work properly use active mixing where it has a motor to mix the molten filament together as it is being extruded.

stengam wrote at 11/25/2014 11:12:39 AM:

Very Cool, can we purchase an assembly from him.

AMnerd wrote at 11/24/2014 5:15:54 PM:

This is very cool and James is clearly someone who knows how to get things done. Stratasys should absolutely hire him. However, in the pictures shown the color variance only occurs between layers. Does this mean that that is the limitation? Regardless, I am very impressed.

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