Jun 24, 2016 | By Andre

There are a lot of instances in the world of 3D printing news where the hype surrounding the technology surpasses the reality. While its true a lot of well-documented research is being done on 3D printed organs and moon bases, the reality is that these technological wonders are still years, if not decades from becoming a real thing in any practical sense. One of these soon but-not-quite-yet realms of innovation comes in the form of really big 3D printers.

As we’ve reported in the past, there are a good number of extremely large 3D printers out there in prototype form showcasing what’s possible. Well, it seems Swiss company Imprimere is finding some actual commercial success with the recent announcement that two of their BIG 3D Printer 1063’s have been sold to an Italian company. Cha-ching!

The Big 3D Printer 1063 uses concrete as its source material and can print objects up to 5.75x2.96x6.25 meters large. And while some quick math suggests that would take 600 years to produce on my desktop Makerbot, things should come out a lot quicker with the big machine due to the layering of thick concrete instead of tiny little strands of plastic.

So why would anyone in their right mind spend the over 1,000,000€ to buy one, let alone two of the oversized 3D printers? According to the company’s list of current applications, there are plenty of reasons. As a fully automated machine, you can 3D print houses (with curved and freeform sections), stairs, furnitures, sculptures, and just about anything else that is big and can be made of concrete. But one of the biggest reasons why two of the machines have been sold has to do with the practical nature of the machine.

A lot of the science fiction type 3D print news stories, while impressive both technically and to the imagination, are not practical from a financial standpoint. The Big 3D Printer 1063 however, as shown in the cost chart below, can produce comparably large pieces at a fraction of the cost that would be required using traditional manufacturing methods.

The 3D printer itself works by a Cartesian System that stacks concrete one layer at a time (with necessary reinforcements inserted between the printing of individual layers). Due to the time needed for concrete to set, the printer moves between different sections within its build area so it can keep printing separate sections while the layers of the individual parts harden. This is similar to having several parts on a build tray (instead of just one) with your more traditional style of 3D printing.

While the purchase of two of the 1063 units is big news for big 3D printing, the company has an even bigger version (the 2156) that can produce parts twice as large (in one axis) than the 1063.  I often find myself talking to people about the potential developments in 3D printing. Throughout these conversations I typically suggest that so much is still in the early-research phase and that all the coolest stuff is still to come. With news like this (and other advancements that take place on a seemingly daily basis) I feel I’ll be switching gears by suggesting it’s happening here and it’s happening now!



Posted in 3D Printer



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