Jul 18, 2016 | By Alec

When changing the topic to industrial 3D printing, the focus tends to completely shift to either metal or resin 3D printing. FDM 3D printing, in contrast, is seen as too slow and too inaccurate and therefore unsuitable for anything but prototyping. But FDM 3D printing does have one advantage: it is easily scaled up, and Swedish startup BLB Industries have taken full advantage of it. Their The Box 3D printer, which is currently under development, is one of the biggest 3D printers in the world and can easily 3D print anything from a pinball to a complete kitchen table. Perhaps more importantly, it’s insanely quick – 3D printing up to 6kg of plastics per hour. Could this be the manufacturing solution we’ve been waiting for?

Like so many fantastic 3D printing innovations, The Box actually grew out of the ambitions of a team of students. BLB Industries was started by Jacob Lundin and Cim Bergdahl, upon completing their studies at Värnamo college. “During college, me and Jacob built a proof-of-concept cheap and large 3d-printer from scratch,” Cim recalls, and that achievement quickly grew into something more ambitious. The two founded BLB Industries, and were joined by Tomas Burman – who had previously worked as a mechanical engineer for two decades and now brought his expertise and mentorship to the startup. Further backing came from Anders Alrutz of Herber Engineering and investor Klas Jansson of LTB Sweden, though Jacob, Cim and Tomas are the three active team members.

And together, they worked on a remarkable 3D printer. “The goal of the company is to make the best 3D printer in the world and sell them, primarily. We also have the vision to always stay on-top of competition and to not hold back any technology,” the startup’s CTO Cim explains to us, and their prototype of The Box certainly doesn’t disappoint. In a nutshell, it is a massive 1500x1100x1500 mm 3D printer that 3D prints a very wide range of granulates (including wood-based plastics, composites and carbon materials) with multiple printheads, providing a very wide range of low-cost 3D printing opportunities.

What’s more, it is completely intended for a professional work environment in which users retain full control over the 3D printing process and production resolution. In part, this is obviously achieved through the granulate-fed extruder, but all of the nozzles are also interchangeable to provide varying resolution and surface finishing options, build speeds and batch sizes. High quality linear motion modules from Rexroth provide an excellent quality, while the Box further 3D prints up to 6 kg of granulates per hour (maximum speeds of 1200mm/second) – making it possible to 3D print very large objects in a matter of hours, rather than days. “We have built one of the largest and fastest 3D printers in the world,” Cim proudly states. “This is our new product and our vision of what the future should look like.”

But perhaps the most impressive feature is the 3D printer’s unique 3D printing bed solution. “We have made a hot vacuum bed which has 6 separate zones. It allows you to print on the bed without the fear of the model letting go of the surface, and when the print is done you can turn of the vacuum and pick out the model without it sticking to the bed surface,” Cim explains to 3ders. However, 3D printing takes place on a special plastic sheet which is held by the vacuum. What’s more, the bed is divided into six different zones for optimal 3D printing convenience. “You can for example have a large detail printing on 4 of the zones furthest away from the doors while printing something smaller at the 2 zones closest to the doors. When the smaller item is finished, you simply pause the machine, turn off the vacuum in the respective 2 zones, remove the small item, close the doors and continue the print of the larger item in the back,” Cim explains.

While this fantastic printbed solution certainly adds a whole new practical dimension to industrial 3D printing, the Swedes are going even further to give users full control. For the machine has been completely built in separate modules, which can easily be reconstructed or upgraded to fully meet the user’s preferences. “It is also very easy to redesign if a customer wishes some other size, be it longer or wider,” Cim says. Finally, just about all the components come from high quality brands such as BOSCH, Rexroth and Festo Siemens. “Everything in the area of hardware is designed and built to match that of the industrial standards,” the CTO adds.

None of this would’ve been possible without the startup’s unique business situation, as they are currently located in the Herber Engineering facility where they have access to all of their personnel and machinery. “We hire enough space to build the machine and have an office, but at the same time are allowed to use almost 5000 m2. This gives us a great advantage since Herber Engineering is a leading developer and manufacturer of tube bending machines. They have greatly sped up our design process with their expertise,” Cim explains.

Development on The Box began back in October 2015, and the first successful prints were produced about two months ago. Especially software development and fine-tuning created several challenges for the startup, as they believe this is crucial to 3D printing quality. “75 percent of the quality seems to be related to our software,” Cim says. But the current prototype is extremely impressive, and bodes very well for the future – when even bigger commercial machines are forthcoming. This particular model, however, will be sold for around €500,000. And as most other large-scale 3D printer developers are aiming either at height or at width, The Box could fill up a niche of its own.

While Cim did not say when they were planning a release, more news on that front can be expected in 2017. In the meantime, the company has already begun offering 3D printing services using their The Box 3D printer. So if you’ve been looking for ways to 3D print new chairs, this is your chance!



Posted in 3D Printer



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kb wrote at 7/29/2016 1:31:00 AM:

500 000 € for a 3d printer who makes disgusting parts like on the last picture ? What a joke!

Meh wrote at 7/19/2016 12:03:17 AM:

LoooL 1200mm/s ? Why aren't they claiming lightspeed? 3D Printer startups getting abaolutely ridiculous.

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