Printing Big: An Introduction to Large-Format 3D Printing

Business Insights

Large-format 3D printing is becoming increasingly accessible and cost-effective with advancing technology. More businesses of all sizes are embracing huge 3D printers to print both big components and large batches of smaller parts.

But what exactly is "large-format" 3D printer? And what advantages does the technology bring?

Let's take a look at the basics and benefits of large-format 3D printing.

What Is Large-Format 3D Printing?

Although there's no universal standard definition for large-format printers, machines that can produce parts of 300mm in one or more dimensions often earn the "large-format" label.

Most 3D printing technologies can support large-format printing, but the most common ones (outside of metal 3D printing) are:

  • Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF): FFF 3D printers extrude molten plastic filament in layers to construct prints. This technology is cost-effective at larger printing dimensions and supports materials that perform well in large sizes, such as PLA and PETG.

  • Stereolithography (SLA): SLA is most famous for producing highly detailed small parts, but it can also scale up to larger sizes. It's a good option for manufacturing large-scale prototypes and end-use parts with high accuracy and tight dimensions.

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS 3D printing requires no support structures, so it scales well to large part sizes. It also produces parts with detail comparable to injection moulding, making it a popular industrial choice.

Advantages of Large-Format 3D Printing

Large-format additive manufacturing offers multiple benefits over traditional manufacturing, like injection moulding. The most significant advantages are:

    1. Faster prototyping and development cycles for large parts and products

    2. Printing large single components in-house avoids costs in outsourcing and assembly

    3. In-house large-format printing shortens lead times and simplifies supply chains

    4. 3D printing unlocks higher design freedom for large-scale parts

    5. Innovative 3D-printed geometries can improve part properties and performance

    6. Batch production of small components is possible with large-format 3D printers

    7. 3D printing files can be easily customised to match customer requirements

Industries Using Large-Format 3D Printing

High-profile industries are active users of large-format 3D printers. Here are some examples of how the huge machines serve various major industrial sectors.

  • Automotive: Automotive manufacturers employ 3D printers both to support traditional methods by producing large jigs and fixtures, and to 3D print prototypes and end-use components like bumpers.

  • Aerospace: Large-format 3D printers produce cabin body panels, seating components, and even advanced engine parts for both civilian and military aircraft.

  • Energy: Energy and O&G companies use large-format printers to produce spare components at remote installations. Ambitious research projects stretch the technology's capabilities with parts such as wind turbine blade moulds.

  • Advertising: Large-format 3D printing is an ideal method for advertisers to create huge, eye-catching product replicas and lettering that can withstand exposure to the elements.

  • Architecture: Architects use large 3D printers to produce huge, detailed building models, while builders can print, for example, weather-resistant panels for facades.

For more information on large-format 3D printing, including how to start printing huge parts, visit Solid Print3D website.