Every year musicians, filmmakers and tech companies flock to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), a loosely affiliated group of festivals and conferences that consist of ten days of music, movies and showing off the next generation of technology. SXSW is sort of a mashup of Sundance, Coachella and CES, but with a stronger focus on culture and interactive tech. 3D printing has had an occasional presence at SXSW for a few years now. It was even chosen in 2016 by HP Inc as the place to finally show off their highly anticipated Multi-Jet Fusion 3D Printer for the first time.
This year the biggest 3D printing splash was made by the Berlin-based startup BigRep, which joined dozens of other German businesses and artists for the 8th annual German Haus. BigRep was on hand over the weekend showing off their massive BigRep One and their slightly less massive BigRep Studio large-scale FDM 3D printers. Both machines have some of the largest printing envelopes available on the market, 1005 x 1005 x 1005 mm and 500 x 1000 x 500 mm respectively, and visitors got to watch them in action.
“Creativity is firmly anchored in our founding DNA. Especially in our work to define the future of this industry, such as our development of fully automated continuous 3D printing, we focus on crossing boundaries and positioning ourselves as a pioneer and leader in the market. SXSW is a home game for BigRep in two ways: it brings together creative minds from a wide range of industries and presents current trends in the fields of technology and hardware; the ideal environment for us,” BigRep CEO René Gurka explained.
But BigRep came with more than just their big 3D printers; they also brought along a few of their big ideas. The 3D printing hype may have died off some, but as the technology improves, prices drop and they become easier to use, more companies than ever are finding uses for in-house 3D printers. The BigRep line of FDM printers is aimed squarely at businesses looking to create inexpensive and quick iterative prototypes larger than the standard desktop models are capable of. BigRep’s in-house innovation department, called the NOWlab, was assembled to show off the wide variety of possible applications for their printers.
“With our powerful high-tech printers, we make the possibilities of large-scale 3D printing accessible to even smaller companies and individuals,” Gurka continued.
The NOWlab team showed off a playable, concert quality violin that was printed all as a single piece and sounds almost identical to a traditional wooden version. The instrument was designed by BigRep mechanical engineer Ofer Lowinger and took about 24 hours to print. Lowinger assembled the violin straight off of the printer and it didn’t require any post-processing or finishing. Whether this is the future of musical instrument manufacturing remains to be seen, but the ability to quickly create one for far less money than a standard violin certainly isn’t without its benefits.
“3D printing offers a low-cost but high-quality solution for beginners starting to learn to play an instrument, or for musicians who are not yet able to afford an expensive original, or who perhaps want to try out a variety of different musical instruments,” Gurka explained.
You can watch the violin printing, and listen to the finished product, here:
BigRep and the NOWlab also showed off their innovative “Ocke Stool” design, which prints entirely as one piece and was designed to be sturdy enough for regular use without needing any additional parts, assembly or materials. The structure of the stool requires no supports, and was designed to be stronger in areas that bear weight while using less filament in its non-structural parts. The full-sized stool only takes about 12 hours to print, and is ready to use right off of the build-plate without needing any post-processing.
Take a look at how the Ocke Stool was designed and 3D printed here:
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