BigRep Looks to Break Through the Noise in Thermoplastic 3D Printing: Interview

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When ‘big’ is in the name, it’s only natural to expect big things. Germany-based BigRep delivers, bringing large-scale 3D printing to bear with some sizeable hardware offerings. The company has been expanding not only the reach of its extruders across FFF print beds, but BigRep’s global reach. BigRep America Inc. has been taking its German parent’s technology to a broader demographic; while the last time I saw the BigRep Studio 3D printer was in Frankfurt, last week I had the opportunity to visit with the large machine again in Los Angeles at SOLIDWORKS World.

Frank Marangell was appointed President of BigRep America and Executive Vice President of Global Sales for the entire BigRep company last summer, and we touched base in LA to discuss the latest in large-scale 3D printing. 3D printers available from the company are designed with quality in mind — which extends to the machine itself.

“The reaction has been: ‘That’s a lot of machine there for $40,000’,” Marangell told me of the reception to the industrial 3D printer.

Say you’re having a couple of friends over for dinner, so you start making pasta for four — but then find out they’re each bringing dates, so you need to double the recipe. No big deal: throw more pasta into the water, double the amount of sauce, and dinner can go off without a hitch. Doubling the recipe in manufacturing takes a lot more work than that; to get twice the build volume, a machine can’t just be made twice as big. It needs to be designed with that specific sizing in mind. And BigRep was never meant to be small.

“One thing that sold me on BigRep the company was when René told me these are designed to be big,” Marangell explained of his hiring on last year after having spoken with CEO René Gurka. “This is good German engineering, which means knowing the challenges of large-format.”

When looking at the difference between a meter-class machine and a desktop 3D printer, size isn’t the only factor. Keeping all the parts level, keeping gantries straight, ensuring calibration and sturdiness: “There’s a certain amount of engineering you need,” Marangell noted. Part of that engineering also caters to another big demand in 3D printing today: speed.

“Speed is a huge concern in this industry. Then take that over to big,” he said. “We’ve introduced three different nozzles that let you go fast. We have a 0.6mm, a standard 1mm, and we now have a 2mm. You can print with the highest resolution you need — but not higher. Resolution is great if precision is what you need, but timing is always important. We also have dual extruding for tandem printing.”

Marangell noted that some of the biggest challenges in 3D printing today come down to stability, speed, and cost. Having discussed how BigRep addresses the first two, we turned to the third. One of the benefits users have been finding with BigRep’s 3D printers is their use in early-stage prototyping.

“We have a lot of customers who buy our machine for the first few iterations before taking their designs to their Fortus — they can use cheaper materials before printing in Ultem,” he said.

BigRep has big plans for 2018, which will also include a higher-temperature head to allow for the use of a wider range of industrial materials. The company is also working on robotic planar 3D printing, which will be useful for applications such as those for plastic components for airplanes. Applications are key to BigRep’s development process and strategy; the company has shared a great deal of case studies underscoring real-world usage.

Collaborations are also critical to ongoing development, as BigRep works with partners such as Magigoo and BASF. We can expect to hear more this year about some steps forward with partnerships that highlight major partners’ deep belief in what BigRep has to offer, Marangell noted.

“2018 will be an amazing year for BigRep. We’ll have announcements soon, along with our new extruder, and two new machines to come,” he said.

“There’s a lot coming that will break us out of the noise — there’s a lot of noise in thermoplastic extrusion.”

One announcement we don’t have to wait for is a new US-based BigRep reseller, as Ohio-based DesignBox3D will be taking delivery of its first BigRep Studio 3D printer this weekend. The new relationship will bring large-scale 3D printing to more customers and expand upon DesignBox3D’s carefully curated selection of offerings.

“As we’ve focused on business, manufacturing and EDU clients over the course of 2017, we’ve seen clients start to approach us for large format, industrial FDM solutions – specifically, BigRep,” DesignBox3D President Preet Jesrani told me of taking on the line.

“We began discussions with Frank Marangell and René Gurka at BigRep before and at formnext and are thrilled to announce that as of February 16, 2018 we will take delivery of our in-showroom BigRep Studio. The BigRep team has been a pleasure to work with and we are looking forward to bringing their solutions to our clients to fulfill their specific needs for industrial FDM solutions to 3D print large parts.”

Discuss large-scale 3D printers, partnerships, and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]

 

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