When Swedish 3D printing company BLB Industries is commissioned to produce BIG pieces, they go SMALL, that is, The BOX SMALL. Needless to say, the large-format 3D printer was ironically named. Have a look at some of their work, though, and it becomes clear that BLB Industries takes 3D printing seriously. They 3D print all kinds of gigantic objects (such as a 1:1 scale Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and a complete corner of a house module), but I’d like to bring your attention to their 3D printed seating projects because they require something that a full-scale sculpture does not: strength.
Large-format 3D printers are obviously designed to fabricate large objects, but as a side effect, they also create stronger objects. That’s because when build volume is scaled up, it’s also necessary to scale the extrusion nozzle up. Otherwise, large objects would take eons to print. A wider, thicker extruded layer results in faster prints and stronger parts, and The BOX SMALL can use a nozzle with a diameter as large as 8mm (compared to 0.4mm for a standard desktop 3D printer). When 3D printing seating that needs to hold the full weight of an adult, that extra strength is necessary.
That strength is what enables the single-line armchair designed by BLB Industries to safely hold its CEO, Cim Bergdahl. Its shape highlights how little material is really needed to produce a functional chair, and it even provides a bit of spring. The 30kg chair took only five hours to print with a 6mm nozzle. To get an idea of the impact that nozzle size has on print speed, consider that the same chair takes 13 hours to print with a 4mm nozzle. The tradeoff is that using a smaller nozzle results in smoother walls and better detail.
Blowtech AB asked BLB to make them seating for a tradeshow and they received a bar chair in the shape of the Blowtech logo. This chair demonstrates the level of customization that comes with large-format 3D printing. Like the armchair, rigidity is partly achieved through geometry, though it’s the honeycomb infill pattern that’s used to bear weight on the bar chair.
For the Arabesk chair, they demonstrated The BOX SMALL’s ability to reproduce seating of complex design. When Folke Jansson (a Swede) created the chair in 1955, the dominant mode of furniture manufacturing was geared toward making straight lines and hard angles, features eschewed by the Arabesk. Even today, new versions of the chair are difficult to fabricate using traditional methods and they cost over $2,000. But for The BOX SMALL, making a copy of the Arabesk is no big deal because curves and straight lines are no more or less difficult to produce for a 3D printer.
The BOX SMALL has a build volume of 1,500 x 1,000 x 1,000mm, so it can easily print chairs as one solid piece. It’s equipped with linear motion modules from Rexroth, meaning accuracy will never be a problem. And because it uses a pellet extrusion system, its material costs are significantly lower than 3D printers that use spooled filament. For making large, complex, and functional parts on a budget, The BOX SMALL is an ideal solution.
Images courtesy of BLB Industries