We had a chat with MX3D.
MX3D is a five-year old Amsterdam-based metal 3D print service that specializes in unusual custom projects. We’re told they now number around 15 staff.
You’ve likely seen some of their widely-publicized projects, including their most notable project, a fully 3D printed pedestrian bridge. They do a lot of “moon shot” style projects, but unfortunately, they are not permitted to talk about most of them publicly.
Wire Arc Manufacturing
Their technology is a combination of robotic arms and a DED (Direct Energy Deposition) 3D printing process. In their system, called “Wire Arc Manufacturing”, or “WAM”, a metal wire is gradually pushed into a high-energy electric arc. The arc melts the wire, which is then quickly deposited in the right location in 3D space by the robot arm. By timing the deposition and energy precisely, the melted metal can be made to solidify quickly enough to form solid 3D shapes.
The results are a bit rough, if compared to typical thermoplastic 3D printers, but the intention of MX3D is to produce large-sized custom parts that have little need for fine surface finishes.
In specific applications where smooth surfaces are required on a portion of the surface, MX3D is able to CNC mill that surface smooth.
Arc Bike II
We saw a couple of their projects, and one was this bicycle. As you can see it’s a curious design and with a rather rough surface, as is the style from MX3D. However, there’s an interesting story behind this project.
The precise dimensions of the bicycle were determined by an analysis of the intended rider. Then, sophisticated software converted the rider’s dimensions into a bicycle design that would perfectly fit that rider.
Essentially this is a custom bicycle 3D printed on demand. Apparently the bicycle was produced in only four days, and that’s pretty quick. However, the bicycle is not going to be highly performing, as the weight of the metal isn’t exactly optimum. Nevertheless, the concept has been proven.
They call it the “Arc Bike II”, and this is the project video:
3D Printed Robot Arm
Another project MX3D has recently undertaken was the re-engineering of a robot arm, as shown at top. The original robot arm weighed a huge 150kg. The design was remade using FEA techniques into a complex, but just-as-well-performing design that was easily 3D printable by MX3D.
The replacement part was 3D printed with only 90kg of material, and after some strategic CNC milling, the final weight of the re-engineered robot arm was only 73kg, a reduction of more than half!
Here’s their video of the project:
I’ve already mentioned their 3D printed bridge project, but there was one interesting finding discovered during the course of the bridge construction.
As this was apparently one of the world’s first 3D printed bridges, it was critical to certify the safety of the structure, and thus it underwent significant testing. It was discovered that the manually applied welded joints were the weakest in the structure, meaning the WAM process itself produced quite strong components.
MX3D seems to operate as a kind of unique boutique 3D printing service, able to take on all kinds of large metal 3D printing work, particularly those projects having no precedent.
They seem to be successful, as their Amsterdam workshop now operates no less than eight robotic WAM systems, providing quite a bit of capacity for them to apply to customer needs.