A Ride with BigRep
Sometimes getting hands-on with a company means riding a bike around an exhibit floor.
BigRep has a big story to tell, and it’s an interesting one. Some of their recent big announcements are now available to customers, at least for pre-order. We caught up recently in Dallas with Frank Marangell, President of BigRep America and CBO of BigRep GmbH.
At formnext, BigRep introduced two industrial 3D printers, the PRO and the EDGE, as well as the especially interesting MXT (Metering Extruder Technology) concept. A major component of their most recent advances has been built upon fine control, much of which was enabled via a partnership with Bosch Rexroth.
“Extrusion technology is okay, but it’s slow and has its limits in geometric accuracy, reliability, and consistency; there are limits for end use,” Marangell said. “Then there’s MXT.”
He continued, “You see this control with Bosch Rexroth technology in CNC, not so much in 3D printing. It’s controlling in-situ and can feed to a manufacturing database, just like any other manufacturing equipment. We announced this in November and are now selling, and shipping soon.”
With the MXT-driven EDGE, for example, Marangell said that print times can be significantly faster.
“If you can do a six-day print in one day, it changes things. It changes the way you think about additive manufacturing,” he added.
BigRep has been keeping very busy. Much of that has been showcased through high-profile use cases. 3D printing for the big screen; the NERA e-motorbike will full 3D printed frame/seat/airless tires/suspension; airless tires for a bicycle. These airless tires have caught our attention before — and I was very curious to know more about them.
So after our chat, I set my notebook down and hopped on BigRep’s bike. I have learned it may not be the best mode of transportation through the aisles of an exhibit hall, where people aren’t always known to be at their most alert — but the ride itself was just what you’d expect from riding a bike indoors on carpet-covered-concrete.
That’s the best you could ask, really, of 3D printing: that it creates what you’d expect.
BigRep continues to push toward the expected — and they’re examining interesting avenues to do so.
“I had an epiphany. You want to work at two levels. The first is in convincing the Fords and the Boeings of the world to use 3D printing for end use. But it’s really the Boyces of the world at the bleeding edge of this transition,” Marangell said.
Boyce Technologies, which just recently became BigRep’s first commercial customer for the PRO in the US, is a testament to growth in the 3D printing mindset. The New York-based company has been increasingly embracing this technology, a turnaround for them from a subtractive-only previous thinking from founder Charles Boyce. Marangell noted that on a recent trip he saw some kiosks Boyce had made, including end-use 3D printed components, installed on the street — and that it’s installations like these that will be that real push forward.
“They started with a Studio, and now also a PRO. We just need to convince the next Charles Boyce, and the next Charles Boyce, and the next Charles Boyce. There are hundreds of companies like these, and they’re the ones we need to focus on,” Marangell said.
Of course, it has helped that Ford, Boeing and other ‘big guys’ have also been embracing 3D printing, as well.
BigRep continues to focus on materials as well, recently introducing PA 6/66. The next material “will probably be ASA,” Marangell said, adding that “nylon and ABS cover about 90% of the needs for plastics in engineerings, and then there’s the EDGE with ULTEM, PEEK, and so on. Boeing and ULTEM 9085 get all the press, but the nylon and ABS are the real everyday-type materials.”
Understanding the everyday and tuning into the needs of those on the ground in manufacturing will continue to propel 3D printing forward. BigRep is paying careful attention to control and capability — and to a strong partnership-driven strategy.