Gigantic Metal 3D Printer Announced

By on April 25th, 2022 in news, printer

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The enormous PHOTON 4000G metal 3D printer [Source: BFW]

Bharat Fritz Werner announced a new metal DED 3D printer, the truly massive PHOTON 4000G.

Bengaluru-based BFW and their subsidiary M2NXT are long-time producers of manufacturing gear for factories, including CNC machines, lathes, five-axis equipment and much more. Now they’ve added a rather large 3D printer to their product catalog.

The PHOTON 4000G is a laser direct energy deposition device, meaning there is a toolhead equipped with a powerful laser. The laser melts the material the instant it emerges from the toolhead. As the toolhead moves around, this melted material gradually forms the final object.

But hold on, what kind of material is used in the PHOTON 4000G? DED systems typically use either a solid wire feed, or a powder jet. It turns out that the PHOTO 4000G has BOTH! The machine has two printheads, one for each mode of printing.

I’m thinking the wire feed could be easier to handle, because airborne metal powder can be quite dangerous, and for this reason almost all powder-based metal 3D printers have a sealed chamber evacuated of oxygen in which the work proceeds. In the case of the PHOTON 4000G, their build chamber can be purged with argon gas to remove oxygen.

How big is the build chamber? That’s the key feature on the PHOTON 4000G: it is a massive 3000 x 3000 x 4000 mm volume. The numbers are so big they I might as well be quoted in meters: 3 x 3 x 4m (118 x 118 x 157 inches!) The build chamber’s volume is 36 cubic meters. If you look closely in the image at top you’ll see a person for size to get an idea of this monster printer’s size.

Back to the printheads. While there are two, the PHOTON 4000G has only a single laser. The laser’s beam is split so that either printhead can be energized as required.

Also of interest is that the single laser on the PHOTON 4000G is a 6kW component. That’s vastly higher energy than is typically found on metal 3D printers, where the standard energy level seems to be 1kW. The implication is that the PHOTON 4000G might be able to print much faster, which will certainly be handy when producing extremely large objects.

The motion system on the PHOTON 4000G is a five-axis setup, allowing the printheads to move pretty much anywhere required. This enables the device to reproduce any geometry.

The extremely large build volume on this device could be quite attractive to many manufacturers. The key benefit of 3D printing is to reduce the number of parts in a system, because traditional making techniques often require simplified geometries to accommodate the tools. Many companies have drastically reduced the component counts on their projects, which in turn simplifies assembly, increases reliability through fewer failure points, reduces part administration costs, and of course, reduces weight.

Those are terrific benefits, but they can’t be fully achieved if the part is so big that it cannot be printed in one piece. That’s where the PHOTON 4000G gets interesting: its build volume is so incredibly large that huge single piece parts can be attempted. That factor alone could attract many buyers to the PHOTON 4000G.

For pricing, BFW announced the system would carry an MSRP of €1.990M (US$2.1M), which BFW said is “2.5 to 20X lower than other laser DED systems” when measured on a cost per volume basis.

The PHOTON 4000G is manufactured in India, but is being sold by BFW worldwide.


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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