There’s been plenty on 3D metal printing to talk about over the last few years, but 2017 may be THE year of more metal – more metal printers and more structures printed in metal. I’m ready for it too – ready for a metal suit, a metal house; bring on the metal. CES 2017 saw Markforged launch their Metal X printer. That will take care of the small items, while metal mastodon MX3D finally sees their metal printing robots complete multiple, large-scale projects.
Last year we took a look at the stainless steel 3D printed bike developed by students from TUDelft and manufactured by MX3D. We mentioned the plan by MX3D to 3D print a canal bridge which is still in work but set to be installed across Amsterdam’s Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal later this year.
Their goal with the Bridge project is to show what’s possible with their multi-axis, robo-arm, 3D print technology. I told the MX3D team I need them to make me a robo-arm 3D printing (winged) body suit – THE POSSIBILITIES. Like other wise people, they dismissed my comments, but good ol’ Tim Geurtjens, CTO of MX3D, did clarify what sets them apart:
“What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘Printing Outside the box’ principle. By printing with 6-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box in which everything happens. Printing a functional, life-size bridge is of course the ideal way to demonstrate the endless possibilities of this technique.”
The large industrial robots are the beautiful, 6-axis beasts created by ABB robotics. You know, the kind you want in every room of your house to do your bidding, and then runs off to build a freakin’ bridge. ON the design side, the MX3D team is using Autodesk 3D modeling software, including Dreamcatcher for the generative design modeling and Dynamo to explore new ways of using and developing around building information modeling (BIM) data.
On the hardware side, they’re running Lenovo systems, ThinkStation P910s and the much more mobile ThinkPad P40 Yoga – I use one of these EVERY day. The videos below shows how everything comes together and, even better, has some great shots of the MX3D facility and the robots in action. (Tim looks tired in that first one!)
Their latest project is an experimental sculpture designed by Joris Laarman Lab for Design Miami/Basel, a sculptural butterfly screen I could easily see sitting majestically in my front yard causing my neighbors to question the validity of their not-3D-printed, much-to-small plastic garden gnomes. The butterfly screen is a 2×3 meter (6.5 ft x 9.84 ft) ‘double curved bronze surface based on a hexagonal cell division.’ It looks like this:
It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard or seen anything else from MX3D. They are, however, actively hiring people experienced in Rhino, Grasshopper and other 3D modeling software as well as experts in programming or metallurgy. They’re continuing toward completion of the bridge and if you want to see the latest updates and the eventual announcement definitely follow them on Twitter or Facebook.