When the world first started to learn about 3D printing, many saw the technology as something small, a tool for printing plastic trinkets. This was not necessarily true — the printers were capable of creating many more useful items, such as anatomical models, educational aids, and prototypes — but 3D printing was known to many as something small in scale. This is no longer the case. Advances in materials available for additive manufacturing have meant that end-use parts can be printed more frequently, and thanks to the increasing number of large-format 3D printers, even large parts can often be printed in one piece.
Large-format 3D printers cause a stir
Early manufacturers of large-format 3D printers included companies such as BigRep, WASP, and Cincinnati. Those companies were revolutionary in the giant machines they produced, causing a stir in industries, including manufacturing, aerospace, and construction. Not only could large end-use parts be produced in one piece, but so could sizable prototypes and tooling, greatly reducing the amount of time and money required to produce those same parts conventionally.
The latest company to join the large-format club is UltiMaker, the company that formed from the merger of Ultimaker and MakerBot in 2022. The Method XL 3D printer has a build volume of 305 x 305 x 320 mm and is designed to print large, complex parts in engineering-grade materials such as ABS-R and ABS Carbon Fiber. UltiMaker describes it as bridging the gap between desktop and industrial 3D printers due to its accessibility and affordability in addition to industrial performance.
Image courtesy of UltiMaker
|The Method XL large-format 3D printer is the only one in its price range with a heated chamber and heated build plate, according to UltiMaker.|
“UltiMaker’s mission is to grow the adoption of 3D printing in manufacturing. We saw that there was a lack of production-level industrial capabilities in more accessible and easy-to-use 3D printers,” said Nadav Goshen, CEO at UltiMaker. “With Method XL, we believe we are bringing customers the best 3D-printing solution in the market for engineering applications. Method XL is the only 3D printer in its price class with a heated chamber and heated build plate to print large and accurate parts with injection molding plastics like ABS. With the ability to print larger parts, customers can achieve greater output and efficiency, making Method XL an excellent choice for those looking to take their 3D printing to the next level.”
Heated chamber optimized for ABS
The heated chamber can reach up to 100°C and is optimized for printing with ABS, which tends to be difficult to print on desktop printers because of its tendency to warp and deform. Method XL also prints with RapidRinse, a fast-dissolving water-soluble support material. The printer syncs directly with the company’s CloudPrint software.
MethodXL has an open materials platform and is compatible with a range of materials. It features the LABS Experimental Extruder originally developed by MakerBot. The extruder allows users to print with dozens of custom print settings. Materials currently available through the LABS program include:
- Jabil SEBS, a soft material with flexible, rubber-like properties;
- Polymaker PolyMax PC, a polycarbonate material that combines strength, toughness, and heat resistance;
- Lehvoss PAHT 9891, a carbon-fiber-reinforced nylon able to withstand high temperatures.