One of the principal limitations for most commercially available 3-D printers is their small print areas, followed closely by the fact that you can generally only print in one material at a time, restricting how complex printed objects can be. That’s why for the longest time 3-D printing was known simply as rapid prototyping–it existed to make small scale plastic models of larger, more complex objects that would later be machined, molded, or manufactured by some other method. Enter the Objet1000, a commercially available printer with a print area large enough to produce an entire bicycle frame.
The Objet1000 (produced by Stratasys Ltd., the newly-minted entity produced by the merger of Israeli 3-D print outfit Objet and Minnesota’s own Stratasys) has a build volume of roughly 40 inches by 31 inches by 20 inches, far larger than the print area of even the most generous desktop 3-D printers. Then again, as you can see in the video above, the Objet1000 is no desktop printer. At $800,000, it doesn’t retail quite like a Makerbot either.
But the Objet does do two things that are very cool (aside from printing huge objects, that is). For one, it prints in multiple materials, so you can have components made of different kinds of plastics and composites built right into the product during a single print. Moreover, it prints all objects with the same high resolution–that is, it prints large objects with the same precision as small ones, so you don’t sacrifice quality when you go big.
The idea is that with the Objet1000 designers no longer have to create scaled prototypes, but can produce 1:1 representations of the objects they want to create (as long as that object fits inside the print volume). Or, when one is feeling cheeky, ridiculously large representations of objects that are normally small: