»To simply specialize will not be enough«
Interview: Thomas Masuch, Photos: BigRep - 05/01/2019
Stephan Beyer, PhD, is co-founder and CEO of BigRep GmbH, a global leader of large-scale 3D printers. Beyer initially served as the German company’s CFO, and since its 2014 founding, he has been a driving force behind the company’s strategic development, partnerships with global enterprises and global expansion into North America and Asia. We talked to him about the future plans of the Berlin-based company.
At Formnext, you presented new MXT technology and the BigRep PRO and EDGE printers. Are these machines BigRep’s response to the industry shifting its focus to the industrial manufacturing market?
BEYER: This is more than just a response. It’s us redefining the large-scale additive manufacturing market. The new MXT technology—our proprietary development—delivers the type of innovation that the industry has been waiting for; as this groundbreaking MXT system makes our new printers five times faster, when compared to current extrusion speeds, in the FFF market. The EDGE surpasses that with speeds of up to 1,000 mm/s using a 0.6 mm nozzle, enabling engineers and designers to create functional prototypes, composite tooling, and end-use parts.
»We have always followed an integrated and strategic approach.«
Over the past few years, AM market players, both manufacturers and users, have become much more professional. How has BigRep changed during this time and what developments have you experienced in your customer base, R&D projects and applications?
BEYER: All of this is reflected in our company development. Our customer base, however, has been defined by industry clients from the start, also thanks to our investors Köhler, Körber and BASF and partners such as Bosch Rexroth, Etihad Airways, Ford, Deutsche Bahn, among others.
In the past year, AM-focused applications and R&D projects have shifted to our central focus. An example is our Adaptive Robotic Gripper, which we presented at Formnext. The gripper—capable of handling objects of any shape— was created on the BigRep STUDIO printer and is mounted on a robotic arm. The bionic design of the robotic finger tips was inspired by the lamellae of geckos, an evolutionary advantage that helps them scale walls; each finger has an additional pad made of flexible lamellae for enhanced grip in industrial work environment.
Today, many manufacturers offer full solutions for the whole production process – from filaments to services. What is BigRep’s strategy?
BEYER: We have always followed an integrated and strategic approach. First, as a rule, we start by analyzing the specific application together with the customer; secondly, we facilitate the selection or development of the print materials and the machine; and only then, do we present a full, 3D printing performance system to be used in AM. Integral to our integrated approach is a full-service technical customer support, based on local networks around the world, including continuous training and user-oriented webinars, as well as the BigRep Academy. In addition, NOWLAB, our in-house innovation lab and consultancy, offers comprehensive consulting, for customized client-focused solutions.
At Formnext, we saw new companies enter the market, resulting in more competitive prices for printers in the large-scale industrial printer space.How has BigRep reacted to this trend? Do you think that specialization will become even more important in the future?
BEYER: Well, to simply specialize will not be enough. With any industrial application, technical reliability, precision and quality (i.e. iteration performance) are the key factors. You cannot change those key metrics by lowering prices. In addition, high-performance materials play a decisive role. On this front, BigRep has already delivered—we’ve set a new standard for the industry.
Looking a the future of large-scale 3D printing – what industries and applications do you predict will have the biggest growth and development in the future?
BEYER: We see applications primarily in the automotive industry, mobility, mechanical engineering, the medical sector, consumer products and aerospace. Our partner Etihad Airways Engineering, for example, will deploy a BigRep ONE 3D printer in its Maintenance, Operations and Repair facility at the Etihad home base in Abu Dhabi. The printer will be used in daily operations to print jigs, fixtures and (non-flying) parts on site and on demand. Its arrival highlights the first phase in a partnership between BigRep and Etihad Airways Engineering established earlier this year, and will be followed by deploying the next-generation industrial 3D printer BigRep EDGE, with the aim to jointly develop, test and certify new materials for 3D-printed aircraft cabin parts.