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February 26, 2014
Berlin-based BigRep wants to make your next piece of furniture on a 3D printer. When employees of the company attended the 3D Printshow in New York earlier this month, furniture wasn’t the focus, according to COO and co-founder Rene Gurka. After all, they had an industrial-sized industry changer to show off, a 3D printer made with “open-sourced Maker Bot technology that’s been supersized” which can churn out customized, 48-cubic-foot pieces of plastic.
Table Designed by Exploration Architecture with BigRep Printer

Sideboard designed and fabricated with BigRep Printer.

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Table by Exploration Architecture

Table designed by Exploration Architecture with the BigRep Printer, based on the adaptive growth patterns of trees and bones.

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BigRep Printer

The BigRep ONE printer. Full technical specs are available on the BigRep site.

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Organic table design by Exploration Archtecture

Another table designed by Lukas Oehmigen with the BigRep Printer, which was shown as part of the Designing with Nature show at the Architecture Foundation London.

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Close up of organic table design

Advanced computer programs and 3-D printing allow for complex pattern replication in the finished product.

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Bucket created with BigRep Printer

A solid bucket created with the BigRep Printer.

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Table Designed by Exploration Architecture with BigRep Printer

Sideboard designed and fabricated with BigRep Printer.

It took requests and inquires from the public for Gurka and his team to fully realize the potential the BigRep One had to make custom furniture, like a sideboard, and change the market.

“We gave the printer to the market to see what people would use it for,” says Gurka, “and people picked it up immediately.”

Gurka believes it’s the pure size of the machine, as well as the cost (the ONE runs around $40,000, as opposed to $400,000 for some competitors) that will help make it truly disruptive to the industry. The company already has plans to collaborate with designer Werner Aisslinger on a piece later this year, but it’s the effect on smaller makers and designers that could make the most significant difference.

“We’re going to be disruptive,” says Gurka. “People should be able to customize objects. Think about it—with our machine, printing one is the same cost per unit as printing 500. This could get rid of pollution and shipping containers being shipped around the world. So many designers have ideas that haven’t made it into production. Maybe this helps them start their own business. It gives people more chances, especially young designers.”

Architectural and landscape models are also possible, says Gurka, and he even tossed out a scenario where 3D printers could be drafted to make replacement parts for vintage automobiles. It’s an open frontier, according to Gurka, and it’s the unexpected ideas that make the industry so exciting.

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