Exploring Large-Format 3D Printing: Massivit Open House
EclipseCorp showcases its Massivit 3D printer in action.
Big Picture’s associate editors visited EclipseCorp near Columbus, Ohio, on May 15 for an open house organized by Massivit 3D. The event showcased the Massivit 1800 large-format 3D printer, offering a glimpse into how this burgeoning technology can be used by those in the 2D printing space.
On the Cutting Edge
EclipseCorp, which has a 52,000-square-foot operation, started in the mid ‘90s as a photography studio in CEO/Owner Jeff Burt’s garage. The company has since added 40 employees, plus design services, signage fabrication, wide-format digital printing, and now 3D printing, to its repertoire.
EclipseCorp frequently works with retail and restaurant clients – including large, multi-location chains – to brand their environments. When Burt saw the Massivit 3D printer in action at SGIA 2017 – and spoke with Big Picture columnist Craig Miller about his recent purchase of the machine – he decided to invest in what he felt was the future. “We feel 3D is going to be game changing in retail. Retail needs to be an experience now,” Burt said. He envisions 3D-printed displays drawing in customers to stores, many of whom might want to take selfies with the unusual displays – a phenomenon Burt noted when he took 3D-printed, six-foot-tall Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots to retail tradeshow GlobalShop this year. In addition to people coming to EclipseCorp’s booth to snap a selfie with the robots, Burt said his company walked away from the show with eight times the number of qualified leads compared to the previous year.
Although his Massivit 3D printer was installed in January and he’s just now starting to secure jobs, Burt said his other business is up 11 percent over the same time last year, which he attributed to the amount of interest – and in-person customer visits – related to the 3D printer. “People see that we are on the cutting edge,” Burt said.
Massivit’s large-format printers – the flagship 1800 version, which can print up to 70 inches tall, and the recently announced 1500 model, which is a more entry-level printer and prints up to 57 inches tall and 58 inches wide – offer unique printing capabilities.
At the open house event, the dual-head 1800 3D printer was running for the 20 or so potential buyers in attendance to see how it functions. The Massivit printers use additive printing with a proprietary photopolymer gel, which is instantly cured with UV LED during the printing process, which makes it relatively fast, as far as 3D printers go. It prints at speeds up to 13.7 inches on Z axis per hour.
There is little to no need for support structures to be printed around the final product, so there isn’t much waste of gel. It prints hollow for a lightweight finished product, with the option to fill with expandable foam – which was demonstrated at the event – for a heavier, more solid structure needed for some applications.
Massivit Application Engineer Ian Stiles-Mikl showed attendees finishing options, which included using auto body filler, primer, vinyl wraps, epoxy, polyurethane, and more.
Connecting 3D to 2D
The technology is undeniably cool, but how can a wide-format print service provider incorporate 3D printing into their business?
The presentation from Judith Vandsburger, Massivit’s director of North American sales, focused on the potential real-world applications of 3D printing in the visual communications realm – including many projects already completed by some of the users of the 65 Massivit 3D printers installed so far worldwide (fewer than a dozen of which are in North America).
Adding 3D elements to a traditionally 2D display, like a bus wrap promoting a movie, feels like an accessible idea for PSPs who are already working with vinyl vehicle wraps. Other possible applications include: retail and P-O-P displays, shows and events, theater productions, props, signage, thermoformed molds, channel letters, SEG frames, home décor, and custom furniture. Because the printed items are hollow, interior illumination is possible.
A point that both Vandsburger and Burt made at the open house event: PSPs investing in a 3D printer must be prepared to pitch creative ideas to customers to show them how to use 3D in their branding or advertising. Because the technology is so new, customers are unlikely to come in with ideas – or a budget. Most of the Massivit users’ projects featured in Vandsburger’s presentation were sold with a 60 to 75 percent profit margin, owing to the uniqueness of the 3D offerings.
In an era where personalization is king, being able to offer something that is different from the shop down the street can help reel in customers who are looking to set themselves apart from the competition.