I caught up with Cim Berghdal, co-owner of BLB Industries, last week to learn a little bit more about the Swedish 3D printing start-up that helped make our NYC pop-up shop a success.
While we were printing some items from the pop-up, BLB was simultaneously printing all ten of our designer case studies from their facility, located in the middle of southern Sweden.
A little history:
In 2014 Cim and his college classmate Jacob Lundin began designing a large 3D printer that they went on to build themselves from scraps and any components they could get their hands on at the time. Their original goal was to use the printer to make prototypes for hobby projects.
Although the process was often extremely time consuming, especially during school, they succeeded in constructing what was essentially a “proof of concept”. Their printer design attracted the interest of Tomas Burman, an experienced mechanical engineer and now co-owner along with Cim and Jacob. The prototype also gained them support from Anders Alrutz and Klas Jansson, who joined the team to help build the company and bring their 3D printer to an industrial level.
Now, operating as BLB Industries, they were able to take what they learned from their prototype and use it to create a new and improved, professional-quality 3D printer, while still maintaining two key concepts from their original idea:
1. This new printer would have a very large build volume. Much bigger than what was commonly seen on the market. This size would allow them to push the boundaries of what 3D printing can do.
2. It would print with small pellets (or granules), instead of filaments, to significantly reduce material cost. Cost of material becomes especially important when printing such large-scale objects, since each print requires an enormous amount of plastic to be completed.
And so, with those guiding principles the The Box was born.
Inside their facilities:
Cim led me around the print shop via Skype, starting with The Box itself. It’s so big you could walk right into it and close the door behind you, if you wanted. It’s currently printing a mannequin hand, which is a bit unusual, he says: they are usually printing much larger objects on The Box to really make the most out of the oversized metal print bed.
Around the side of the machine is a giant trash can full of off-white pellets with a pipe that sucks them up into the printer. These pellets only cost about 2 dollars per kilogram. Cim dunks his hand in so I can see them up close - it’s still pretty incredible to me what you can make from these tiny nuggets of plastic.
There’s also a popularly 3D printed model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull. It's significant to BLB because they were able to print it at a 1 to 1 scale in only 24 hours. The life-size model also weighs in at a solid 200 pounds! (That’s 90 kg, if you happen to live anywhere besides the United States.)
Then there’s all the furniture that was printed for the Print The Future pop-up: intricate side tables, chairs, a coffee table base shaped like arrow, and even a few of BLB’s own designs. Just by looking at this small cluster of prints, you’re able to get a sense of the designer behind each one and their unique approach to creating a piece of furniture.
What they’re printing:
Everything, really. Cim noted that they have a very diverse customer base. They’ve printed all kinds of things from furniture to implants for the human body and soon may add the European Space Agency to their list of clients. And that’s all in their first few years as a company. Cim explained:
“We’re still trying to find out which way to go, but furniture seems to be a very nice way for us.”
BLB has been printing furniture for about a year now, and Cim sees furniture becoming a huge part of the 3D printing industry in the future. That vision certainly aligns with Print The Future’s. Going to a physical store to 3D print furniture will become an affordable, quick, and - most importantly - local experience all around the world with the help of innovative companies like BLB.
Looking toward the future:
One of the most commonly cited benefits of 3D printing is that it enables designers to have so much more freedom than they’ve had in the past. But is there such a thing as too much freedom?
Cim compares the 3D printer to a lathe or a miller - what do they all have in common? They’re tools. It then becomes the responsibility of a designer to use each tool in the best way.
He knows that “just like you [would] for any method of production, you have to have certain parameters in mind, when designing for 3D printers as well”, emphasizing that we now have a responsibility “to educate people in how to actually design for a 3D printer.”
To Cim the first step is teaching people “how to think”. In doing so you create the space for anyone to turn their big ideas into reality.
Thank you to BLB for making our designer collaborations possible! Follow them on Facebook to see more of their life-sized creations.
Join us back here on the blog next week to see the second piece of 3D printed furniture in our Designer Case Study series.