In the summer of 2012 Windham Graves received a grant from the FSU Research Foundation to design, build, and test a large-scale 3D printing system. The goal is to create a robust, modular, multipurpose platform for use in material research, experimental form generation, and human-scale art making. Since its inception, MMAP has been a core element of formLab at FAR.
The MMAP is essentially a very large format 3D printer: the print envelope measures ~8x6x4 feet, a volume of 192 cubic feet or nearly 5.5 cubic meters. We have experimented successfully with a wide variety of materials from cement and ceramics to various plastics.
We started with an oversize Shopbot brand CNC machine, selected for it’s robustness, open control language, and price point. We developed and have been continually reworking an in house slicer for .STL files (Triangles to Paths) with the specifics of our uses in mind.
The bed (z-axis) Is a standard industrial lift with an Arduino used to interface with the hydraulic pump and valving. This is a work in progress as error correction and precision placement with hydraulics provides quite the challenge.
The printer heads are interchangeable with a swap time of less than a few hours. The hardware and software have been developed specifically to support this sort of freeform testing and experimentation. Insofar we have had successful runs with both large scale plastic extrusion, a wet concrete process, and a ceramic/ paste extrusion process. Our goal is to repurpose off the shelf components as opposed to custom from both a price standpoint and reliability/replaceability.
The greatest volume of printing done so far was a set of ABS plastic sculptures for Michael Rees; an excellent challenge for both him and our hardware.