The MX3D robot arm extrudes steel with 360-degree articulation.
The chair shown above was 3D printed -- not in plastic, but in stainless steel. "It was born out of frustration with the limitations in existing printers," says Amsterdam-based furniture designer Joris Laarman, 34.
To create the Dragon chair (shown viewed from above), Laarman worked with materials researchers at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia to develop the multi-axis MX3D printer. The machine combines an MIG (metal inert gas) welding machine with a robotic arm. "By adding small amounts of molten metal at a time, we are able to print lines in mid air without support," Laarman says. As the arm is flexible -- not fixed to an axis like the heads of most small 3D printers -- it allows the designer to create complex shapes.
Laarman's ultimate aim, he says, is to "get 3D printing out of the world of funny little gadgets". His lab is already in conversation with construction companies and shipyards about uses for the device, and Laarman is working with Autodesk to bring it to market. "This is still unexplored territory," he adds. "But we think digital fabrication has to scale up to grow up."