White Paper

Why Large-Format Printing Matters

In this report, we look at how inhouse large-format 3D printing with the Form 3L stacks up against other methods of production, chiefly outsourcing and using FDM printers.

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  1. Introduction
  2. In-House 3D Printing Compared to Outsourcing
  3. Large-Format SLA Compared to FDM
  4. Printing Large Parts Compared to Joining Several Small Parts Together


As demand for additive manufacturing continues to grow, users often run into the problem of having to create prints which exceed the build volume of a desktop 3D printer. When a project requires a larger print than the build volume of a small-format fused deposition modeling (FDM) or stereolithography (SLA) printer, traditionally, there were only a few established options available:
  1. Outsource parts to a service bureau.
  2. Use small format in-house printers and assemble multiple parts.
  3. Upgrade to a large-format FDM machine to print the entire part.
The arrival of the Form 3L fundamentally changed the status quo in 3D printing by offering a complete large-format solution at the fraction of the cost of traditional, industrial 3D printers. The Form 3L provides businesses the flexibility to print a wider range of part sizes and achieve higher throughput while maintaining the part quality and ease of use that professionals and businesses demand. This report will compare investment in the Form 3L to the three popular options mentioned above.

So, when it comes to 3D printers, how large is “large-format”? Large-format 3D printers today generally offer 25-30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) cuboid build space, compared to the 15-20 cm (5.9-7.9 in) dimensions common in desktop 3D printers. In practical terms and as we’re thinking in three dimensions, this means the build volume is often three to five times larger than a standard desktop printer. To visualize this size, a large-format printer can print a full-sized bicycle helmet in one piece.

These benchtop large-format 3D printers can create full-scale prototypes, models, and production parts for a wide variety of applications and industries.

Examples of what large-format printers can create:
  • Engineering: Full-size looks-like and functional prototypes so teams can test and validate a more realistic model.
  • Healthcare: Full-size anatomical models in one print so medical professionals can better prepare for surgeries and procedures.
  • Manufacturing: Full-size molds for rapid tooling and large jigs and fixtures that don’t require assembly.
There are 3D printers on the market that go well beyond the sizes mentioned above, but these are limited to industrial 3D printers, where prices skyrocket, complexity increases, and facility requirements become stringent.

As mentioned earlier, there are industrial 3D printers on the market with similar performance metrics to the Form 3L, but with these printers, prices skyrocket, as does the complexity of operating the machines. In this white paper, we compare in-house large-format printing on the Form 3L to other methods of producing similar parts.

1. In-House 3D Printing Compared to Outsourcing

The main reason businesses choose to outsource is that purchasing a variety of machinery to produce the multitude of parts in a product often requires substantial investment, a dedicated location, and expertise to operate the machines. This can be avoided by outsourcing these large parts and having them shipped to your business. That said, in-house printing comes with multiple significant benefits over outsourcing with a service bureau.
In this section, we will cover three of the main benefits of in-house large-format 3D printing:
  • Reducing costs in the long term.
  • Increasing innovation through truly rapid iteration.
  • Being able to address and shield your business from supply chain shocks.

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