Once it became clear that 3D printing was going to change the face of manufacturing, a race was on to develop the most reliable and versatile printers to a market clamoring for cost-effective ways to harness the tech. In addition to developing revolutionary materials to help produce stronger and more durable 3D printed parts, Markforged has secured its place in the market with printers that offer durability while also delivering high-quality precision parts.
In addition to offering industrial, benchtop, and desktop printers, Markforged delivers printers designed by engineers to allow engineers to create the parts they need with materials that support their products.
Essentially, 3D printing is the creation of a physical 3D structure from a CAD or digital model.
A 3D printer, through additive manufacturing, lays down layer upon layer of a design until it is complete. Each layer of the design is just a thin slice or cross-section of the final product.
Technically, additive manufacturing and 3D printing have been around for nearly 50 years, but the processes today look a bit different. 3D printers continue to evolve as new technology is developed.
For example, selective laser sintering (SLS) uses powder polymers to create the layers and then a laser fuses them together. Fused deposition modeling (FDM), on the other hand, uses a heated liquid thermoplastic that is combined layer by layer.
As a result of the technology’s remarkable evolution and how it’s applied in so many ways, the benefits of 3D printing are being realized by a wide variety of industries from aerospace to traditional manufacturing.
First, it’s really important to understand that not all 3D printing technologies work the same. In fact, there are multiple processes, all of which work differently, and a variety of printer designs that also work differently.
The race to develop cutting-edge technology that, in some way, revolutionizes the process in a way that differentiates one machine from the rest of the field continues even today. However, there are a few key processes one should know.
3D printing technology is often called additive manufacturing because it constructs 3D objects (designed with 3D modeling software like AutoCAD or SOLIDWORKS) through a process of depositing material in layers, which are then fused together. While the process is often similar, the delivery isn’t.
There are a few different types of 3D printing technologies on the market, and we’ll take a look at all of them before taking a closer look at how Markforged has adapted the technology to enable the use of new composite materials.
Utilizes a spool of thermoplastic filament pushed through a heated nozzle, melted, and deposited on a building surface or platform in position. The filament cools and then solidifies into the final product.
Utilizes ultraviolet light to turn liquid into solid. Layer by layer, the image of the object is projected into the vat of liquid where the UV light solidifies the liquid. Excess liquid is drained from the vat as part of the process until all that remains is the solid object.
Utilizes high-powered beams, usually electron or laser, to melt and then fuse powder material together. The process creates layer upon layer of fused powder until it has created the final product.
Utilizes drops of photopolymers and places them on a build platform where they are cured and fused through light exposure. The object is then built layer by layer until the final product is produced.
Utilizes a layer of powder, which then has a binding agent layered on top by printheads. The binding agent fuses and solidifies the layer, and another layer is deposited with the printheads, again traveling over it to deposit the binding agent. That process is repeated until the object is complete.
Markforged is a 3D printing company that develops the hardware, software, and materials needed to create 3D printed objects. Through modification of the fused filament fabrication process (material extrusion), Markforged was the first company to introduce continuous carbon fiber reinforcement through the introduction of a second printing nozzle.
That second nozzle allowed Markforged printers to use composite materials that are stronger than traditional thermoplastics but also opened the door for the introduction of metal printing.
As mentioned, Markforged’s printer design introduced a second printing nozzle that elevated the composite printing game. Where Markforged materials and processes really differentiate themselves is in the infill.
The exterior of the printed object, its outline, determines its shape, dimensions, and can significantly impact the performance of an object. However, infill is a bigger determinate when it comes to the performance of an object because it helps determine the strength. More specifically, infill is typically a specific shape, such as a triangle, laid out in like tiles across the interior of the object. Because of their load distribution, triangles are used most often, but other shapes are also possible.
Why does infill matter? Because this is where Markforged’s printers and composite materials shine. Utilizing materials like carbon fibers or Kevlar in infill, the Markforged printer not only reinforces the strength of the printed object but can also vastly improve other mechanical properties, like impact resistance.
In short, Markforged’s redesign of the fused filament fabrication (FFF) process to include the second nozzle introduced industry-changing composite materials to 3D printing and established the company and its platform as a leader in additive manufacturing solutions.
One of the other great strengths of Markforged is the variety of printers available for home and industrial use. It’s worth noting as well that Markforged continues to invest in its existing hardware to improve manufacturing experiences and 3D printing benefits.
After a part is designed, Eiger, which comes with all Markforged products, configures the part for both the materials and printer you’ve selected, slicing the design into the layers required for printing.
Then, the printing process can begin in one of Markforged’s seven different printers. Let’s take a look at what they’ve got.
The Metal X printer was designed specifically to enable the fast transition from design to a 3D-printed metal part. From the onset, the Metal X is responsive to design needs, ensuring the bed is ready to provide a stable surface on which to build.
The metal filament is heated and extruded through nozzles and layer by layer build the part. Unlike other metal printers, the Metal X doesn’t use a loose metal powder, meaning the process is safer and more cost-efficient. In addition to those two benefits, the Metal X also provides the following advantages:
The X series of printers are industrial size composite 3D printers designed to handle different composite materials. More specifically, the X7 works with carbon fiber, the X5 with fiberglass, and the X3 with micro carbon-filled nylon parts.
The X7 ensures:
The X5 offers:
The X3 delivers:
Like the Mark Two, the Onyx Pro and Onyx One are both desktop composite printers that offer much of the same functionality but vary on the materials they use to print. The Onyx Pro produces continuous fiberglass whereas the Onyx One utilizes Markforged’s proprietary Onyx composite.
They both offer:
You may have noticed that all of these printers boast a few of the same qualities, and those are the factors upon which Markforged has built its business and its reputation. The same characteristic of quality exists across their product line, from printers and materials to the software and applications that support them.
It’s one of the reasons TPM selected Markforged as a product to offer and service to support. Like Markforged, TPM keeps your needs in mind and can help you determine which products will best align with your goals and support your business growth. If you’re ready to add Markforged printers to your manufacturing capabilities, get in touch with TPM today.