Today’s metal 3D printers are the mainframe computers of manufacturing. They are large, slow, and expensive ($500k -1M). In the same way mainframes were disrupted by cloud data centers, large-format metal printers will be replaced by smaller, low cost machines working in parallel - print-farms. Markforged’s Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM) process for printing metal unlocks a new era of metal parts production. 3D metal print-farms will shorten development time, closing the gap between prototyping and production.
The Keys to 3D Metal Print-Farms
1. ADAM (Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing)
An end-to-end process that fundamentally scales down in cost, built on our existing reinforced extrusion technology.
2. 3D print farm platform
High-precision, low cost, printer instances enabled through smart sensors.
3. Fleet management software
Enterprise grade software which can optimize workflows, provide predictive analytics, connect, monitor, and report results across a fleet of connected printers.
At Markforged we are working to push each technology front forward with the goal of unlocking printed metal production at scale within 2 years.
Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing
ADAM is an end-to-end process that starts with metal powder, captures it in a plastic binder (which makes it safe to handle), and then forms it into the part shape one layer at a time. After printing you sinter the part in a furnace, burning off the binder and solidifying the powder into the final fully-dense metal part.
Printing the Form
The part creation process builds on our existing carbon fiber reinforced extrusion technology — where micro strands of carbon fiber are bound in plastic. In the case of ADAM printing, 60% metal powder is substituted in place of the carbon fiber. The Metal X is the first step down the print farm path — an industrial quality ADAM machine built on our 4th generation printing platform. This printer will solve the hard problems — machine reliability, surface finish, final-part dimensional accuracy, and repeatability. Its designed from the ground up to reliably shape beautiful metal parts.
Thermally sintering parts is well-established in the Metal Injection Molding (MIM) industry to create end-use parts for medical, aerospace, and consumer applications. The sintering step burns off the plastic binder and causes the metal powder to diffuse together into 99.7% dense metal. Sintering furnaces start under $30K and process parts into their finished state overnight. A full stack production furnace runs $800k and is designed to keep up with an injection mold - so it can handle the part output of a 500-1000 unit print farm.
ADAM leverages well known MIM materials that are used in demanding, end-use applications. Best of all, the process supports hundreds of metals. 17-4 stainless steel is the first material we will ship, but many others are in beta testing including tool steels, titanium, aluminum, and inconel.
We have spent the last 4 years building out a comprehensive cloud-based fleet management solution called Eiger. There are thousands of Markforged printers churning out parts all over the world — all running with full telemetry, error monitoring, feedback, and analytics. Think of it like a distributed print farm. At Markforged, we run over 100 printers in parallel. Half are dedicated to producing parts for developing our new printers. 30 run long-term cycle testing, and 20 are used in operations to manufacture sample parts — about 6.5k parts per month.
Bringing Manufacturing into the Digital Age
Humans have been pouring metal into molds for five thousand years. Now we have a better way. In the next 2 years Markforged will achieve the technological leap to true digital metal manufacturing. The digital age transformed every other industry known to man — music, photography, writing, telecom, email, the internet. But manufacturing is largely the same as it was in the 50s. It’s time for mechanical engineering to enter the digital age.
― Greg Mark, founder & CEO