Q&A with Greg Mark on Blacksmith
What is Adaptive Manufacturing and how is it changing manufacturing?
For the last 100 years, machines have had no knowledge of what they create. They’ll happily make thousands of parts that are out-of-spec, wasting time and money. This is all about to change.
Adaptive manufacturing revolutionizes the way we make products by making the machines aware of what they produce. Artificial intelligence (AI) closes the loop between the inspection equipment and manufacturing process so machines can automatically adapt and reprogram themselves to produce perfect parts the first time, and then every time.
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Tell us more about your vision for Blacksmith and what this has to do with self-driving cars.
In the last decade, we’ve seen the rise of self-driving cars — where a few sensors and strong AI, make the car aware of its surroundings, and enable it to perform the complete task of getting you from point A to B.
Blacksmith will transform manufacturing just like self-driving cars are already revolutionizing our daily transportation. The machines that make products have been the same for years, and are utterly incapable of completing their job without a human to watch over them. In the same way, AI is enabling cars to pilot themselves, AI will enable factories to run themselves.
Blacksmith is Markforged’s AI software and the enabling technology behind Adaptive Manufacturing. With a continuous feedback loop, Blacksmith learns from previous part production so parts become more accurate and precise each time. The intelligent software analyzes a design, compares it to scanned part data captured from inspection equipment, and dynamically adapts the end-to-end process to ultimately produce perfectly in-spec parts.
Blacksmith will ultimately reduce the cost of everything you buy — making the world's factories more efficient, just as the introduction of the assembly line did. This productivity bump will help bring manufacturing back to a lot of countries where labor costs had previously pushed it away.
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How will Blacksmith shape the future of Adaptive Manufacturing?
There are a few changes Blacksmith will make when it comes to adaptive manufacturing.
- Blacksmith will save millions of dollars for manufacturers and consumers alike. Better and more predictable part outcomes mean a step-change in factory efficiency: higher yield, less waste, and major cost savings for everything the factory produces. It will, in turn, raise the standard of living for humanity while stimulating the economy. At the same time, Blacksmith will reduce waste to enable a sustainable future.
- Blacksmith will usher in a new era in 3D printing metal. One of the key challenges in getting successful part outcomes with the latest generation of metal 3D printing technologies is predicting and compensating for the variability introduced by the sintering process. Every time a part is printed and sintered, Blacksmith learns more about how 3D printed metal is made and applies that learning to every future print.
- Blacksmith will quickly become the global manufacturing expert. Where Adaptive Manufacturing becomes incredibly powerful is combining AI and cloud-based technologies for all manufacturing, not just 3D printing. This enables us to connect all machines in factories around the world, meaning Blacksmith can learn at the speed of global production. This is dramatically different to how manufacturing processes are tuned today — often at the machine or factory level. Eventually, Blacksmith will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t work in 3D printing. Blacksmith will then become the expert in other manufacturing processes like CNC machining. When deployed at scale, it will quickly become the expert in all manufacturing technologies.
What’s behind the name Blacksmith?
There’s the obvious nod to the metalworking trade and metallurgy, as well as our focus on metal 3D printing. Blacksmiths were known for precision and mastery, and that’s what Blacksmith will bring to manufacturing. Just like blacksmiths improve their trade over a lifetime of learning, Markforged’s Blacksmith uses machine learning to build expertise, all in a fraction of the time. As our vision came together to deploy artificial intelligence to solve this challenge, the name made even more sense.
When will this be available?
The initial release of Blacksmith will be available later this year. We’ll first bring this technology to Markforged 3D printers, but our vision will extend Blacksmith to every machine in the factory. You can sign up here to stay in the loop.
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