Watch the video to see how these two companies are bringing carbon fiber and metal 3D printers into the mainstream.
Aerospace engineer, innovator and three-time entrepreneur, Greg Mark, went from creating wings for race cars made of carbon fiber to redefining the way engineers are building parts made with carbon fiber. By merging carbon fiber production with 3D printing, he invented a technology that now enables engineers to 3D print high-strength production quality parts in-house in significantly less time.
Four years ago, Mark observed that 3D printers at the time could print anything you needed in plastic, but plastic is simply not strong enough for many engineering applications. By embedding long, continuous strands of carbon fiber into plastic, Markforged was born. These groundbreaking 3D printers can print parts 10 to 24 times strong than ABS alone. See the strength graph below to compare different 3D printing materials.
To quickly bring this breakthrough technology from concept to reality, efficiently design new products (such as the Metal X ) and successfully grow the company, Markforged needed a robust 3D development platform. The company chose SOLIDWORKS®, acquiring SOLIDWORKS 3D design software and SOLIDWORKS Premium design and analysis software, and more recently implementing the SOLIDWORKS PDM product data management (PDM) system.
Choosing SOLIDWORKS was a no-brainer for Mark. When selecting a 3D CAD system, he noticed that SOLIDWORKS is beautifully packaged with extremely powerful design capabilities and is easy to learn. Four years later, SOLIDWORKS 3D software and Markforged 3D printers are still working together to create state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing technology that improves product quality and workflow efficiencies, while reducing project costs and development time.
Optimizing designs for performance faster
During the development of the Mark X, the company’s largest, most advanced 3D printer with accuracy of within 50 microns, engineers needed to double the size of the printer’s build platform, maintain its strength, and avoid displacement — all while reducing weight.
The build platform needed to be much stiffer, with deflection of less than three microns under load. Running displacement analyses with SOLIDWORKS Simulation allowed them to use different pocketing schemes to reduce the weight until they found the best combination of stiffness and weight.
“We were able to gain this insight in minutes versus hours and produce a build platform that is twice as big and twice as stiff, yet weighs about the same as previous versions,” acclaimed Bennett Wilson, the senior mechanical engineer at Markforged.
Supporting and managing data in the midst of rapid growth
By 2016, it was time to implement an intelligent data management system that could keep up with the organization and engineering staff’s growth. Revision controls, formalized workflows and data management tools allowed the company to take a more collaborative approach to development.
“SOLIDWORKS PDM is an invaluable tool for us,” Wilson stated. “As the number of products and engineers continues to grow, it’s too easy to have the wrong version of something land in the wrong person’s hands. SOLIDWORKS PDM ensures that we’re always working on the right version and can collaborate more frequently and effectively.” This is especially beneficial when working with vendors. There’s only one version of something that gets in their hands, and more importantly, it means it’s the right version!
Accelerating the development of a 3D printer that prints itself
Supporting an iterative workflow, SOLIDWORKS sustained designing and prototyping concepts – sometimes up to five times in a single day – at Markforged. They next took self-sufficiency to another level by taking the design from SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing that part for a different 3D printer, all in-house. This allowed the 3D printer to print parts of itself, which aided in cutting hardware development time from the traditional 12 to 18-month timeframe to less than six months.
“In our market, it’s all about speed — about efficiently getting to the right design,” Mark explains. “It’s not just about designing quickly, but about making prototypes, refining the design and making modifications without burning time or money. SOLIDWORKS gives us unbelievable speed, precise accuracy and a stable development platform for making design changes. In short, SOLIDWORKS helps us reach the optimal design in less time.”
With the addition of SOLIDWORKS software solutions, Markforged was able to:
- Invent continuous carbon fiber 3D printing technology
- Cut hardware development time to less than six months
- Improve 3D printing accuracy to within 50 microns
- Realize explosive growth in its first four years
The Markforged mechanical engineering revolution isn’t over yet. Keep your eyes peeled for the Metal X coming this fall. This machine will print fully functional metal parts in under 24 hours and is up to 10 times less expensive than alternative metal additive manufacturing technologies available today.
Come check out SOLIDWORKS 3D software
and Markforged 3D printing technology!
Test out SOLIDWORKS 3D design software at an upcoming SOLIDWORKS Hands-On Test Drive event, or visit a Markforged 3D printing open house to see a Markforged machine in action at a location near you!