Markforged came into the additive business in 2013 looking to transform industries using 3D manufacturing. They use their suite of technology including Continuous Fiber Reinforcement, Simulation, and Blacksmith to achieve this today. Let us take a closer look at what these technologies are and how they augment manufacturing.
Markforged offers various materials and reinforcement fibers to choose from based on customer needs.There is TPU available for printing custom gaskets and washers, PLA for colorfully organized prototypes, Nylon for cosmetic or simple application parts, ULTEMTM for aerospace application and finally, their trademark material, made with chopped carbon fiber filled nylon called Onyx. Onyx itself is available in three forms, the regular kind, the fire-retardant Onyx FRTM, and the static-dissipative onyx ESDTM. Continuous Fiber reinforcements are like rebars in concrete for the base materials offered. Depending on the application of your part, you can choose from carbon fiber, Kevlar, or fiberglass to get that extra out of your Markforged parts. Onyx based Carbon fiber reinforced parts can have a flexural strength of 540MPa which is higher than commonly used Aluminum alloy. It also can attain a comparable flexural rigidity of 60 GPa. The Kevlar based Aramid Fiber can be used to produce almost fracture resistant parts when used with Onyx due to the high energy absorption and toughness capabilities. And then there is fiberglass for intermediate applications requiring stronger parts than the limiting ABS material.
After the material has been selected and a design has been created, Markforged can help reduce the time it takes for a customer to get from there to a successful part in hand. Traditionally, it is hard to evaluate aFDM printed without testing because of variables such as layer adhesion and print orientation, etc. This meant parts were always over-engineered and multiple test cycles were required before they were approved for use. Using Simulation to validate the part design for strength and optimize the continuous fiber layout takes away the multiple print-test cycles required before deploying a part into the field. For a company, this is savings in terms of lead times, materials, and workflow input. Simulation works like any other FEA software where you indicate the anchor point and loads before using the software to estimated eflections or factor of safety of the part. Markforged Simulation then allows the user to select different orientations based on requirements between faster print time or a stronger part.
Manufacturing of any kind involves processes and steps that if not quality checked can results in parts that are not within the tolerances of design parameters. Blacksmith is an automated inspection and quality control tool from Markforged that leverages AI to get you the right part every time. Using an especially calibrated bed and integrated laser micrometer scanning, Blacksmith can do a layer-by-layer fiber placement verification instead of an expensive destructive testing. These scans can be customized to find the balance between print time and scan density. Once a build is prepared and locked-in, any changes to the build is automatically tracked online for future records. Also, the in-software data visualizations help view specific measurements of each point captured for a detailed look at the part at various resolutions.An effective application of this feature would be to manufacture tight go/no-go gauges that traditionally take longer lead times verification. Blacksmith ensures every part is exactly as designed, anywhere in the world, on all your printers.
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