Making Additive Manufacturing Accessible to Job Shops and SMEs
Ian Wright posted on August 21, 2017 |
Markforged introduces two new industrial 3D printers for carbon fiber.
The Markforged X3. (Image courtesy of Markforged.)
The Markforged X3. (Image courtesy of Markforged.)
As a technology, 3D printing tends to live in one of two extremes.

You have the large manufacturers—such as Boeing and Airbus—which invest in additive manufacturing for aerospace and other highly specialized parts. And then there are the 3D printing hobbyists or “makers” who essentially embrace the technology for its own sake.

Between these two extremes of million-sq. ft. factories and 200-sq. ft. garages lies a vast, largely untapped market exemplified by job shops and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Most of these local manufacturers probably aren’t planning on investing in additive technology in the near future, at least not for production.

If it’s a question of choosing between longer lead times from machining or sub-par strength from printing, most job shop owners will prefer delays over defective parts.

Enter Markforged, with two new industrial 3D printers designed for local manufacturers: the X3 and the X5. Both printers use the company’s proprietary nylon-carbon fiber composite, Onyx.

The X3 prints engineering-grade thermoplastic fiber parts at a price point of $36,990 USD, while the X5—at a price point of $49,900—is capable of reinforcing Onyx parts with strands of continuous fiberglass. According to Markforged, this makes parts 19 times stronger and ten times stiffer than traditional plastics.

In addition to these new models, the company has also rebranded its continuous carbon fiber (CCF) flagship—the Mark X—as the X7, which can print parts 23 times stronger than those made with ABS. The X7 also features in-part laser inspection for quality control at a price point of $69,000.

Markforged has also stated that job shops finding success with the entry-level X3 can leverage their initial investment to upgrade to an X5 or X7. The printers share a single software ecosystem built on a cloud-based platform.

Dixon Valve, a manufacturer of hose fittings and accessories, is one example of a company that brought its additive manufacturing in-house using Markforged printers. “Our first Markforged printer paid itself off in less than 1.5 months and saved us over 81% versus machining,” said Bill Hollingsworth, vice president of engineering at Dixon Valve. 

For more information, visit the Markforged website.

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