At SolidWorks World, MarkForged released the world’s first 3D printer capable of printing with carbon fiber. As I revealed in today’s earlier post, the MarkForged Mark One prints from composite materials – as noted, in carbon fiber.
Don't Miss: Today's Electronics Bargains at Woot.com
Most 3D printers print in some plastic form. Carbon fiber is 20 times stiffer than standard ABS plastic and 5 times stronger. It also prints in fiberglass, nylon, and PLA (another commonly used plastic material). It gives you the ability to print your earliest prototype in PLA instead of the more costly carbon fiber material.
At $5,000, it is only slightly more expensive than other lower-end 3D printers. Lower-end is a relative term given that high-end machines can run $100,000 and up. The printer debuted at the SolidWorks show, but is not available for purchase yet – pre-orders start in March.
In the video, you can see two spools – one for carbon fiber, one for PLA or Nylon. Most of the samples at the booth looked to be two materials, but I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t print exclusively in carbon fiber if you chose. The printer also offers something else: a self-leveling printing bed that checks its position before each print. They call it “kinematic coupling.”
Update: Apologies, but I cannot get the YouTube video to load properly — here is the direct link:
The machine looks a bit different than many 3D printers – because it is designed with a long axis, instead of the usual square/cube shape of others, and more similar to CNC machines that are built to handle traditionally shaped parts. A little over 22 inches long, almost 13 inches deep, and 14 inches high. The longer print bed seems especially suited to one of the niche markets that Mark Forged is targeting: Prosthetics.
Greg Mark, founder, said in an interview with Popular Mechanics: “There are a bunch of people who are interested in the prosthetics side,” he says. “There’s a whole fit component. It has to fit on your body. That’s something that’s more art than science, you want to print out a whole bunch of different versions and test them out,” Mark says. “But then when you have your final version, you want to make exactly that, but really strong. [With] this printer‚ once you want to make it strong, you print it in composites.” You can read the full post: New 3D Printer by MarkForged Can Print With Carbon Fiber at Popular Mechanics.
There was always a small crowd around the machine and booth, but I wedged myself in to “ooh and ahh” like the best of them. I was able to see and handle some of the sample printed models which were mostly the same as what you see on their website – some sort of support arm for a race car. The elegant anodized aluminum case and design certainly helped get me to stop in a convention filled with 3D printers.