2016 was a busy year for many companies in the 3D printing industry, but one of the busiest was Markforged. The US company made a name for themselves with their industrial-quality composite-material 3D printers, including the Mark One, the first-ever printer to print with carbon fiber, and the past year saw the release of their new Onyx material as well as two new printers in little over a month’s time: the industrial Mark X and the Onyx series.
Markforged’s claim to fame has always been their machines’ ability to print plastic composite parts with the strength of metal, but now the company has announced the release of a machine that prints with actual metal. Today at CES 2017, Markforged unveiled the Metal X, the first printer to leverage the company’s newly developed metal 3D printing technology: Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing, or ADAM.
ADAM prints parts layer-by-layer from metal powder contained in a plastic binder, which is removed after the print job finishes, at which point the parts are sintered into standard engineering materials. Sintering the entire part at once, according to Markforged, allows metal crystals to grow through the printed layers, giving the part exceptional strength. ADAM is fast, inexpensive, and capable of producing parts with geometries that other techniques can’t handle, such as closed-cell honeycomb infill.
“Until today, the story of metal 3D printing has been million-dollar machines that fill a room,” says CEO Greg Mark. “With the introduction of the Metal X, metal production is easier and more available than ever. Manufacturers and machine shops looking to augment CNC machining or find alternatives now have an answer.
“This revolution is not just about making metal parts – it’s also about making plastic parts from a 3D printed metal mold created in days, instead of months. Our mission is to help companies make better products, and get them to market faster.”
The Metal X printer is currently capable of printing stainless steel varieties such as 17-4 and 303, but numerous other metal materials are being developed and will be released later this year, including titanium, Inconel, and tool steel for injection molding applications. It includes the same in-process laser inspection feature that was introduced with the Mark X, allowing users to ensure part quality and dimensional accuracy before the print is finished, as well as a cloud-enabled build camera and an integrated metal material handling system. The Metal X is also fully integrated with the Eiger cloud software platform.
- Size: 575 x 467 x 1432 mm
- Build volume: 250 x 220 x 200 mm
- Inspection parameters: 50 micron beam diameter, 1 micron Z resolution
- Layer height: 50 microns
Resolution only gets higher after the parts are sintered, as well. Thanks to the Metal X’s large build volume, it’s ideal for the creation of parts for the aerospace, industrial, medical and automotive industries, among others.
The Metal X starts at $99,500 and is available for pre-order now, with shipments beginning in September. If you order now, you can apply to be in the Metal Materials Beta Program, which will give you access to Tool Steel A-2, M-2, and D-2; Aluminum 6061 and 7075; and Titanium 6AL 4V in addition to the initial two stainless steel materials. Markforged is also offering a package deal that includes the Metal X and the Mark X (normally $69,000 on its own) starting at $149,000. See the Metal X in action below: