With New AI Platform, Markforged Claims “Largest Connected Fleet of Industrial 3D Printers”

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Markforged has announced the launch of a new cloud-based 3D printing software dubbed The Digital Forge. The software is meant to connect all of the company’s products in order to manufacture production-quality components on demand. The platform leverages machine learning to create parts, while also making it possible to circumvent supply chain issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to its new platform, Markforged announced that it has over 12,000 customers across 73 countries, which it claims is the “world’s largest connected fleet of industrial 3D printers.” These clients include such giants as Siemens, Porsche, and Microsoft. More broadly, Markforged said that the Digital Forge is being used by “the 10 biggest aerospace companies, 12 of the 14 largest automotive companies, and five of six US Armed Forces branches.” This last group includes the marines, which are exploring metal 3D printing for the production of spare parts.

H13 tool steel parts 3D printed using Markforged technology. Image courtesy of Markforged.

The Cambridge, Mass. startup was the first company to introduce continuous carbon fiber 3D printing to the industry before venturing into low-cost metal 3D printing. It also introduced a number of innovative software and hardware systems for not only enabling cloud connectivity for 3D printers, but also artificial intelligence-based design and closed-loop quality control. Now, The Digital Forge is meant to apply machine learning to fleets of printers themselves.

The Digital Forge collects data from the over 12,000 3D printers in the Markforged network and applies machine learning to correct the course of print jobs live, making it possible to produce more accurate parts. Meanwhile, the cloud-based software behind the platform is consistently updated and improved, making it possible for customers to take advantage of new developments from the company.

“Electricity was invented in 1880, but it took 40 years and the pandemic of 1918 to spark the Industrial Revolution that built our modern world,” said founder and chairman Greg Mark. “3D printing has reached a similar tipping point. We are nearing the 40th anniversary of the 3D printer (2026), and I believe the pandemic of 2020 and the supply chain disruption it has caused will usher in the next great Industrial Revolution — the era of Digital Manufacturing — and we are on a mission to put The Digital Forge in every factory on Earth as part of that revolution.”

Markforged has highlighted the fact that its 3D printing portfolio includes both metal and continuous fiber reinforcement, which truly does prime the Digital Forge for industrial applications. Therefore, as additive manufacturing becomes integrated into mainstream production environments, companies may turn to 3D printing of fiber reinforced and metal parts managed via Markforged’s new platform.

The closest competitor in that regard is Desktop Metal, a company that has a somewhat complicated past with Markforged that has led to lawsuits over the two companies’ similar approaches to desktop metal 3D printing. Markforged’s software-heavy approach to 3D printing unique materials may allow it to stand out by pre-emptively deploying solutions for repeatability, quality control and fleet management for its hardware. While Desktop Metal has recently announced its own simulation-based quality control software, Markforged has been deploying AI-based quality control mechanisms since at least 2019. With Markforged founder Greg Mark shifting from CEO to chairman of the board, it will be interesting to see just what direction the company takes next.

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