3D printing company Markforged has become the newest member of America Makes, a private-public partnership based around promoting and advancing additive manufacturing (AM).
Founded in 2012 as a joint project between several branches of the US government (including NASA and the Department of Defense), America Makes bills itself as a “national accelerator” for 3D printing. Their main goals are advancing U.S. 3D printing technology and kickstarting the country’s manufacturing industry. They’re perhaps most famous for the “project calls” they put out to their members, to solve problems for their military or government partners. Two large recent calls were their AXIOM project to develop more precise optical equipment for the Air Force, and their Fit-to-Face challenge (hosted with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to develop printed medical masks that fit well and comfortably.
Now, Markforged will be part of the America Makes network, capable of submitting proposals to these project calls. Markforged has most recently made itself known for the Digital Forge, the world’s largest metal and carbon fiber industrial 3D printing platform. Being part of AM means that they can more easily share information and collaborate with other members of the network.
“Markforged is dedicated to reinventing manufacturing and encouraging the development of digital manufacturing technologies,” said Tony Higgins, the company’s Federal Leader . “We are constantly looking for partners who share that dedication.”
Currently, Markforged is a “silver member” of America Makes. There are three membership tiers: silver ($15K per year), gold ($50K per year), and platinum ($200K per year). Since Markforged is a silver member, they have access to benefits like member-only data and resources and the ability to respond to project calls, but not higher-tier rights like embedding employees at America Makes facilities or a governance board seat.
In the past, America Makes has come under fire for this “pay to play” model, which critics say shuts out smaller startups. While America Makes has a program that lets members replace annual memberships with credit shares in member projects that align with the network’s objectives, critics say the route to engage in the program isn’t clear enough.
Nevertheless, Markforged is enthusiastic about their membership.
“Our decision to join the America Makes network reflects that we have confidently found a partner we can unite with on our goals,” said Higgins. “Together, with America Makes, we are championing the future of American manufacturing.”
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