Considered by many in the industry, but not all, to be the inventor of continuous carbon fiber 3D printing, Massachusetts-based Markforged (NYSE: MKFG) announced the launch of two new composite materials that are designed to support aerospace and defense manufacturers, as well as others who work in extremely regulated industries. Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A, aerospace-ready versions of its Onyx FR and Carbon Fiber FR materials, are currently going through a qualification program on the company’s industrial X7 3D printer by the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP), part of Wichita State University’s National institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).
“Markforged believes in a future that is more than metal. We have long supported the aerospace industry and have parts in-flight today. There is a multi-decade trend underway to transition parts from metals to advanced composites, which are lighter and offer greater efficiencies. Our deliberate move to support innovation in aerospace mitigates risk for these manufacturers and helps get additive parts in the air faster by simplifying the part certification process,” stated Markforged President and CEO Shai Terem.
Markforged and NCAMP have been working together since early 2020, and the company was successful in finishing the difficult factory audit phase of the NIAR-approved qualification program, which is in the printing and testing phase right now and will later undergo an analysis and reporting cycle. Once the X7 qualification program of its two new composite materials is completed, Markforged will likely have the first continuous fiber-reinforced AM process qualified by NCAMP, which is one of just two bodies that’s authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to qualify materials for flight. The two expect full qualification of the materials once these processes are completed in early 2023.
By using continuous fiber reinforcement technology to print end-use parts for the aerospace market, manufacturers are able to use these lightweight yet strong composite materials to ensure shorter lead times, reduced fixed costs, and decreased investment in labor as well. Designed to meet Flame, Smoke, and Toxicity (FST) requirements for many aircraft interior parts, the new Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A materials meet NCAMP-approved specifications and also come with traceability. Cabin Management Solutions (CMS), a Markforged aerospace customer, designs and fabricates cabin management and in-flight entertainment systems for both private and business aircraft, and is working with Markforged to use a manual material traceability process to bring 3D printed end-use parts to market. In fact, the two have already printed over 100 end-use parts that are ready to be installed in planes.
“In aerospace, it’s important to have quality parts we can adapt on the fly to make any changes the customer requests. Using Markforged printers and materials offers us ways to create low-volume, high-value luxury cabin parts faster and at the point of need,” explained Jeff Pike, VP of Engineering at CMS. “This results in lower costs and accelerated lead times, and with material traceability in place, it will enable us to move even faster in our development process and free up resources to focus elsewhere.”
The material traceability will definitely help on the way to efficient FAA approval, but the new Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A materials have other great features that make them perfect for end-use applications in demanding industries, such as consistency, high strength-to-weight ratio, and excellent surface finish. Once the materials are finished with the NCAMP qualification process, aerospace and defense manufacturers will be able to access their information from the NCAMP database, in addition to proving their equivalency and giving customers more confidence.
The new Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A materials by Markforged are available on its X7 3D printer, and Onyx FR-A can also be used on the X3 and X5 systems as well. In the future, Markforged plans to launch additional traceable materials.
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