The RAPID + TCT 2021 three-day event delivered a considerable influx of products from 3D printing companies, including Markforged’s new cloud-based software solution for its printers called Eiger Fleet. In 2021, the metal and carbon fiber 3D printer manufacturer had several production and pipeline milestones, including a new printer, software, and team expansion, coupled with the company’s new status after going public on July 15, 2021, through a SPAC merger deal with blank-check company one.
During the three-day event, Markforged showcased the capabilities of its novel Eiger Fleet. The product was created to allow manufacturers to adopt a software-first mentality by implementing disruptive AM technologies into their more traditional workflows, automating business processes, and enabling greater control and efficiency to print parts on-demand at the point of need. It is one of many products recently revealed by the Massachusetts company aiming to revolutionize the production of industry-specific components, making manufacturing quicker, simpler, and more efficient.
We recently caught up with Markforged’s Principal Product Manager, Ted Plummer, who talked us through the company’s new products, the demand for integrating AM software, and how the industry is transforming to create critical parts.
For Plummer, the new software solution was launched to accelerate the adoption of AM systems, transforming additive from a small-scale operation into a distributed global manufacturing platform.
“At its core, Eiger Fleet will offer a connected fleet so organizations can be nimble and agile in response to supply chain disruptions or different market conditions, and then share those learnings through the different connected platforms, helping companies solve problems much quicker.”
Coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for this type of software that integrates into the supply chain is huge, and Eiger Fleet offers features that Markforged’s customers had been demanding. It gives users the chance to press a button, no matter where they are in the world, and have immediate access to the AM technology they need to keep their business running, helping them securely scale their 3D printing operations and enabling a large globally connected distributed manufacturing fleet.
During the development phase, Plummer and his team worked closely with customer Vestas Wind Systems A/S. This Danish sustainable energy company is 3D printing parts and tools for wind turbines on Markforged machines. By using the new software, the business can order a part from within the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which generates a digitized Kanban inventory system. The component is then produced by the closest Markforged printer in the network.
Vestas has been beta testing Eiger Fleet and managed to reduce costs and lead times, such as the production of a marking tool necessary for blade assembly. Assembling giant windmills requires the company to make things in the field at the point of need. Using Markforged’s software and making it work is an excellent example of how to take a manufacturing technology from the factory and put it out into the world, highlighted Plummer.
At RAPID + TCT 2021 in Chicago, Plummer showcased the software’s capabilities to many customers, mainly how to use the application programming interface (API) to integrate with their system or allow customers to innovate and solve specific problems for their use case. For example, just like Vestas does, any company can now use the software to plug the API into their ERP ordering system, scan a barcode on the factory floor for a part they need to replace, and an AM platform can start printing it with no human intervention. Plummer said his team is working heavily on this kind of solution to automate business processes. Moreover, developing products in partnership with customers is ideal for Markforged to determine what they need from the AM ecosystem.
Plummer said that “identifying traditional blockers to the adoption of AM is critical for our clients to scale production and grow. In the manufacturing industry there are still many big firms that have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with additive. To counter that, we offer a set of tools that are going to make it more approachable for them to get a solution that they can understand, that they can plug into their existing business systems and deploy.”
Eiger Fleet is not just for solving prototype problems, Plummer went on. Instead, Markforged foresees businesses using it to solve a one-off problem in extremis by building fully digital manufacturing processes around cloud-connected data.
“We are creating the tools to enable the AM transformation of the manufacturing industry, which will provide greater flexibility to the supply chain.”
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