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AMS Spring 2023

Markforged 3D Printing PLA Filament Expands the Digital Forge

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Massachusetts-based Markforged (NYSE: MKFG), which went public via a SPAC deal last year, has added a new material to its portfolio with the launch of Precise PLA. This specialized version of the commonly used AM prototyping material PLA, or polylactic acid, is said to make it possible for users to create more affordable designs on the company’s integrated metal and carbon fiber additive manufacturing platform, the Digital Forge. The company now offers a total of 28 industrial-grade AM materials, including copper, stainless steel, and other metals, aerospace-ready composites Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A, fiberglass, carbon fiber-filled ESD nylon, and more, offering properties and qualities like temperature and impact resistance, high stiffness, and excellent surface finish. Now, affordability can be added to the list, as it’s one-third the price of Markforged’s specialized Onyx materials at $50/600 cc.

With the addition of this cost-effective material, the Digital Forge platform can now be used for the complete product lifecycle, all the way from design validation to end-use applications that require the company’s strong 3D printed metal and carbon fiber-reinforced parts. Affordable designs can be printed for validation and prototyping purposes on the Digital Forge using Precise PLA, as well as aftermarket repair and critical components for the automotive, aerospace and defense, and healthcare industries using stronger materials.

“An affordable material devoted to design validation was a top request from our customers to deliver a uniform and smooth print on the Digital Forge from the beginning to the end of the product life cycle. The growth and adoption of the Digital Forge depends upon our ability to address our customers requests and introduce new capabilities that grow our addressable market,” said Markforged President and CEO Shai Terem. “This added dimension of versatility will expand the use cases our customers can address with the Digital Forge, and drive adoption in segments such as education and design services thanks in part to the lower cost of entry.”

Thanks to updates to Markforged’s Eiger software, the Digital Forge has been calibrated to 3D print repeatable, quality parts using Precise PLA, which is available in red, green, yellow, orange, blue, grey, white, and black. This material release means that companies, like Michigan-based injection molding and machine shop Zero Tolerance LLC, should only have to use one platform to cover the requirements for their parts.

“When using other 3D printers and PLA materials, the results were not as precise as required, even after multiple iterations. Printing parts to the size and quality we need, with the required functionality and at a great price point is critical for our business. Once design validation using Precise PLA is completed, we move to production with Markforged’s Onyx material for functional testing, followed by printing with continuous carbon fiber for added safety for our final, end-use part,” explained Zero Tolerance President and CEO Steve Michon. “With this new material, we can now utilize our Markforged printer to deliver great results repeatedly throughout the entire design and manufacturing process. This is the most reliable additive platform we’ve ever used. It just works.”

With the addition of Precise PLA, Zero Tolerance was able to use the Digital Forge to take an end-use motorcycle display adapter all the way from a concept piece to the final product. The company also uses the Digital Forge to make fiberglass-reinforced assembly tools, 3D printing color-coded tool identification inserts out of Precise PLA and using Markforged’s high-strength, continuous carbon fiber composites to print the tools themselves.

Starting on March 15th, the new Markforged Precise PLA material will be available to order, and will initially be compatible with the next-generation Onyx Pro and next-generation Mark Two 3D printers. In Q2 of this year, Precise PLA should also be available on all of the company’s Industrial Series 3D printers—including the X3, X5, and X7—that have been equipped with the latest A3648 extruder.

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