This is a guest contribution by Vasilii Kiselev, Founder and CEO at Top3DGroup
American company Markforged released an improved version of its Metal X FDM 3D printer that produces polymer-metal shapes. The company also updated its Next Day Metal software and announced the Field Edition of the X7 3D printer that prints thermoplastic reinforced with continuous fiber.
Metal X Gen 2
The first newcomer is the second generation of the specialized FDM system named Metal X that produces polymer-metallic shapes. The binding polymer is removed after printing and the shapes are made into full-metal products of high density.
The second generation of Metal X is an upgrade that features many small but useful refinements, including a new 7-inch touchscreen, door sensors that increase safety, and improved print chamber thermal isolation.
When asking about possible use cases, the company mentions Scottish printing services provider Angus 3D Solutions (that works with the oil-gas sector apart from other industries) that was tasked to produce several specialized tight-clearance wrenches in a short time. The amount of time was small enough prototyping and traditional manufacturing of the wrenches was either impossible or at least very expensive. 3D printing a prototype took just 2-3 days instead of a couple of weeks. And the company also saved around $25,000 of shipping costs.
The users of the original 3D printer will not be ignored. Apart from upgrading the machine, the company continued to update software as well: Next Day Metal was updated to the newest version, and now the users of the original 3D printer can manufacture at higher speeds without upgrading. Improved efficiency is solely the result of improved positioning and extrusion speed without compromising on the resolution.
According to Paulina Bucko, Head of Communications at Markforged, they decided to experiment with speeds to test their theories about the correlation of speed and quality. They found out that the speed can be improved without compromising on surface quality. The software upgrade allowed the users to get improved efficiency without compromises.
The last thing shown at the presentation is an improvement to the flagship X7 system. The X7 3D printers work using hybrid technology that put Markforged at the place where it is now. The technology is a combination of polymer and composite FDM 3D printing (with nylon as a common material choice) and continuous flow of reinforced fiber (carbon, kevlar, or glass). This is the same direction where companies like Anisoprint, Stereotech, or Markforged’s main competitor Desktop Metal operate. The upgrade itself is a protective case. The name of the new system is X7 FE (Field Edition).
The new protective case allows X7 to withstand nearly anything: from rough road conditions during transportation to being dropped out of a plane with a parachute. The latter is real: United States Marines were interested in the system. They are working on a program of various emergency labs, codenamed XFAB, and X7 systems were field-tested. American military likes storage containers under the brand of Peli. A polyethylene box from the picture above can allegedly provide a high level of protection during air shipping, after which the printer can be set up in under 2 minutes.
Metal X Gen 2 3D printers and updated software Next Day Metal are already available, while shipping of the X7 FE is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2021.