Innovative 3D printer manufacturer Markforged announced their revolutionary metal 3D printer, the Metal X, back in January at CES 2017. Now, with initial shipments getting delivered soon, we wanted to give you an in-depth review of everything this amazing metal 3D printer has to offer.
Cost Savings Potential
The Metal X is the first metal 3D printer of in this price class. It allows designers, engineers, and manufactures to design and print strong 3D metal parts overnight. With a starting price of just under $100,000, the overall cost savings cannot be ignored.
Utilizing the Metal X for metal 3D printing allows you to print parts at prices that are:
- 10x less expensive than traditional metal additive manufacturing methods
- 100x less expensive than traditional metal fabrication techniques like machining or casting
Clearly, organizations can significantly reduce production costs associated with creating specialized production-ready metal parts with the Metal X. The high quality and durability—not to mention the lightness– of the printed parts makes the Metal X an ideal printer for aerospace, medicine, petroleum, automotive manufacturing teams, and more.
Organizations can reduce production costs associated with creating metal parts by up to 98%.
Metal X: Hardware
The Metal X has a build volume of 250mm x 220mm x 200mm providing users with plenty of space to print large parts or to complete batch prints. It prints at a resolution of 50 microns and automatically scales up prints to accommodate the shrinkage that occurs during the sintering process.
Post Processing Tools
The Metal X initially builds your parts by printing slightly scaled-up versions of your model using metal powder and binder. At this point, it’s considered to be “Green”– essentially just a pile of power and glue that is relatively fragile.
The parts must then go through a two-part post-printing process. The first stage is a simple wash cycle to remove the excess binder. The part is now “brown” and ready for the final step: sintering.
This final sintering process take place in a furnace and fuses the metal power into solid metal while removing all final traces of the binder.
The end result is a perfectly-sized pure metal 3D printed part.
Markforged offers three units to make the post-processing stage of metal 3D printing easy. These units include:
Wash – 1
The Wash – 1 post-processing unit is used to immerse green parts to remove the plastic binder before sintering. Performing this step before sintering allows the parts to unbind. This ensures that the final metal part is pure to prevent inconsistencies and helps keep the sintering surface clean.
Sinter – 1
The Sinter – 1 post-processing unit is a furnace that turns brown (washed) parts into their final metallic form. It utilizes metal injection molding technology (MIM) to convert metal powder to strong, sintered parts. The size of this furnace is slightly smaller than the build volume of the Metal X itself, making it ideal for medium-sized parts or small batch production.
Sinter – 2
The Sinter – 2 is a larger furnace that is the same size as the full build volume of the Metal X. It can be used for larger parts or larger batch production. It is able to sinter all commercial grade metals from their green state (as printed) into their final metallic form.
Markforged’s post-processing units combine with the Metal X for a complete metal 3D printing solution.
Metal X: Technology and Software
As the first metal 3D printer in its class, the Metal X brings new additive manufacturing technology as well as advanced software to support its revolutionary capabilities and price point.
ADAM: Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing
The ADAM technology that is used to print 3D metal parts on the Metal X was developed specifically for this printer. It utilizes techniques from composite 3D printing to improve metal 3D printing safety.
Revolutionary ADAM technology makes it safer and easier to print metal parts compared to previous metal 3D printing methods.
Traditionally, metal powders are laid on a power bed and the fused using a high-powered laser or electron beam. These metal powders used in traditional metal 3D printing are extremely volatile so they must be handled in a special vacuum chamber. In addition, handling the powders is also extremely dangerous. All of which makes handling traditional 3D metal printing quite difficult and potentially hazardous.
In contrast, the ADAM technology utilizes powder that is infiltrated with plastic, which makes it nonflammable, safe to breathe, and easier to handle. The ADAM process works as follows:
- Design: CAD parts are designed and uploaded into the cloud-based Eiger software. From there, users can select the metal material of their choice and the Eiger software optimizes the CAD design accordingly.
- Print: The metal powder bound in plastic is printed layer-by-layer, as it normally is with ABS 3D printing. Parts are scaled up for printing to compensate for shrinkage that occurs during the sintering process.
- Wash: “Green” parts are washed to remove excess binder
- Sinter: “Brown” parts are baked in the furnace to be fused into the final part.
Once sintering is complete, metal parts are ready for use. With a density of up to 99.7% these parts can now be utilized like any other metal part.
ADAM technology provides several uninque benefits to manufactures. First, designers can create fully enclosed structures. With previous 3D metal printing, an exit hole had to be incorporated into the design so the metal powder would have a place to exit the part to ensure nothing was trapped inside. Since the binder simply burns away with ADAM technology, parts can be completely enclosed. Second, because manufacturers can create these closed designs, they can utilize complex internal structures to create strong parts that are light and cost less to manufacture. Third, the incredibly low price point combined with the high resolution and quality of the final parts allows for many more use cases than have been previously practical.
If you’ve previously done the math and decided that metal 3D printing wasn’t practical, it may be time to take a second look.
Eiger: Advanced Markforged Software
Eiger is the advanced cloud-based software that comes with all Markforged printers, including the Metal X. It works directly within the browser of your choice allowing you to seamlessly import CAD drawings and printed metal 3D parts.
Eiger software makes it possible to go from CAD drawing to 3D printed part overnight.
The software takes CAD drawings and optimizes them for pressure points to determine exactly how to print to create the strongest part possible, utilizing powerful routing and slicing intelligence.
Eiger also provides real-time monitoring capabilities, whether you are using a fleet of printers for large batch manufacturing or just one. From the centralized interface, you can also start or stop prints as needed, without ever having manually check the printer.
Eiger is a useful and flexible software companion to the Metal X printers.
The Metal X allows engineers to select from a variety of high-quality metals to produce parts with the strength and flexibility they need. The Metal X can print using:
- Stainless Steel (17-4 and 316L)
- Aluminum (6061 and 7075)
- Tool Steel (A-2 and D-2)
- Inconel (IN Alloy 625)
- Titanium (Ti-6A1-4V)
Metal X: The Cost-Effective Solution to Metal 3D Printing
The Markforged Metal X is by far the most cost-effective solution to metal 3D printing. A range of printing materials allows engineers to create a variety of parts whether they need to be extra strong or weld-able. With the base model of the Metal X available at under $100,000, the Metal X may be the metal 3D printer you’ve been looking for.
The Metal X is set to start shipping this month (September 2017), so if you’re interested in purchasing or want more information, contact us today!