Andy Simpson took a different route towards opening a 3D printing service provider. He spent more than 30 years running oil and gas manufacturing facilities around the world, including in Abu Dhabi, Russia, Germany, England, and Scotland. “When the oil price hit rock bottom, my role within the company changed very, very quickly,” says Andy. He went from being the person who ran global facilities to the man who would shut down factories and made people redundant. He left the company and decided to start up his own business. “The natural thing would have been for me to go and open a traditional manufacturing shop,” says Andy.
Andy Simpson, Managing Director at Angus 3D Solutions
Instead, he opened Angus 3D Solutions, a Brechin-based 3D scanning, 3D printing and manufacturing service company. The company works with customers to create parts that were impractical to fabricate using traditional manufacturing technologies. “There aren’t many places in Scotland doing this [3D printing],” he says. His business quickly grew, and now has a broad customer list — from individual entrepreneurs to some of the biggest oil companies in Scotland. Angus 3D has several 3D printers in-house, including a Markforged Mark Two and Metal X. The Mark Two has predominantly been used to create jigs and fixtures for customers, with some customers now completely changing their designs to optimize for Onyx and carbon fiber. “Onyx is a great material,” says Andy. “It’s gone beyond my expectations, and beyond some of my customer’s expectations too.”
A 3D printed part with supports
The Metal X
Andy had no intention to purchase a metal 3D printer — he had always assumed metal 3D printers would be too expensive and out of his budget. When he came across the Markforged Metal X, he realized it was a perfect fit. “I kept coming back to Markforged because they seemed more engaged and more willing to listen to what my challenges were,” he said. He applied for Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Economy Investment Fund grant through the Scottish government, with part of his justification stating that his goal was to make metal printing more accessible to people and industries around Scotland. He was awarded the grant within a year, and brought the first commercially available Metal X in the UK to Scotland in late 2018. People have been nothing short of amazed. “To be honest, there’s nothing I enjoy more than showing people this machine — they’re taken away by it, they’re surprised,” he says. Customers like how the machine isn’t overly complicated, compared to other metal 3D printers on the market. Angus 3D Solutions has since printed more than 25 different parts for customers, including legacy parts for a 1942 sewing machines using 17-4 PH stainless steel and custom components for the oil and gas industry. There are also plans to produce test parts for a Formula 1 team.
The same 3D printed part with supports removed
Since bringing the Metal X to Scotland, Andy has become the go-to person on the technology for local Businesses, Manufacturers, Universities and local Radio & TV stations in Scotland. “The Markforged Metal X is part of my journey and probably part of my success as well,” says Andy. “That technology allowed me to do that.”
This article was originally written by Charlotte Weiss and published on markforged.com on 5/16/2019
Battlebots team Valkyrie shares how they used Markforged technology to improve their bot
BattleBots is a television series where teams design, build, and operate 250lb remote-controlled machines that fight in a hazard-filled arena — the BattleBox. The show began in 2000 on Comedy Central, and its impact has spread worldwide. Dozens of amateur competitions occur every year where anyone can build and fight robots sized from 150 grams to 250lbs. Now, the show airs on the Discovery Channel, with its newest season premiering this Friday, June 7th at 8PM EST. In the past two seasons, I had the opportunity to build and compete on BattleBots as part of team Valkyrie.
Valkyrie is a 250lb BattleBot with a 70lb, 32” diameter weapon blade that spins at 2,200 RPM. Photo Credit to JCRB Photography.
What continuously captures my interest in robot fighting is the endless design compromise because every class has a strict weight limit. Do you add weight to weapons for bigger hits? To armor for better defense? Electronics for more power? In each design you must carefully balance your weight budget to build what you view as the optimal design. I entered the robot fighting community in 2016, starting small with a one-pound robot called Foiled. Initially just a fun side-project to test the durability of Markforged parts, I slowly became more and more involved in robot fighting, competing in over 15 competitions in the past 3 years. As part of a team of Boston-area engineers we built robots ranging from 1lb to 30 to 250, and eventually we landed a spot in BattleBots’ 2018 season with Valkyrie.
When the robots scale up, you have to prepare for your bot to get tossed 12 feet in the air, crushed by 35,000 lbs force, or smashed with a 60lb disc spinning at 2,000RPM — and still work afterward. BattleBots has a strict 250lb weight limit. At this size, robots often have aluminum or steel frames, with steel weapons and armor. Valkyrie’s weapon, for example, is cut from AR500 steel — the same material they use for snow plows and armored vehicles. So the compromise becomes more important and more expensive if you don’t balance the scales correctly.
Valkyrie facing off against Hypothermia in the BattleBots 2018 Desperado Tournament. Photo Credit to JCRB Photography.
Any weight saved in one area of the robot can be applied to another. For example, a lighter drivetrain could mean thicker armor, which gives the robot better defensive options. But everything also adds up in other ways. If you focus on a heavier weapon, you may need to sacrifice support elements of your drive train, which could increase your motor failure rate, so you need to buy more spare motors. If you strive for a lighter frame, you may need to spend more on materials and manufacturing, taking up more money and time and making the part harder to reproduce if it breaks. This is why we looked to Markforged when starting to design and build Valkyrie in 2018, and further improve the design for the 2019 season of BattleBots.
Markforged printers provided a wide range of materials to choose from depending on the specific needs of the part. In each case, Markforged allowed us to design optimized and lightweight components than we would have otherwise had to produce with heavier materials and more time-intensive manufacturing methods. We could print shock-resistant Kevlar® enclosures for our electronics, parts as strong as aluminum at a fraction of the weight, or geometry-optimized metal brackets to squeeze into low-clearance spaces in the robot.
In all of these cases, we were able to save weight but conserve strength. Valkyrie would be a smaller, weaker robot without 3D printing. We only had a handful of weeks to prepare for the season, so any fast, automated manufacturing method was a huge burden off our shoulders. We sent parts off to the printers without having to worry about making it ourselves, meaning we had more time to focus on the human-essential tasks like welding, machining, testing, and assembly. It also meant we got more sleep.
As a relatively new team compared to many builders who have been competing for decades, we knew we needed to move fast and iterate quickly if we wanted to match the top-tier talent. Markforged printers helped us design smarter throughout the entire process. To prepare for the 2019 season of BattleBots, we printed over 200 parts. Here are four areas where the printers helped us work quickly and efficiently:
Valkyrie is a sleek robot with many oddly shaped geometries that, when combined, make everything just barely fit inside. Before we start manufacturing any new part of the robot, we print it first and install the printed part on the robot to make sure it fits the way we need it to.
Before we built Valkyrie in 2018, we built up an entire mockup out of 3D printed and laser-cut parts. This way, we could check that all the components could fit as intended and update the design before sending it off.
Components like our new clutch assembly (right) were printed and installed on the robot to review designs and test assembly before we machined their final versions (left).
Tooling and Fixturing
Since many of the elements of Valkyrie involve complex contours or compound angles, we used 3D printed parts for workholding to set the components we machine up correctly when we make them. This ranged from soft-jaws for machining sprockets, to drill jigs for aligning and tapping holes in the frame, to indexing jigs for job setup.
This 3D printed drill jig let us precisely drill and tap angled holes in some of our frame components.
We made a new upper bearing block this year for our weapon shaft assembly. Due to time constraints, we machined it on a 3-axis mill. There were no flat surfaces to index off of for one of the setups, so we printed an indexing block that snapped into the part to datum the machine.
Valkyrie has 55 3D printed parts installed, made in a range of different materials. Twelve of those parts were metal — primarily brackets and supports that interfaced with the armor or motors to maintain rigidity. Nine parts were Onyx FR to protect parts from any of the flamethrower bots we may fight. The remaining 34 continuous fiber reinforced parts included shock-resistant electronics casings, dust-covers, and structural supports that played key roles in keeping Valkyrie functional during a fight.
With a strict weight limit and a tight build schedule, Markforged printers allowed our team to offload a lot of the manufacturing so we could focus on other tasks at hand to get the robot working. We knew that we could create tough, reliable parts that would hold up in the BattleBox — through all of our fights in 2018, only one part broke. Many of the parts helped us save weight in critical places by designing them to be the optimal geometry necessary to perform.
Metal 3D printed motor braces constrain our weapon motor to resist heavy impact and allowed us to save weight on a critical part of the system. These would have been near-impossible for us to machine with our build timeline.
Our old battery boxes (left) compared to our new ones (right). The 3D printed battery boxes held their shape much better than the old ones, which fell apart due to repeated shock from combat and needed to be rebuilt after every fight.
We used metal 3D printed brackets to support some of the armor panels. The brackets were designed to be low profile and lightweight.
On-site Repairs and Improvements
It’s my personal opinion that there is no perfect BattleBots design — there is always room for improvement and iteration, no matter your experience. The only way to learn how well a design works is in the BattleBox. Things are expected to unexpectedly fail during fights, so the best robots are the ones with lots of fights under their belts: their builders have discovered and resolved many failure modes. Some of these fixes are often done on the fly, with solutions hacked together from scraps. Others get documented and implemented for the next season.
Markforged had 4 printers running to support the teams at the event onsite.
At the competition, Markforged provided 4 printers to support the 67 teams that competed this season. With a 1-2 day turnaround between fights, teams could identify problems with their robots, design solutions, print them out, and install them on their robot before the next fight. Instead of making temporary repairs or having to settle with design flaws throughout the entire season, teams could make lasting parts with the strength they needed by either printing replacements or modifications to further improve the robots for the next set of fights - so robot performance actually improved as the season went on. Overall we printed over 160 parts for 29 of the teams there.
We had repeated motor failures when our frame would flex and bump the end of our motor during a fight. We printed a shock-resistant motor cradle to support the motor better and reduce this failure mode.
All in all, using Markforged allowed us to push the limits of Valkyrie’s design. We could iterate and improve quickly, test new concepts, and do more with what we had to create a powerful, sleek design. Catch BattleBots on Fridays on the Discovery Channel starting June 7th at 8PM, or Wednesdays on the Science Channel starting June 12th at 8PM. Tune in to see how Valkyrie fares!
This article was originally written by Alex Crease and published on markforged.com on 6/6/2019
by Brooks Glover
On May 22nd and May 23rd, Kearney 3D hosted our first two Metal X Roadshows to highlight Markforged’s Metal X 3D printing system.
The first, a lunch and learn held at the University of Alabama Hunstville’s Shelby Center attracted dozens of attendees representing businesses in industries ranging from aerospace to medical to even surveying. Markforged applications engineer Lishan Mu provided guests an extensive look at how Markforged’s line of metal and composite 3D printers are bringing the future of industrial manufacturing to today.
Not only did the attendees learn about Markforged’s 3D printers--they also received a first look at the company’s new AI-powered inspection software, Blacksmith. By scanning a printed workpiece and comparing it to part’s original design, Blacksmith learns to analyze the discrepancies between the end product and the initial CAD file and correct any disparities for future prints.
Kearney 3D will continue hosting Metal X Roadshows throughout the summer and fall. If you are interested in learning how 3D printing will radically change your production process and line, look for Kearney 3D and Markforged to come to a southeastern city near you.
We often write about the different tools, fixtures, and production parts that so many companies around the world use Markforged technology to fabricate. But it’s not just businesses that benefit from additive manufacturing.
Universities are starting to forge the path for students to learn about 3D printers and where they best fit into a manufacturing process. From concept to design to production, 3D printers aid in all necessary steps in creating functional parts. Here’s how two universities are utilizing Markforged technology to teach students about the value of additive manufacturing.
Oklahoma State University
What you can get away with using additive manufacturing - you can't with subtractive manufacturing. The ease of additive manufacturing accelerates the student’s ability to go from concept to parts. However, our job is to teach students both additive and subtractive manufacturing, along with the strengths, weaknesses, and interchange between them. I don't want to brag, but we will do this across the College of Engineering Architecture and Technology (CEAT) starting a student’s freshman year.”
At Oklahoma State University in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) engineering students have access to the ENDEAVOR facility. ENDEAVOR is a 72,000 ft undergraduate facility with 12 laboratories, five makerspace locations, and five design laboratories – plus offices and other non-lab spaces. In total, 1,500-2,000 students use the facility each year, and supports 38 courses from eight engineering departments.
Among all the industrial equipment dedicated to train the future engineering workforce in ENDEAVOR, there sits two Onyx Pros, two Mark Twos, an X7, and a Metal X. "Markforged came on our radar because of their Onyx and continuous fiber reinforcement printers. “That's what really got our attention," says Dr. Brad Rowland, ENDEAVOR Manager of Operations at Oklahoma State University.
Rowland says he hopes the Metal X will help to differentiate OSU’s students from others. “The ability for students to print in metal would be a huge boom for student design projects,” says Rowland.
Students currently use the composite printers for various projects, ranging from remote-controlled carts to special Unmanned Aerial Vehicle projects. “We already have two student-designed products in consideration for patents. One of them will rely on the Markforged Mark Two printers to build it,” says Rowland.
ENDEAVOR provides students with the ability to go from concept to part-in-hand, often making parts that are unable to be created using traditional manufacturing – or parts that blend subtractive, additive, and other techniques such as casting.
We use the analogy that we’re like a gym. We offer training and we have the equipment, but you have to come in and bring the effort and determination.”
Purdue University founded Bechtel Innovation Design Center — an advanced prototyping facility and manufacturing center started by students, for students. “Students can make pretty much anything they want,” says David McMillin, Assistant Director of the facility.
The center has students using 3D printers for everything from electric skateboards to electric racing cars. The available technology is free for all students — of which there are 400,000 of them. Students have the opportunity to use 20 cloud-enabled 3D printers, including two Markforged Metal Xs and two Mark Twos, as well as traditional manufacturing equipment such as CNC mills, CNC lathes, and a full wood shop. The idea behind the center is to have students come in, try their hand at creating something, and drive a product from idea to actualization.
“3D printing is a really good way to introduce and entice people into fabrication with low effort and low risk,” says McMillin. The center has over 20 student supervisors to assist anyone looking to use additive manufacturing for their project. McMillin says the Mark Two’s carbon infill control is something students enjoy the most. “The resolution and fit and finish that you get out of those is superb in comparison. They print reliably and the finish is beautiful straight off the machine.”
Students have found several uses for the Metal X printer, currently capable of printing in 17-4 Stainless Steel and H13 Tool Steel. The Metal X has been used to print race car knuckle brackets for holding rod ends in a race car, as well as a Mach 2 wind tunnel test target. “It’s apparent that the industry is pushing very hard on developing and maturing the metal 3D printing technology and that it’s something that people are interested in. Our students, professors, the university, and the world would like to see this technology.“
This article was originally published by Charlotte Weiss on Markforged.com
The problem with machining today is simple: it's costly and takes up too much time. Time from a skilled operator. Time on an expensive machine. Time to set up. Time to get a part in hand.
This problem becomes extremely painful when it comes to machining custom tooling — the production of fixtures, jigs, molds, and patterns. Tooling is traditionally one of the most time-consuming and costly portions of the machining process. Again, why is tooling so painful?
It’s time consuming and costly.
The typical process to get a set of custom milling jaws in hand is:
Design jaws in computer-aided design (CAD) software
1. Draft blueprint/drawing of jaws in CAD
2. Approve design of jaws
3. Program CNC
4. Schedule jaws on CNC
5. Machine jaws on CNC
7. Deliver jaws
By the time the jaws are delivered, as many as five different people have touched it in the process. A design engineer to design the jaws. A manager to sign off on the blueprint/drawing. A programmer to program the CNC. A skilled machinist to machine the jaws.
Now, what happens when the part the jaws were designed to hold iterated from Rev 1 to Rev 2 and, eventually, to Rev 3? Each revision results in a revision to the jaws, and the whole process begins again from step one.
At low-production volumes, manufacturers either refuse production or charge a premium per unit cost. The inherent problem with tooling is they don’t generate revenue. For example, the cost to a manufacturer for machining a set of milling jaws on a CNC is machine downtime, labor, and overhead. Machining milling jaws does not help a manufacturer's bottom line. If the jaws are never used again, in order to recuperate the initial, upfront cost and its successive iterations, the cost of the jaws are gambled and spread across the final, production-run milling jaws or the end-use, revenue-generating parts being machined.
This is where additive manufacturing — colloquially known as 3D printing — steps in.
In addition to allowing more freedom in design, additive manufacturing drastically shifts tooling from time-consuming and costly to hands-off and affordable. For one-off tooling, additive manufacturing opens the door for manufacturers to improve their bottom line by reducing CNC machine downtime, labor, and overhead to just material cost. As shown in Figure 1, it is extremely affordable to 3D print one-off tooling compared to conventional manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing streamlines the production of end-use, revenue-generating parts by drastically decreasing their time to market. With additive manufacturing, the jaws can be printed immediately after design, completely disrupting the tooling manufacturing paradigm.
Gone are the arduous days of design, draft, approve, program, schedule, machine, inspect, and repeat; gone are the days of tying up a revenue-generating CNC to machine one set of jaws; gone are the days of consuming CNC programmers' days programming to machine one set of jaws. The quicker the tooling is available, the quicker the end-use, revenue-generating parts can be machined.
How to Print Milling Jaws
When designing milling jaws for 3D printing, the three prerequisites are understanding milling jaw design, CAD, and Continuous Fiber Fabrication (CFF). The first and second prerequisites are self-explanatory. For the last prerequisite, 3D printing milling jaws is a matter of orienting and reinforcing with CFF. So, what is CFF?
Continuous Fiber Fabrication (CFF)
Additive manufacturing technologies of the past print thermoplastics too weak to withstand the harsh environments of CNC machining. With the introduction of Continuous Fiber Fabrication (CFF), Markforged has disrupted the additive manufacturing industry by printing with continuous fibers (carbon fiber, Kevlar®, and fiberglass) to reinforce thermoplastic printed parts. The strength of the continuous fibers are shown in Figure 2.
For example, the needle bearing workpiece shown in Figure 3 requires a face milling operation on one of its faces. The milling jaws used for that operation are shown in Figure 4.
The continuous fibers are printed on the XY-plane parallel to the build plate making orientation critical! When considering how to orient a set of milling jaws for printing, the keys to success are understanding how the clamping pressure will be applied to the jaws, and how to route continuous fibers to counteract the clamping pressures. For example, the jaws shown in Figure 4 are designed to clamp on the workpiece for a face mill operation. The clamping pressures are at the contact points conformal to the workpiece. At the contact points, the jaws experience the clamping pressures as a compressional force caused by the workpiece and the vice as shown in Figure 5.
Advanced Milling Jaws for 3D Printing
The next step in 3D printing milling jaws is creating a modular milling jaw. For example, instead of printing the entire jaw shown in Figure 4, consider using a set of hard jaws as the "blanks" and 3D printing soft jaws as the "inserts." As shown in Figure 7, the machined, metal jaw is the "blank" shown in purple, and 3D printed, composite soft jaw is the "insert" shown in green. Since the conformal geometry changes between different workpieces, one blank can serve many inserts.
Although CFF jaws are great for replacing aluminum jaws because of parity in strength and non-marring nature of composites, what happens when there is a need to replace steel jaws? Leveraging the same idea of modularity, the “blank” can be machined aluminum or 3D printed CFF, while the “inserts” are 3D printed on the Metal X System by a process known as Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM). With the current release of 17-4PH Stainless Steel and H13 Tool Steel, the Metal X System preserves all the advantages of 3D printing, such as conformal geometries, quick turn-arounds, and reduced costs, and meets the material properties required to replace steel jaws.
Transitioning from shelves of tooling to a quick, interchangeable solution, the modular milling jaw is the future of manufacturing. Additive manufacturing further shifts manufacturing tooling from time-consuming and costly to even more hands-off and affordable.
How to best 3D print milling vise jaws
3D printing milling vise jaws isn’t rocket science, but it does require a fundamental understanding of milling vise design, CAD, and CFF. The important steps to remember are:
(1) determine the clamping pressures on the milling vise jaws between the workpiece and the vice;
(2) choose a print orientation that maximizes fibers in tension against clamping pressures; and
(3) reinforce with continuous fibers in tension.
This arcticle was originally authored by Lishan Mu and published on markforged.com on 4/30/19
SDHQ Off-Road designs and develops custom products for use with off-roading vehicles.
Steel fixtures used to weld multiple iterations were costly, time-consuming, and prone to errors.
Markforged Onyx offers strong unibody fixture designs that can be printed on demand.
SDHQ Off-Road achieved considerable savings and superior part quality by using a Mark Two.
Rapid Product Development
Markforged enabled SDHQ Off-Road to expedite their research and design (R&D) process for developing custom products like the racks that secure equipment in the beds of off-roading trucks. Shop Foreman Kevin Ketchner used to weld steel plates together in order to create fixtures for welding the end products together. This took significant time and manual labor. Despite his years of experience and expertise, the process was inherently riddled with sources of diminished quality — imperfect bending, crooked tacking, corrosion, unrepeatability, and human error.
Kevin quickly realized that “the process of making the printed fixtures was a lot faster and easier”. The Mark Two eliminated the problems that the welded fixtures presented. Fixtures no longer need to be crafted by hand, and can actually be designed to more effectively secure the parts that need to be welded. Furthermore, Onyx demonstrates the material benefit of corrosion resistance, and broken fixtures can be immediately reprinted.
Originally published by Markforged. https://markforged.com/applications/welding-fixtures/
Getting a Grip
An industrial FANUC robotic arm gracefully swings from one automated machining center to another with a pipe fitting firmly gripped between its jaws. At Dixon Valve’s US manufacturing facility in Chestertown, Maryland, these robotic arms are commonplace in production line cells, used for part transfers in the manufacturing process. Strength, safety, and chemical resistance are key components to Dixon Valve’s efficient work environment, and as such attached to the arm of each robot is a set of Onyx jaws, printed on the Mark Two industrial strength 3D printer.
“Dixon Valve is a manufacturer of fittings for fluid transfer industries,” Max de Arriz, Manufacturing Engineer at the company, explained. “We’re using a large robotic arm to transfer many styles of our parts between two vertical turning centers.” With the thousands of different valves, fittings, and gauges that the company manufactures, each product line setup requires custom equipment, including tooling and grips to hold specific parts efficiently. De Arriz, along with Automation Technician J.R.Everett, reap the benefits of their Mark Two in Dixon’s production facility.
Within Arm’s Reach
“Prior to using 3D printed jaws in the cell, we were machining each tool individually, and it would take a fairly large amount of time,” de Arriz explained. Every gripping tool needed to be either outsourced to an external machine shop or machined in house with the manufacturing capabilities at hand. Either way, manufacturing parts as critical as production line grippers was getting time consuming. As Dixon primarily produces valves and fittings, these grippers also require strength and chemical resistance, as well as wear resistance from repeated use. “To that end, we utilize the Markforged parts as our transfer gripping system,” de Arriz concluded.
As soon as Dixon Valve unboxed their industrial strength Markforged 3D printer, they put it to work. “We were able to re-tool a robotic arm in a manufacturing cell in under 24 hours,” Everett exclaimed. The Mark Two not only allowed for the production of their robotic jaws quickly, but the material capabilities of the printer, including its ability to lay continuous strands of high-strength fibers into 3D printed parts, ensured reliability in a factory setting. “Onyx is one of my favorite materials because it combines stronger composite material with the chemical resistivity of nylon,” elaborated Everett, referring to Markforged’s chopped carbon fiber nylon filament. “It hits the sweet spot for us in chemical resistance and strength.”
Hand in Hand
The Mark Two enabled Dixon Valve to produce new manufacturing solutions at unprecedented speed and cost, providing the company with a powerful new tool in their toolbox. “It’s a critical component in our design process and it is really changing the way we work to the point where we are actually altering our procedures and plans to accommodate this groundbreaking product,” says Everett. By incorporating the printer into the company’s workflow, Dixon Valve was able to expand and improve even further, and they don’t plan to stop there. The ability to produce parts with esteemed strength, quality, and precision at a low cost gives Everett high hopes for Dixon’s path forward: “If I had to tell somebody on the street what’s great about this product, or what is great about Onyx, or what the coolest thing is to get out of it, I’d say it’s your imagination. If you can think of it, you can create it.”
Originally published by Markforged in 2016
Andrew Tordanato of Diversified Manufacturing Technologies shares the questions to answer before adding 3D-printing capability.