Although best known for its continuous carbon fiber (CCF) and metal extrusion 3D printers, Brandforged (NYSE: MKFG) has always had good software. It started with an outstanding print management tool, Eiger, but the company has further expanded its offering with the broader Digital Forge software portfolio. At Formnext 2022, Makrforged announced the release of a virtual testing tool, Simulation. It’s free at the moment, but will require a subscription later. The simulation aims to accelerate the adoption of composite 3D printing by allowing users to simulate the strength of parts before generating the optimal printing parameters.
Simulation for carbon fiber 3D printing
The tool is designed to be easy to use so that a variety of users can validate models before printing them. Values such as safety factor and load can be entered to create the necessary infill, amount of fibers and other parameters for different sections of an item. To illustrate the possibilities, drag racing company Larsen Motorsports used CCF 3D printing to produce a composite steering wheel – customized for motorsport driver Josette Roach – replacing an aluminum predecessor. Brian Tocci, Operations Manager at Larsen Motorsports, said of the device, “We can now test it with Simulation, iterate and keep iterating until we get a design we’re happy with. We don’t need to print ten different parts. We can do anything in simulation.
“Simulation enables our customers to adopt digital forging deeper into their manufacturing operations by replacing more critical tools and end-use metal parts with advanced 3D printed composite parts validated and optimized with continuous reinforcement. fibers. Cloud-based software innovation, such as simulation, is central to our mission to bring industrial parts production to the point where we need it,” said Markforged CEO Shai Terem.
Develop the digital forge
Markforged is trying to expand its software footprint further on the manufacturing floor with an expanding solutions platform. This could allow the company to extract more value, as recurring subscription fees provide an ongoing revenue stream. By being one of the main software interfaces that engineers use every day, Markforged could also become more important for workflows, integrating into companies as well as workshops. At the same time, its CCF 3D printing process is exotic. In order to unlock all of its benefits, users must learn to design for the technology. They need to learn how to make parts that make optimal use of the CCF.
Software is a key enabler. If Markforged’s software doesn’t guide people enough in designing its process, the company will struggle to adopt it more and more. As we have seen previously, certain processes, notably metal powder bed fusion, often leave only a few people in a company that masters the technology. One could produce millions of crowns and bridges through a semi-automated process, with few designers involved. The same can be said for many mass production applications. However, for a tool to be used to solve problems in and around the workshop, there must be a lot of people who have access to it. Typically, it can be idle while other machines are running. If an employee needs to use a Markforged 3D printer, but doesn’t know how to design it, they’ll never actually use it. If excitement and skill do not enter the workshop together, the machine will gather dust.
Continuous carbon fibers (and others!) are technologies with a wide range of applications. They can be used to save weight, make new parts that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, or completely redesign complex assemblies. However, the software must be super easy and quick to learn so that everyone in the workshop can adopt it. In this case, Markforged’s investment in software is not only a revenue opportunity, but also an absolutely essential method of removing barriers to the flourishing of its technologies.
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