Markforged: 3D Printing Is The ‘Killer App’ To Re-Imagine Your Factory
Markforged, a leader in 3D printing, has launched a number of initiatives, including supporting production of face guards and nasal swabs, and activating its vast network of industrial 3D printers. Markforged is not alone—the response of the 3D printing community has been remarkable, both in the US and in other countries, notably Italy.
But 3D printing can also play an important role in addressing two other challenges highlighted by the current crisis: how to make global supply chains more resilient, and how to boost efficiency and productivity throughout the industrial sector so as to accelerate economic growth once the public health emergency has been addressed.
Greg Mark, founder and CEO of Markforged, has some strong views and original insights on both issues.
Markforged’s other recent breakthrough is Blacksmith, an Artificial Intelligence solution for adaptive manufacturing. Blacksmith’s AI creates a continuous loop between 3D printers and inspection equipment: it scans a produced part and compares it to the design; then it automatically adjusts the 3D printer’s settings so as to eliminate the discrepancy and produce the parts exactly as intended. It does it automatically, with no human intervention; and the AI learns over time and adapts to variations in the production process, making the self-correcting faster.
Mark calls this “the digital factory dream” and notes that the companies that have already started to move in that direction have quickly realized it can unlock enormous potential. That is especially true because every factory is different, and one of the advantages of 3D printing is that it enables customization. By focusing on how 3D printing can improve your factory, rather than just your products, you can significantly improve efficiency and speed of production, and lower costs.
If the digital factory does prove to be the “killer app” for manufacturing, as Greg Mark argues, it will then be adopted widely, and it will help boost productivity and economic growth at the macro level, for the US as a whole as well as other countries. This would be a welcome and much-needed boost to recover from the damage that the coronavirus epidemic is inflicting on our economies.