Gregory Mark looked at possible applications for the technology he used for his Aeromotions, a company built to manufacture computer-controlled wings for the auto racing industry, and came up with MarkForged.
The company's first product, the Mark One, utilizes a process which prints high strength and stiffness parts from carbon fiber.
"We say it's like regular 3D printers do the form," Mark says. "We do form and function."
A carbon fiber 3D printer, the Mark One uses continuous filament fabrication to create parts which boast a higher strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum. The output is encased in nylon and then infilled with carbon fiber as two different filaments are spooled through two extruder heads to lay out a continuous carbon fiber skein. The result is a finished product 20 times stiffer than ABS – and five times stronger.
According to Mark, this new CFF process could well find applications ranging from auto industry fabrication to the prosthetics market. But it's the prosthetics market that Mark says is of special interest and one which poses a specific set of challenges.
"That's something that's more art than science, you want to print out a whole bunch of different versions and test them out," Mark said. "When you have your final version, you want to make exactly that, but really strong. Once you want to make it strong, you print it in composites. We wanted to make it really easy for people to start printing with (carbon fiber) so they can explore prosthetics, custom bones, tools and fixtures."
A dual-extruder machine, the Mark One is also capable of printing materials such as specially-formulated PLA, nylon and fiberglass filaments.
The Mark One's build volume, a generous 12″ x 6.25″ x 6.25″, can print with a layer resolution of 100 microns using the FFF process, and is capable of resolutions to 200 microns when using the Mark One patented Carbon Filament Fabrication mode.
The machine can be connected via WiFi, USB or SD card, and using kinematic coupling, MarkForge says bed leveling is simplified.
Set for a February release, the Mark One will be priced somewhere around $5,000.