The Mark One 3D carbon-fibre printer has been announced at the SolidWorks World conference in San Diego.
The 3D printing industry is just about to boom, thanks to the expiration of one of the key patents on selective laser sintering on 28 January. So, while we're expecting some pretty exciting announcements in the near future, this one certainly gets the ball rolling with a bang.
Called the Mark One, it's the creation of a new company called MarkForged. This doesn't mean it doesn't live up to standard, though: MarkForged is owned by Gregory Mark, who co-owned a company called Aeromotions that builds computer-controllable aerodynamic carbon fibre wings for racing cars. Mark decided to get into 3D printing when he was looking for a better manufacturing technique than CNC machining, which is costly and time consuming.
The answer was 3D printing; and, since there were no 3D printers that could print in carbon fibre, Mark decided to assemble a team to invent his own.
Mark One is the result. Debuting at SolidWorks World 2014 with a working prototype, it has a special extruder, patent pending, for printing in carbon fibre strands, which, Mark says, are five times stronger and 20 times stiffer than the ABS plastic used in most 3D printing.
"The incredible strength of carbon fiber comes from the long, continuous strands that carry load down the entire part. This is why space shuttles, rockets and Formula 1 cars are constructed from continuous strand carbon," the Mark One website says. "And it's how we print. Don't settle for plastic with a dash of chopped carbon fill. Longer is stronger."
The car wings printed by the machine have been designed with a nylon outer shell and inner honeycomb structure, reinforced by a carbon fibre core. But the company expects that its customers will be thinking far outside the box of racing car parts, with potential applications in prosthetics, tools and fixtures.
And it can print in multiple materials: as well as carbon fibre, it can print in PLA, nylon and fibreglass. A kinetic print bed clicks into the same place every time, too, so that you don't have to fuss with adjusting it just so.
The Mark One will retail for US$5000 and is available now for preorder on the MarkForged website. You can see the printer's full specs here.