Editor’s Pick: Connecting Part Scanning to Part Printing to Improve Production Quality

Markforged Blacksmith uses artificial intelligence to teach 3D metal printers how to improve results.

Markforged Blacksmith uses artificial intelligence to teach 3D metal printers how to improve results.

Markforged Blacksmith takes the results from a 3D scan and analyzes them for conformity to the original design. Image courtesy of Markforged.

Dear DE Reader:

New product announcements related to 3D printing generally are bunched up around May and November, so companies can make splashy announcements at two leading industry trade shows (RAPID+TCT in May; Formnext in November). From the announcements we’ve seen so far, it sure looks like 2019 will go down as the year additive manufacturing in production volumes goes mainstream. 

It takes more than a well-oiled 3D printer to crank out part after part with consistent precision. It also requires constant monitoring of the process and the parts to make sure all is well. Markforged thinks quality analysis is a good job for artificial intelligence, and so do we, which is why Markforged Blacksmith is our Editor’s Pick of the Week. 

Blacksmith is a new software product that can adjust ongoing 3D print runs to ensure every part is produced as designed. To use it, a 3D scan of a printed part is compared to the original CAD model. If there are differences, Blacksmith automatically adapts the dataflow so the next iteration is in-spec. The software uses machine learning to adapt as it is given new information, making the process of art-to-part more precise over time. Markforged calls this “adaptive manufacturing.”

Markforged says Blacksmith will “massively cut waste and accelerate time to market” by removing imperfections from the process in real time. Blacksmith gives the 3D printer the machine equivalence of process awareness to make sure parts come out as they were designed, down to the micron. Markforged says Blacksmith will be especially useful for laser sintering, a 3D printing process known to distort parts. 

Of course Markforged founder and CEO Greg Mark is ecstatic about Blacksmith’s possibilities. “Much like the way Tesla is building autopilot for cars, we are building an autopilot for manufacturing,” Mark says.  

Starting with Markforged’s Metal X and X7 3D printers, the company says Blacksmith will create a continuous feedback loop to make 3D printed parts more accurate. Markforged has big plans for this new software; they intend to extend the algorithms behind Blacksmith into apps that can connect every machine in your factory. “We will enable the first generation of machines that know what they’re supposed to make, and can adjust themselves to produce the right part, every time,” Mark says.  

We have more details on Blacksmith in this week’s Product Brief. Thanks for reading; we’ll see you next week with another Editor’s Pick of the Week. 

The DE Editors

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DE’s editors contribute news and new product announcements to Digital Engineering. Press releases can be sent to them via [email protected].

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