Metal 3D printers have been around for over a decade but have been out of reach for most. With the introduction of the Markforged Metal X, this has begun changing. This new offering from Markforged once again breaks the mold in terms of what is possible with 3D printing. It does so at a price range that is well within reach of many small to medium companies looking to bring their manufacturing into the 21st century. This article aims to shine light on this printer and its capabilities.
Unlike the more typical DMLS printers that use a powder bed and a laser, the Markforged Metal X makes use of a proprietary technology known as ADAM (Atomic diffusion Additive Manufacture) which works by imbedding the metal powder in a polymer & wax matrix, the material is then layered down in a process similar to that of FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) processes. The Markforged metal X has two nozzles, one where the metal, polymer and wax matrix comes from and another that deposits a temporary ceramic-based material to allow for easy removal of supports.
Once the print has completed some work is still required, the green part is taken to a washing bay aptly named the wash 1 to remove some of the polymer prior to sintering, this is done with an industrial degreaser. This first step allows for easier burn off in the furnace.
After this wash process is complete the part can be placed in the once again aptly named sinter 1 for final processing. The part undergoes up to 20% shrinkage without any distortion or loss of detail. This shrinkage is calculated, and the part is scaled up in the software prior to printing. After sintering the part is 99% dense which is comparable to cast and DMLS parts.
The ceramic filler that is deposited between the part and the supports is designed to become extremely brittle during the sintering process and thus makes removing the supports a trivial task. Other post processing can include any subtractive manufacturing techniques to further finish the part.
The Markforged materials line consists of many of the standard materials used on DMLS machines with some still in development. So, what kinds of metals can be printed? Listed below are some of the currently available materials as well as some that are still in development.
- 17-4 PH Stainless Steel
- Inconel 625
- Tool Steel (H13, A2, D2)
- 316L Stainless Steel
Basic Machine Stats
The bed of the printer may seem small if compared to a CNC machine but it has proven perfect for many users of the machine. The sizes of the metal X and its auxiliary systems are listed below:
- Metal X – 250mm x 183mm x 150mm
- Wash 1 – 365mm x 254mm x 203mm
- Sinter 1 – 141mm ID x 305mm
- Sinter 2 – 248mm ID x 406mm
The z-axis has a layer height of 50micron which is comparable to current DMLS machines. It must also be noted that after sintering the part is relatively smooth with barely visible layer lines. The part can also be wet sanded while in its green state to remove any rough or unwanted lines.
For more detailed stats like power requirements and footprint consult the Markforged Metal X website.
What is Markforged Metal X Price?
The Markforged Metal X’s price is what sets it apart from other more traditional metal printers, so how much is a Markforged Metal X? At just around $120k for a complete end to end system it is far cheaper than DMLS machines which can be as much as 10 times more expensive. The cost includes the machine, the wash 1 and a sinter 1. In order to get a more accurate price you will need to request a quote via the Markforged website.
The prices shown below are for a single spool of filament. Each spool contains 200 cubic centimeters of material. To see latest stock availability and current pricing go to the Markforged shop page.
|Material Description||Cost||Spool image|
|H13 Tool Steel||$229.99|
|D2 Tool Steel||$229.99|
|A2 Tool Steel||$205.00|
|Stainless Steel 17-4PH||$129.99|
|Ceramic Support Material||$99.00|
Image credit: https://markforged.com/product-category/materials/
How much does it cost to 3D print metal?
It may seem as though the price is prohibitive considering the amount of material per spool, however Markforged cites various case studies when compared to subtractive manufacturing as listed below:
- Impeller – 98% Cheaper
- Sprocket – 96% Cheaper
- Bracket – 98% Cheaper
The Markforged Metal X is ideal for a first entry into the world of metal printing as its cost is similar to that of an entry level CNC machine and is cheaper than direct competitors desktop metal, however it is capable of producing parts quicker, with less set up time and cheaper than CNC parts. It must be noted that like all metal printers, they are not suited to high volume production but more to relatively low volume batch manufacturing.
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- 3D Printing Software overview
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