The MarkForged Mark One
Debuted to the SWW crowds, the Mark One is able to print in continuous fibre strands — such as fibreglass and carbon fibre — as well as the usual range of polymers.
I still sometimes feel somewhat out of my depth at a big CAD event like SolidWorks World - while anyone can marvel at the power of new developments and be wowed by the hundreds if incredible designers and designs, it's an intimidatingly complex industry to get into. It was it my delight therefore that the biggest news coming out of SWW this year was all about the 3D printing space...
A number of the announcements have significant overlap and synergy, giving the whole event a pleasing completeness. From the assertion by Dassault Systèmes CEO Bernard Charlès that "the world of making is changing, 3D printing is one way, and the world of design will have to change too", to the fact that Stratasys, Mcor and MarkForged all used the event as a platform to release significant news.
Stratasys actually have a history of using the event to make significant announcements - they launched the Dimension range of printers at the SWW event 11 years ago - so with that in mind the unveiling of the Connex3 looks less conspicuous. I only learned that when I caught up with Jon Cobb, VP of Sales and Marketing with Stratasys - more of which soon.
Mcor's announcement followed the news earlier in the week from Adobe - 3D printing support in Photoshop. With Adobe's mastery of 2D printing, this move seems obvious, and the photorealistic-colour-on-paper 3D printing offered by Mcor as good a place to start as any. I would expect more to come from both companies over the course of the year....
Thirdly an entirely new company, printer and material debuted during the keynote session of the second day. MarkForged's Mark One printer uses a proprietary extrusion process to build in both the usual ABS/PLA/Nylon polymers any FDM-style printer user will be au fiat with, and... Carbon fibre. The resulting parts are stronger, stiffer and lighter than printed parts made from common or garden filament. In fact, on some measurements they're reportedly stronger than milled aluminium. The company and it's products are truly exciting for anyone like me that's getting more than a little fed up with the splurge of 'me too' desktop 3D printers at the moment.
Finally SolidWorks itself is really bringing 3D printing to the fore. You may or may not be aware that there has effectively been a 3D print button in SolidWorks for the last 11 years, but it didn't really take off as the company had hoped. Now with the native support in Windows 8.1 (on which the Solidworks team worked closely with Microsoft) they're able to leverage the really push engagement with printer manufacturers.