Nov 7, 2020

The Digital Forge: The Future in Three Dimensions

3D Printing
Additive Manufacturing
Sam Scane
3 min
3D printing and additive manufacturing.
Markforged, an industry-leading company that specialises in the design and manufacture of smart industrial 3D printers, is preparing us for the future...

The Digital Forge is a new industrial 3D printing software launched by Markforged, a privately-held additive manufacturing company that specialises in developing and manufacturing smart industrial 3D printers, software and materials, designed to empower manufacturers to print strong parts at the point-of-need.

Their new cloud-based platform is designed around machine learning (ML), computer systems that are able to learn and adapt without following explicit instructions via algorithms and analysing patterns in data, and thus interconnect with other Markforged systems across the globe, reportedly around 12,000. 

Claiming to be the first user of ML in the sphere of 3D printing, Markforged can use their Eiger print preparation software, designed to allow users to 3D print anything at any time, to constantly learn from the 12,000 systems in their 73 strong country-wide fleet. This huge jump in data collection between all systems would lead to not only a more efficient system but a smarter one overall. 

This new software is inherently designed to use what the company calls “fleet federated learning” ─ a form of ML that uses data collected from a multitude of systems to build a database of printer data that allows the platform itself to become “smarter” over time. This will reduce the risk of mid-print errors and, overall, will minimise global print failures on Markforged systems. 

“We started Markforged with a cloud-first, software-first approach that was designed for the modern world, and now we are applying that approach to accomplish things people thought were still decades away from coming to market. Through the Digital Forge, manufacturers can use our powerful software to easily fabricate strong, accurate, and durable metal and composite parts for orders of magnitude cheaper than they’ve traditionally been made — on-demand and directly at the point of need.” Said Greg Mark, chairman of Markforged. 

Companies such as Porsche and Microsoft are amongst the thousands of customers that use Markforged systems, as well as the ten largest aerospace companies 5 of 6 branches in the U.S Armed Forces, and more who all contribute to the Digital Forge platform. With the new system being entirely cloud resource-based, it means that these customers can now access their printing abilities at the touch of a single browser tab. 

Mark goes on to say “Electricity was invented in 1880, but it took 40 years and the pandemic of 1918 to spark the Industrial Revolution that built our modern world. 3D printing has reached a similar tipping point. We are nearing the 40th anniversary of the 3D printer (2026), and I believe the pandemic of 2020 and the supply chain disruption it has caused will usher in the next great Industrial Revolution — the era of Digital Manufacturing — and we are on a mission to put The Digital Forge in every factory on Earth as part of that revolution.”

While Markforged is not the first company in the world to have this kind of technology, its firm place in the pocket of a number of leading corporations will give it the best chance it can have at developing evolving systems in what may soon to be a 3D printed world. With this kind of technology on the rise, and now more than ever the most convenient means of manufacturing parts and more, is there anything stopping the world from being a button push away from creation? 

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Jun 8, 2021

IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery

Elise Leise
3 min
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) claims that while markets are rising and manufacturing is coming back, it’ll push for global immunisation

After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022

Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery. 

Lingering Concerns Over COVID

Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high. 

Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery? 

IMF: Current Boom Could Falter

Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”. 

Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”. 

Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.

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