Metal and carbon fiber 3D printing specialist, Markforged, has recently received an investment of an undisclosed amount from In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit focused on identifying and advancing technologies that could support the missions of U.S. military divisions.
The new financial relationship will expand the U.S. military’s already expansive access to Markforged’s industrial-grade metal and carbon fiber 3D printers for use on combat missions.
Clayton Williams, Technical Staff, Field Technologies at IQT, stated: “Markforged stands out as a leading innovator in additive manufacturing. We’re excited to begin this partnership with them to further our mission to support our government partners.”
Metal and carbon fiber 3D printing
Markforged already has thousands of users around the globe using their advanced 3D printing technology for industrial applications such as automobiles and aircraft engines.
The Massachusetts-based company was the first to create a system capable of 3D printing with the entire range of metals. Options include high-conductivity copper, industrial tool steel and superalloys like inconel which is used for propellor blades and submarine auxiliary propulsion motors.
Their composites system is capable of printing carbon fiber and even kevlar, which gives bullet-proof vests their toughness.
3D printing for the armed forces
The U.S. military and its allied intelligence agencies already have a history of employing Markforged’s 3D printing systems for combat operations. The military currently has hundreds of industrial printers across three continents in operation for a variety of uses, such as machinery repair, tool creation and classified field operations.
In December of 2019, marines in the III Marine Expeditionary Force received a Markforged Metal X 3D printer, making history as the first expeditionary force to receive the machine. They use the Metal X to minimize traditional manufacturing costs such as material waste, and are able to produce end-use parts at four times the previous rate.
“We’re excited to expand the reach of our solutions with IQT and continue to push the bounds of what’s possible in additive manufacturing,” said Greg Mark, CEO and founder of Markforged. “Markforged makes it easy to build anything you can imagine, and that capability will empower the people in the Intelligence Community to fulfill their mission anywhere in the world.”
3D printing technology is not unfamiliar to the armed forces. The U.S. Air Force has previously advanced the development of hypersonic flight vehicles using 3D printed ceramics. Elsewhere, in New York, pilot studies have been conducted to explore the validity of 3D printed medical devices for use on the battlefield.
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Featured image shows soldier with the Metal X 3D printer at Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan. Image via Stars and Stripes.