Frequently Asked Questions

We have quick answers to some of our most common questions. If you don't find the answer to your specific question here, please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

How does a 3D printer work?

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, “builds” a part or “adds to it”, one layer at a time.  Think of it like squeezing a ring of glue from a hot glue gun, and then squeezing another ring on top of that, and so on.  Eventually, you would have a cylinder.  Our printers build up a part in 0.004” layers, while closely managing the material deposition rate, material cooling, absolute position, and about 20 other parameters.  Because every single layer is built uniquely, additive manufacturing has the ability to produce shapes and profiles, especially on the inside of parts, that simply cannot be done by traditional methods.

How do I know if my part can be printed?

Once we have a model, we will perform a basic assessment of printability.  We will determine where the model may have problems, whether it will need supports printed to improve the success of the output, as well as the appropriate orientation for print. Our equipment and materials (including dissolvable supports) can take on some of the most challenging geometries.  However, if we see areas that will help with cost, strength, or time, we will recommend those changes prior to starting your print.

Is 3D printing strong enough for a real part, or is it simply a way to see a part before developing it from metal?

Modern 3D printing and today’s techniques are indeed strong enough for real-world use. 3D printed products can provide the appropriate level of dimensional precision to be used, as-is, as fully functioning parts. With our Markforged Continuous Fiber machines, we build of a composite matrix of filament that reinforces with continuous carbon fiber to make a 3D printed part as strong as an aluminum-machined piece. If you feel that metal is best for your part, Markforged also has 3D metal printing systems.  We can assist you in getting your part built in copper, tool steel, stainless steel or Inconel.

Can you print more than one piece at a time?

You bet!  We have two ways to handle volume: More parts on one machine, and more machines!  We will always work to optimize build time and build volume. As soon as we have confidence in the printability of the model, we will pack as many parts onto the printer build plate as we can to get your job done as efficiently as possible.  As an example, if we have an order for 10, and all 10 will fit on the printer build plate, we would most likely run a first article to verify the model and the setup, then we would run the remaining 9.  With our Ultimaker system, we can even build multiple parts at the same time while simultaneously using different materials!

How long does it take to print a part?

Actual printing time depends on a number of factors that are unique to each job.  Additive manufacturing is not a fast process and will almost always take at least a few hours. As a quick example: A “fast draft” 3D print of a part that is roughly the size of a baseball will take about 2 ½ hours while that same part will take about 11 hours when using the appropriate settings to deliver full precision.

What information do you need in order to create my part?

Ideally, you would provide your model from your design team or CAD package in STL file format. This assures that your part will be printed exactly as-is without any changes made to the model. Other file types that we can accept include 3MF, IGES, STEP and OBJ.  If you cannot provide a CAD file, we will discuss options with you to see how we can have your part designed in CAD for you prior to moving forward with your 3D print, continuing to ensure that your part is delivered to provide you with precisely what you need.

What type of material should I use for my print?

Material selection for a printed part really depends on the application. Everything that we offer works well for a first pass prototype or for something in which you simply need to be able to realize as a true, 3-dimensional component. However, when your project has a specific application and will need to be installed as part of a larger assembly, factors such as whether or not the part will be used outdoors or used as part of a specific product, it will be necessary to select the best material for the use. We will be happy to help you make the right choices regarding material and will discuss the possibilities and make expert recommendations for your consideration.