Gregory Mark needed strong and light carbon fiber parts to build his computer-controlled race car wings, so he designed a carbon fiber 3D printer that could make them. The MarkForged Mark One is the world’s first carbon fiber 3D printer, and it can also print in fiberglass, nylon and PLA (thermoplastic). Mark just unveiled his first working prototype at SolidWorks World 2014 in San Francisco.
The design is quite simple: A translucent printing bed is positioned inside an anodized aluminum unibody 22.6 inches wide, 14.2 inches tall and 12.7 inches deep. It can print components 20 times stiffer and 5 times stronger compared to ABS filaments. Mark can print his racecar wings by first printing a nylon outer-shell and honeycomb structure, which a carbon fiber reinforced core. He says thanks to the possibility of 3D printing in strong materials, the technology could also be used in prosthetics.
So far, 3D printing has been limited to plastic materials, but increasingly there are more designs that experiment with different materials and offer innovative solutions. Part of that trend, the MarkForged pushes the envelope further and offers a potentially revolutionary technology for prototyping. The first commercially available 3D printers will be available for pre-order starting next month, with the earliest shipping date estimated in the second half of 2014.