Gregory Mark co-owns Aeromotions, which builds computer-controlled racecar wings. To make those wings both strong and lightweight, they use carbon fiber. No surprise there—it's the material of choice for many advanced motorsports parts. The problem is that making custom racecar parts out of carbon fiber is daunting. The only real method available is CNC machining, an expensive and difficult process that requires laying pieces by hand.
To improve the process, Mark looked to 3D printing. But nothing on the market could print the material, and no available materials could print pieces strong enough for his purposes. So Mark devised his own solution: the MarkForged Mark One, the world's first carbon fiber 3D printer.
Mark debuted his Boston area-based startup MarkForged at SolidWorks World 2014 in San Diego with a working prototype. The Mark One can print in carbon fiber, fiberglass, nylon and PLA (a thermoplastic).
"We took the idea of 3D printing, that process of laying things down strand by strand, and we used it as a manufacturing process to make composite parts," he told PopMech. "We say it's like regular 3D printers do the form. We do form and function."
What you notice first about MarkForged's printer is its amazing simplicity. With an anodized aluminum unibody and a translucent printing bed, it looks like the Mac of 3D printing. The Mark One employs kinematic coupling for consistent bed leveling, meaning you won't need to worry about making sure the bed is leveled correctly after each print. It's also compact, measuring 22.6 inches wide, 14.2 inches tall, and 12.7 inches deep—a good desktop size.