With Markforged being most widely known for their hardware and range of printable materials, it can be easy to forget that they are also heavily software-focused as a company. After all, their cloud-based Eiger slicing software is easy to use, scalable and is the only 3D printing slicer to obtain ISO/IEC 27001 security certification.
Now, Markforged is starting 2021 by launching their first software-as-a-service, known as Blacksmith.
Blacksmith aims to automate the quality inspection process.
What Is Blacksmith?
On a high level, Blacksmith is an automatic inspection software built for the Markforged X7 that allows users to scan their printed parts for accuracy and precision. To scan parts, Blacksmith uses the laser micrometer that is already built-in to the X7 print head. The software will automatically perform part scans while printing, so no additional user input is required either during or after printing to obtain the scan data. Once a part is completed, all data is accessible in the Eiger slicer.
How It Works
As you might expect, Blacksmith starts with the X7 printer itself. Automated calibration tools will walk users through the process of verifying that their printer is set up to deliver high-quality scan results. Since Blacksmith is built around existing X7 hardware, no hardware swaps or upgrades need to occur here.
Using a custom print bed insert, an X7 is calibrated and made ready for Blacksmith parts.
Once the system is calibrated, operators will be able to set up builds for Blacksmith using the same Eiger software that is currently used to set up prints. The amount of detail for a part scan can be set during this step, and even the most detailed scan will have small impacts on total print time.
Since Blacksmith scans parts as they are printed, internal features that would be hard to measure with traditional inspection methods can be easily scanned.
Parts are scanned while printed. Data regarding internal features is as easy to obtain as any external geometry.
Using scan data from the printer, Blacksmith will create a point cloud and compare it with the original STL that was uploaded and sliced. The deviations between point cloud and part will be shown by Blacksmith, with the number of data points being representative of the scan quality that was selected before printing.
An example Blacksmith point cloud after a print is completed.
Because different parts have different requirements, users can filter the point cloud results to only show areas below a certain tolerance value. Any previous reports on the same part can also be accessed and compared to more recent data.
Blacksmith results can be easily filtered for only accuracies that are important to users.
In the same way that 3D printing can free up valuable machinist resources, Blacksmith can relieve Markforged parts from internal quality control processes. Whether by hand or with inspection equipment like CMMs, verifying parts has previously meant that they would need to be externally measured somehow. This naturally takes time and could slow down the implementation of a critical replacement part. Having a part accuracy reported generated upon print completion removes additional quality checks from the equation.
Blacksmith lets users easily obtain accuracy data with no extra effort after a part is printed.
Because Blacksmith also stores report history for each part, it is easy to trace and access dimensional data via Eiger. This includes parts with multiple prints or revisions. By using Blacksmith, operators can have actual data to back up the accuracy of their parts while also saving time by automating their quality control.
The Blacksmith software becomes available for Markforged X7 printers on March 18, 2021.
Thanks for reading everyone! Check out our site for more information on Markforged 3D printers, and if you are interested in learning about or purchasing Blacksmith, be sure to contact us at Hawk Ridge Systems today.