Markforged has distributed its first wave of 3D printers to Michigan-based manufacturers as part of Project DIAMOnD, an initiative set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that hopes to improve the region’s manufacturing agility.
Project DIAMOnD stands for distributed, independent, agile, manufacturing on-demand and has been established by Automation Alley to ‘address the urgent need to move companies into the digital manufacturing age’ and help Michigan state respond better to future disruptions. More than 200 manufacturers have now received printers, meaning they can immediately begin printing personal protective equipment as and when required, while also harnessing the technology to serve other needs.
The project is said to soon be the world’s largest emergency response network for printing parts on-demand and should allow participating manufacturers to maintain their production lines and enhance their versatility. Manufacturers who are accepted into the project are to receive a 3D printer from Markforged valued at more than $20,000 at no cost, guidance on how to move from legacy operations to digital manufacturing, an ‘industry 4.0 assessment’ that will determine what digital opportunities best fit their needs, and a financial investment that will support them in the purchasing of industry 4.0 and digital technologies.
Markforged’s Mark 2 Desktop 3D printer and the X7 Industrial platform are the 3D printing systems that manufacturers will receive, while Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology will help to ensure each printer connects to a centralised, blockchain-enabled cloud which is to be operated by Automation Alley. Companies involved in the project include HERCO Group, a diecast mould and equipment solutions provider; Accufacture, an automation manufacturing company; and Custom Valve Concepts (CVC), a liquid and gas product manufacturer for brands like Nestle, GE, Citgo and PepsiCo. All companies will be relied upon to manufacture PPE as and when orders are secured, while business will also be procured for non-PPE components and manufacturers will be able to leverage the printers for their own needs too. CVC, for example, intends to manufacture tooling and fixtures with its Markforged machine.
“There is boundless potential for 3D printing and it’s starting to unfold in Michigan,” commented Tom Kelly, Executive Director and CEO of Automation Alley. “With Project DIAMOnD, manufacturers in Michigan are setting the pace for what’s possible. At Automation Alley, we’re eager to direct this initiative and measure the impact it has on the production of healthcare equipment as well as other parts critical to the supply chain across multiple industries.”
“Additive manufacturing was always on our minds,” offered Michael Tor, Associate Engineer at CVC. “After receiving this grant and talking with Markforged, that’s when our eyes just started opening up. I used to look at the local news and see these amazing stories of everyday people, not necessarily engineers, helping out. Now we get to do the same. This project provides an avenue for Custom Value Concepts to utilise its abilities to help those in our community and has helped kickstart our goal of introducing additive manufacturing into the company.”
“Traditionally, governments have maintained special networks dedicated to the distribution of information and goods during emergencies, but this will be the first response network capable of actually manufacturing tangible parts and objects on-demand as needs arise,” added Michael Kelly, Director of Print System Engineering at Markforged. “From printing PPE to enabling mass supply chain resiliency, this initiative is showcasing the power of a cloud-connected, digital 3D printing network. Our hope is that, through our contributions, manufacturers can find unique, effective ways to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts and continue innovating with our printers for years to come.”
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