Markforged distributed its first wave of 3D printers to manufacturers in Michigan as part of Project DIAMOnD. The project, which is administered by Michigan-based Industry 4.0 knowledge centre Automation Alley, is dedicated to improving manufacturers’ agility and resiliency as Industry 4.0 builds a head of steam. Over 200 manufacturers have received printers that can produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for civil authorities. The printers also help these manufacturers maintain and retool their manufacturing operations.
Project DIAMOnD’s focus on Michigan PPE production fills a critical gap in the medical supply chain during the continued fight against COVID-19. Each individual printer connects to a centralized, blockchain-enabled cloud, operated by Automation Alley. The project is poised to become the world’s largest emergency response network for printing physical objects on demand.
Automation Alley selected Markforged’s 3D printing platform to enhanced manufacturers’ supply chain efficiency and resiliency along with Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology. Project DIAMOnD is powered by a grant Automation Alley received from Oakland County and Macomb County, allowing for 300 applicants to receive Markforged printers.
Markforged printers are already being used in COVID-19 PPE production. 3dpbm has reported on a partnership between Neurophotometrics that produces nasal swabs. Markforged, moreover, offers interesting AM materials like inconel 625 and copper metals. Its X7 printer can, moreover, turboprint, thus reducing manufacturing time.
“There is boundless potential for 3D printing and it’s starting to unfold in Michigan,” said 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.”
A variety of manufacturers in Michigan have applied to participate in Project DIAMOnD, including Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. The participants include HERCO Group, a diecast mold 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.
“Additive manufacturing was always on our minds,” said Michael Tor, Associate Engineer at CVC. “After receiving this grant and talking with Markforged, that’s when our eyes just started opening up.” The company plans to use the printer to support local frontline workers who need access to PPE, as well as for tooling and fixtures. “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 Valve Concepts to utilize its abilities to help those in our community and has helped kickstart our goal of introducing additive manufacturing into the company,” says Tor.
“Project DIAMOnD and the participating manufacturers are bringing the true promise of the Digital Forge to life,” said Michael Kelly, Director of Print System Engineering at Markforged. “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. 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.”