How the Concept Cars of Tomorrow Are Made With 3D Printing


How the Concept Cars of Tomorrow Are Made With 3D Printing

Located in the heart of the UK’s auto industry, Vital Auto is an industrial design studio with deep expertise in automotive design. The company’s illustrious clientele includes many of the major automotive manufacturers, such as Volvo, Nissan, Lotus, McLaren, Geely, TATA, and more.

“Clients typically come to us to try and push the boundaries of what’s possible with the technology available,“ said Shay Moradi, Vital’s VP of Innovation & Experiential Technology. When manufacturers don’t have time for experimentation themselves, they rely on Vital Auto with any kind of challenge to turn ideas, initial sketches, drawings, or technical specifications into a fully realized physical form.

Read on to learn how Vital Auto—a customer of Formlabs’ fastest growing UK reseller, SolidPrint 3D—creates high-fidelity prototypes and concept cars, rapidly working through iterations using a variety of advanced tools, including a large fleet of Form 3L and Fuse 1 printers.


The Making of a Concept Car


Vital Auto was founded in 2015 when three friends got together, quit their jobs, and decided to set up a shop—fittingly—in a garage. One of the first contracts the company took on was for the NIO EP9 supercar concept, which instantly set the team on a course to producing extremely realistic, high-fidelity vehicular prototypes.

Depending on the client’s request, the team will start anywhere from simply a sketch on a piece of paper to an already designed vehicle. They develop cars from a blank sheet and design all the mainframes, all the exterior and interior elements, open/closings, and interactive elements. With five to 30 people working on a single concept, a typical project could take anywhere from three to 12 months.

During this time, a typical show car goes through up to a dozen core design iterations, and within those, there can be further iterations of smaller components until the design meets the expectations of the customer.

“It’s all well in our industry to look at virtual properties as a means of evaluating a product before it goes to market. However, I think there’s always going to be a place for physically manufactured objects as well. There’s nothing that beats the sensation and feeling of holding an object in your hands with the correct weight, with the correct proportions, and the dynamics of how the physical environment changes your perception of that physical object,“ said Moradi.



“Most of our customers will come to us with a new idea, an innovative idea, and something that’s never been done before. So the challenges for us are new every single day and they’re endless,” said Anthony Barnicott, Design Engineer in charge of additive manufacturing. “These challenges can range from, how can we produce this number of parts in this amount of time to, how can we make a sustainable product or how can we make a part that achieves a particular weight while still achieving a particular performance.”

While traditional show cars are normally made just from milling clay, the team also uses three- and five-axis CNC milling, hand forming, hand clay modeling, and GRP composites. These traditional processes are, however, often not ideal for producing the custom parts required for one-off concepts.

“We’ve used 3D printing from day one. We wanted to introduce it to our manufacturing processes, not only to reduce costs but to give the customer more diversity with their designs and their ideas,” said Barnicott.

Today, Barnicott runs a whole 3D printing department, including 14 large-format FDM printers, three Formlabs 3L large-format SLA printers, and five Fuse 1 SLS printers.

“In terms of capacity, all those printers have run 100%, 24/7, pretty much since day one. We use these printers for all areas of our concepts and designs. Typically, we would use the Fuse 1s for our production-based parts and we would use our Form 3Ls for our concept-based parts,” said Barnicott.


Manufacturing Complex Designs From Multiple Materials With the Form 3L


“We use the Form 3L machines for anything that is an A-class finished surface. So typically in an automotive environment, and interior where you have parts that are not being trimmed with leather or Alcantara or some sort of cloth material. Formlabs materials give us a nice, smooth finish for our painters to work with, we can use these parts straight out the printer, straight onto a vehicle,” said Barnicott.

“What interests me most about the Form 3L machines is their versatility, the ability to do a material change in less than five minutes and the variability of those materials going from a soft, flexible material to a hard and rigid material for us is priceless,” said Barnicott.



The team uses the Form 3L’s with multiple materials for a wide array of applications, for example:


Air Vents


“It’s a common challenge for us as a business where customers will approach us with a proprietary product and want to encase it in their own design. Once, a customer approached us with a proprietary air vent from another vehicle that they wished to have inside their own interior. We used 3D scanning technology to reproduce this part digitally and then created an external skin. We first produced this in the Draft material to test out the design and allow the customer to verify it. From there, we moved to the White material to produce a production-ready part.”


Switch Packs


“When working with incredibly intricate designs, such as small switch packs, what we’re able to do is use multiple materials to achieve a mechanical product that not only functions correctly but can be used in a real-world environment. [For these switch packs], we combined harder materials, such as the Tough 2000 for the top surface, with the lighter, more cost-effective materials for the internals.”


Door Seals


“Typically, door seals for automotive applications can be incredibly costly to produce. there’s simply no other way other than extrusion molding to produce them. This comes at, not only a very large tooling cost but also a long lead time as well. We were able to experiment with one of Formlabs’ newest materials, the Flexible 80A. The Form 3L enabled us to produce sections of this door seal overnight to test various geometries and was printed within 50 microns of the actual design.”



Having the Form 3L empowers the team to produce multiple iterations of parts in most cases within 24 hours. They ended up buying three different machines so they could produce up to three different iterations of a part at the same time, even using three different materials. They can then pass on the cost savings to the customer or offer more value by showcasing multiple design options for the same price.

“One of the beauties of using additive manufacturing is the compression of a timeframe. So what do you do in that span of time that you have freed up? We sort of seeing it as extending the possibility space into imagining alternatives, into adding more iteration loops in the process,“ said Moradi.

“There are many products we produce that we simply wouldn’t be able to without our Form 3Ls. With some of the most advanced manufacturing techniques, such as seven-axis CNC machining, we’d be able to produce these parts, but it would come at a huge compromising cost,” said Barnicott.


Complementing CNC Machining for Mechanical Parts With the Fuse 1

“The Fuse 1 one was our first venture into SLS technology. As a small business, this is a technology we thought we would never be able to have on-site. With the Fuse 1, not only do we have one of the machines, but we actually have five of the machines on the site. What these machines enable us to do is produce structural mechanical parts very quickly, not only for testing but for physical applications in most of our concepts. This process would have typically been done by CNC machining, either on our site or off-site, depending on the geometry, and we would have to wait two to four days to get the parts in our hands. The Fuse 1 enables us to cover all of this on-site and have parts in our hand in most instances, less than 24 hours,” said Barnicott.



The team mainly uses the Fuse 1s for mechanical parts, such as door hinges, door handle inners, door internals, and structural applications. They can use these parts straight off the printer, with minimal finishing. Some of the applications where the team used the Fuse 1s include:


Air Duct


“A lot of automotive interior parts can be incredibly tricky to produce without going down the traditional injection molded route. Items such as internal air ducts and vents, items that are never seen, but yet require a large cost to produce. We use the Fuse 1 to produce these parts. It allows us to be much more versatile with the designs we put in the vehicle without incurring the large costs that they would typically have.”


Brake Caliper


“Sometimes we produce parts whereby the customer simply wants to see what their brand will look like on a specific part. That means we have to produce a part rather quickly so we can apply their brand to it. We use the Fuse 1 to produce these parts, such as a brake caliper, and we can produce the logo in different areas of the caliper in different colors for the customer to review.”


Interactive Concept for a Supercar


3D printing has allowed us to combine both the SLA and SLS materials to work our way through design iterations on a specific project. This allows us to quickly produce multiple iterations, combining both processes, using them for their specific properties, to achieve a final design. This can be anything from mechanical parts to clear parts to check their optical quality and output.”



While it’s often said that additive manufacturing is here to replace subtractive manufacturing, the Vital Auto team sees benefits in combining different technologies to leverage their best qualities.

“We use the two processes together to help support each other. We have many parts where we would use subtractive manufacturing and then use additive manufacturing to produce all the finer details. This allows us to have a much more cost-effective way of producing a lot of our concept models,” said Barnicott.


Creating High-Fidelity Concept Cars With 3D Printing


“The progression in technology and 3D printing over the last 10 years is phenomenal. When I first started, producing low-volume, niche vehicles, some of the products that we produce today would simply have been inaccessible. And not only am I able to produce these parts today, but I’m also able to produce them very cost-effectively, very quickly,” said Barnicott.

3D printing not only helps the team create better products faster but also attracts new business. They found that many of their customers turn to them because they want to have access to the latest technologies and they want to have their components made using the latest cutting-edge materials.

“There are certain things that you just can’t class as emerging technologies anymore. 3D printing is one of those things. It’s advanced to a point where everything that we produce is good enough for use in the final presentation stage with all the layers of making that we apply on top of that. 3D printing has gone from almost a novelty to becoming an absolutely inseparable part of what we do,“ said Moradi.

Printing & Post Processing of Replica Models with Markforged


Printing & Post Processing of Replica Models with Markforged

By Gregory Bejtlich – Application Specialist at SolidXperts

Despite the many advances in 3D printing technology, additive manufacturing continues to be a monochromatic industry. Conventional FFF (FDM) and SLA printers are limited to printing one color at a time, but what do you do when you need more? Adding a splash of color to your model improves aesthetics and highlights key details through the pre-production phases.

Today we are looking at the printing and post-processing of a Mars Rover replica. Since 2014 NASA has been releasing 3D models to their public database, including files optimized for 3D printing. Some of our favorites include the 1:200 scale SOFIA, also known as the “black-hole hunting” Boeing 747SP, and the conceptual Titan Submarine tasked with exploring the methane seas of Saturn’s largest moon.

Despite these interesting models, our favorite must be the Mars Curiosity Rover. Launched in 2012, the Curiosity Rover has been researching the Gale crater in search of microbial life and water. The 3D models are free from NASA and can be found on their “3D Resources Page”.

Download the files here

Detailed Curiosity Model (Large) – Build Instructions

The file set includes twenty-one unique components and four pre-nested files for your printing convenience. The models are designed for FFF printing and include “support free” features, e.g. diamond/arched cutouts angles less than 45°, and pre-oriented parts.

Curiosity Rover Body (no support needed!)

Our go-to printers for the rover replica were the Markforged Mark Two and the Industrial X7. Note: The 200 µm resolution and filament used for this print can also be accomplished with the base series Onyx One. The flagship material for Markforged printers is a nylon-carbon fiber blend called Onyx, which is known for its rigidity, matte black appearance, and strong chemical resistance. To make this print more manageable, we fit as many parts as possible on the X7’s massive build plate and fine-tuned the settings. The default Eiger settings work best, but the resolution was reduced to 200 microns for a faster print. In total, the “time to part” was 39 hours with a cost of $58.36.

Eiger X7 Buildplate

Build Volume: 12.9in x 10.63in x 7.87in

What made these models ideal for additive manufacturing? Minimizing the amount of support material necessary keeps the surfaces smooth and requires minimal cleanup. Strings and excess material were removed with a fine point blade, and rough surfaces were given a light 220-grit sanding. While the 200 µm layer height prints more quickly than the higher resolution layers, the striations become more apparent on angled and domed surfaces which can be filled with filler or primer as necessary. Geometry with greater curvature should be printed at a much smaller layer height (50-125 µm).

Assembly and disassembly before painting are recommended as part interference or further clean-up may be required. Blue painter’s tape can be used to mask off a specific section or features retaining the black appearance underneath. Since Onyx is carbon black, a base layer of plastic primer is a must! Paint will adhere to the primer and will enhance lighter colors on the black surface. Our choice of paint is Krylon Fusion All-In-One which has both primer and paint and adheres well to Onyx. If the part will be subjected to harsh outdoors, a satin or glossy clear coat can help protect the finish.

After drying in a well-ventilated area, carefully remove your masking tape and begin assembly. Many of the dowel pins included have a retaining lip and rotate freely. Other components such as the mounting bracket should be anchored with super glue. In general, gel super glue performs better than liquid as it fills gaps and has a longer set time. Markforged recommends Loctite 4861, but we’ve had success with many brands of gel super glue.

Tip: If you desire further detail in your model, skip the spray paint and color the bolts and wiring with a fine-tip paint brush or paint pen.

Animated GIF of Rover Assembly

Finally, enjoy your print and take some photos!

SolidXperts offers you the solutions to meet your needs and help you in all your daily challenges. For more information about Markforged 3D printers, contact us.

Designing for Metal X 3D Printing


Designing for Metal X 3D Printing

John Nolin – Senior Technical Representative SolidXperts USA

The Markforged Metal X printing system can produce a variety of metal parts in a growing selection of alloys, but as with any production method, some part geometries will print easier, or better, than others. Design for Manufacture considerations apply for Metal X part production to be the most effective.

However, for parts where casting or machining production methods would otherwise be used, producing through the Metal X printing system can be 50-90% faster and less expensive. In many cases multiple fastened pieces can be printed as 1 part, reducing assembly and maintenance time. Also, when the standard print settings are used, a printed part will often be 20% lighter than the same geometry produced by other methods.

Something to avoid is printing part features that could be easily purchased, such as shafts, threaded rods, pins, and similar mechanical hardware items. Additionally, the Metal X supports are fully solid and do not break or dissolve like plastic or composite printed supports do. There is a ceramic release layer between the support and the finished part geometry, however, it is still preferable to avoid as much support as reasonable. For external features, this is often accomplished by using 45-degree chamfers or tapers. For horizontal hole-type features, a teardrop or diamond shape will avoid the support that would have been used for a circular or square feature.

As with any production process, there are some recommended minimum wall thicknesses and feature size dimensions that apply to Metal X printed parts. For structural soundness, the wall thickness of features should be 1.5 mm or greater, vertical holes can be as small as 1 mm, and grooves can be as thin as 0.5 mm.

It is quite possible, and in many cases recommended, to print the threads of tapped holes rather than tap them after the sintering process. Vertical threads can successfully print as small as M3 or #5-40, angled or horizontal threads should be M10 or 3/8”-16 and larger.

Printed parts can be lightly sanded or smoothed with Scotch-Brite while in the green state condition to improve surface appearance. When using the standard settings, individual feature faces can be post machined 0.5 mm in the X or Y direction and 0.3 mm in Z to achieve specific fit conditions with other parts.

Eiger does have some additional options for adjusting Metal X printing, particularly with regards to supports. However, it is certainly recommended to always use the [Internal View] mode to examine the part slicing in closer detail before sending it to the printer.

With just a little consideration of the Metal X system capabilities, some truly innovative parts can be produced in less time, at a lighter weight, and at a lower cost than might otherwise be possible. Robotic grippers, hydraulic tool components, motor mounts, and power train parts have all been produced with the Markforged Metal X printing system.

3D modeling for additive manufacturing


3D modeling for additive manufacturing

  Repair Resolution –
 You might be an engineer – if, you fix broken fitness equipment with CAD and 3D printing. This case study shows just how that was done. It starts with a budget water rower exercise machine that had arm failures in the resistance paddle which spins inside the water tank. The machine had been purchased early in the year and the paddle arms failed by December.

Note that the arms of the original paddle broke off where the plastic transitions from a thinner beam profile to the larger hub. Of course, it could have been predicted by using SOLIDWORKS Flow, Plastics, or Simulation software, but that discussion will be saved for another article.

For the moment we will focus on designing and producing a 3D printed replacement paddle that is more similar to the design used  in expensive health club water rower machines.

The commercial grade water rower has single mixing paddle design that extends across the diameter of the tank. There are openings between the shaft hub and the scoop ends, but the paddle has solid plastic arms at the top and bottom of the water tank. The budget rower was connected only at the bottom of the water tank leading to increasing offset dynamic loads as athlete exertion increases.

Although the original design paddle diameter of 18 inches is larger than many 3D printer print volume dimensions, it was possible to get 16 inches diagonally across the build plate. Adjusting the width of the working portion of the paddle and having the solid section on top allows the surface area displacing the water to be similar between the 3D printed design and the injection molded paddle.

By using a pattern of triangle and diamond shapes for the open section, the replacement paddle can be printed without support.Chamfers are used for edge breaks around the edges and openings for better flow characteristics while still being easy to print.

The original paddle had a pressed and brazed connection between the paddle and rower shaft, and this has been replaced with a pentagon shaped hole to allow for screw fastening to the shaft.

For strength Markforged Onyx filament is used which is a carbon and nylon blend. The wall passes are increased and gyroid infill is used along with maintaining the full paddle width through the paddle cross section.

Disassembly of the original paddle from the rower was a bit involved, requiring drilling and a gear puller to get the shaft clear to accept the printed replacement.


Some additional drilling and bolting allowed the new paddle to be installed on the rower shaft.

With a slight adjustment of water volume in the tank, the 3D printed replacement paddle provides the same resistance and workout as the when the machine was new.

Water flow is different with the replacement paddle but the workout is the same. And the repair is done in time for a new year of health resolutions.

John Nolin

Senior Applications Engineer


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What’s New SOLIDWORKS 2022 – Hit List


What’s New SOLIDWORKS 2022 – Hit List

Installation –

Admin Image types (option) Standard, Remote, Compressed

Remote – allows users to download image from internet / SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal instead of from company VPN

Compressed – smaller download, but must use full package at each service pack upgrade

SOLIDWORKS Electrical – new client or server specific installation options (easier for multi-user environments)

PDM – vault views can now be deployed as part of an Admin Image

Copy Settings wizardcan now adapt to System Options distributed and locked with Admin Image


User Interface –

New message bar pop-up at top of graphics window

Quick Copy utility for Measure tool – allows 1 click copy of values or values + units

Command Search now integrated in Shortcut toolbar (and can be directly added to toolbar)

Drawings saved to PDF can now include the sheet / paper color

Reference Geometry display and selection during Mate, Measure or Pattern.

While in the command hover mouse over faces or cylinders press [Q] to momentarily display reference geometry for selection.

Additional options for Component Tree display to show various combinations of Component Name, Description, Configuration, and Display State.


Sketching –

Linear sketch entity is now usable for direction reference in patterns

Sketch textnow works in patterns


Parts –

Coordinate systems – can be set with exact values in 3D space (independent of a geometry reference to select)

Coordinate systems – can be referenced or selected by its origin, an axis or plane

Cosmetic Threads – better display, retains proper depth and edge attachment

Draft Across Parting Lines – now draft can be applied in both directions from a parting line as 1 feature

External Threaded Stud Wizard – an extension of detailed Thread Feature that builds the stud with threads at 1 time

Hole Wizard Slots – dimension to arc center option added, hit [Tab] to rotate 90deg while placing feature.

Hybrid Modeling – allows mesh bodies (after BREP conversion) to be edited with surface features and combined with solid features

Segmented Mesh bodies – converted mesh bodies can have faces turned into classic BREP

Mirror about 2 planes – with 1 feature creation

Rotate Section View– around a hole or axis

Thickness Analysis – now offers Resolution control with Low, Med, High tessellation sizes


Model Display –

Performance improvement for 3D textures and silhouette edges


Sheet Metal –

Edge flanges on curves can now apply edit profile to limit the feature extents

Etched contours on bends (sketch text or split lines) retain display in flattened state


Structure System & Weldments –

Structure Systems now supports end caps

Custom Properties of older version weldments (2017 or earlier) can be upgraded to newer property architecture

Improvements in Complex Corner property manager

Ability for multiple secondary members (using between points, or up to member methods)

Connector Elements for Structure Systems now supported

Can include cut features as connector is placed.

ImprovedCustom Properties dialog for Structure Systems and Weldments bodies


Assemblies –

(x) Automatically optimize resolved mode, hide lightweight mode

Improves performance by letting system control lightweight use behind the scenes (behaves as resolved to the user)

Open Subassemblies in Different Mode– right click option to load subassembly as LDR or Resolved (independent of upper assembly current mode)

Exclude from BOM – custom configuration property for components

Configuration Table – Design Table functionality without needing the embedded Excel sheet  (file size / performance / no excel ???)

Section View – option toexclude failed componentsand still create section view

Assemblies and components with equations will auto resolveas needed, if loaded lightweight

Move with Triad– automatically appears when more than 1 component selected

AdditionalQuick Mates options on In Context Toolbar


Detailing & Drawings –

Alternate Position Viewsnow allow cropping

Predefined Drawing Viewsnow support trimetric, dimetric, or flat pattern types

Detailing Modeimprovements – available for any version file, Save model data and include standard views performance options added

Geometric Tolerance frames now build dynamically on screen 

Radius / Diameter dimension display toggle now on incontext bar for easier access

Sheet Metal flat pattern views can now show bend lines when sketch display is hidden

Handling of detailed cut lists within BOMtables is improved

Symmetric Linear Diameter Dimension is added 


Import / Export –

Performance improvements forimport of large DXF/DWG and STEP files

Ability to select specific IFC Entity types from the files for import

Assigned colors of entities properly support in DXF/DWG export



Improvements with Windows AD integration: additional user data fields, profile import, login validation tools

Improved configuration property managementand control

Archive Server and User log export capabilities added

Preview Tab now shows full eDrawings viewer controls

Performance improvementsfor file operations even when database has higher latency


Manage –

UI improvements for BOM, Project Properties, Process Tab and more

Additional user rights controls over check out of items

Replace User capability added

Performance improvements for BOM and Project display as well as PDM check in/out


Simulation –

Blended Curvature Based Mesher is now default for new studies

Bonded and Contactperformance improvements

Linkage Rod Connector item

Improved solver performance and automatic solver selection



Tools to set camera perspective to matchbackplate

Shadow catcher property can be assigned to scene elements

Scenes Tab UI improvements

Animations improvements for motion studies, key frames and more

Render Output Viewer – in project viewing, control, and management of renders

Pattern Tool – replaces and improves prior Formation function (Vee, Circle, Scatter, Grid)



Toolpath endpointscan be set for a custom color for easier viewing

Filter for Mill & Turn tools containing specified text string


Composer –

Ability to import SOLIDWORKS appearance decals

Import file versionextensions: ACIS up to 2021 , Creo 7, SOLIDWORKS 2022


Electrical –

Links in BOM cells – allows multiple items to reference 1 mfg part

PDF data file support for Project PDF exports (bind PDF function)

Multiple UI improvements

Attribute capability added to Origin & Destination arrows (shows mark of connected component)

Electrical Content Portalcan now be set as dockable panel in UI

Improved Connection Point creation


Inspection –

New API– auto open SOLIDWORKS files, Balloon drawings, create reports and more

Standalone now supportsall native SOLIDWORKS files and NX/Unigraphics *.prt files (MBE)

Smart Extract in standalone has improved recognition and parsing of PDF file content



HTML(5) exportoption on 3D PDF creation

Angle Dimension manual annotation for DimXpert added

Geometric Tolerancingimprovement including ANSI Y14.5 or ISO 1101 release selection


eDrawings –

Support for SOLIDWORKS custom file properties when saved as eDrawings files

Components list UIimprovements


Flow Simulation –

Scene Plot utility – stores all displayed plots and model display

Compare Tool improvements

Range Function – for handling of transient effects (such as power derating due to temperature calculation)

Flux Plot – now available within Transient Explorer


Plastics –

Symmetric & Cyclic Cavity and Runner Layout tools

Injection Location Advisor – based on part geometry software selects up to 4 recommended injection locations

Polymer materials data updates (using latest manufacturer properties)

SABIC, Polyplastics, Solvay Specialty Polymers, Radici Group, LANXESS

Improved UI of Plastics Manager Tree

4K and higher displayresolution support

Solver performance improvement – cooling calculation time reduced 34%, Fill & Pack reduced 60%


Routing –

Flatten Routeimprovements for horizontal selection, and line only output

Connector backshellsupport added

Replace Connectorcapability added – preserves line connection where possible  


SolidXperts teams can help you become true 3D experts! An additional question? Need information?

Contact us! 

SolidXperts team is always there for you!

Metal X 3D Printing: 3 Easy-to-Make Products


Metal X 3D Printing: 3 Easy-to-Make Products

written by SolidXperts – USA Senior Technical Representative John Nolin

New metal 3D printing systems are available with a much lower price point and the ability to produce parts in a growing range of alloys. This is making metal 3D printing a valid option for manufacturing firms much smaller than the aerospace companies usually associated with metal printed components.


Custom Power Train

BowHead Corp produces the Reach adventure cycle that allows disabled persons to enjoy mountain bikes or similar trail systems. The custom power train components are metal 3D printed.


The printed drive and idler sprockets are lighter weight than a machined equivalent and have held up to severe off-road trail conditions. Metal printing allows for customization of sprocket spacing and OD which can be difficult to obtain with standard off-the-shelf components.

Similar parts can be easily printed for commercial conveyor roller chain systems as well. Tables representing the appropriate ASME/ANSI B29.1 standard can be found here:

A Better Grip

3D printed end effectors are a popular user upgrade or customization for traditional manufacturing pick & place robots. For gripping on parts with internal course threads or other hard-to-handle surfaces, a custom-fit set of gripper fingers can be easily printed in metal.


Cast No Doubt

Sometimes the anticipated annual product quantity does not readily justify the expense and inventory issues of minimum casting runs. This is an area where the option to metal 3D print a component can have significant savings. Properly designed for the 3D metal printing process, a component can combine features that might otherwise require additional fasteners and assembly work.


These are just a few samples of the components that can be quickly and easily produced with Metal-X 3D printing. The range of metal alloys available to print is growing every few months. Currently, it includes stainless steel (17-4), tool steel (H-13, A2, D2), and Inconel (625). Additional stainless steels, Copper, and Titanium are in development. The ability to quickly and inexpensively print metal components will spur further innovation in design and help to bring production local to where it is used.

John Nolin
Senior Technical Representative
SolidXperts USA
Metal-X Certified Technician

SolidXperts teams can help you become true 3D experts! An additional question? Need information?

Contact us! 

SolidXperts team is always there for you!

Sheet Metal – Exceeding the Length or Width Dimensions of a Raw Material


Sheet Metal – Exceeding the Length or Width Dimensions of a Raw Material

By Frédéric Jacques – Application Specialist – SolidXperts

Do you want to avoid designing sheet metal parts beyond the dimensional limits available? Add an alert (sensor) to your SOLIDWORKS model.

Step 1: Display the View Orientation Cube

Display the flattening of your sheet metal part. Make sure the sketch of the viewing cube is not in hidden mode.

Step 2: Hide the Volume Body

Hide the solid body to show only the fold lines and the viewing cube of the unfolded part. To do so, unfold the display status bar in the creation tree (Feature Manager). Right-click on the body displayed in the open tab and select hide volume body.

Step 3: Place a Reference Dimension

Now you can see the sketch of the viewing cube automatically created by a sheet metal part in SOLIDWORKS.  This represents the overall volume of the part and you can place a reference dimension on the length, width, or thickness. Be careful not to select sketches that represent bend lines.

Step 4: Create a Dimension Sensor

Include a sensor. Right-click on the sensor icon in the creation tree and select “Add a sensor”. Select a dimension sensor and submit the desired conditions.

Sensor type = Dimension
Properties = Select the reference dimension that has been added (13.37″)
Alert = Check the box “Warn me if the value = …”
Select “is greater than” and write the value not to be exceeded. (15″ in the example)

Step 5: Check Sensor Operation

Finally, display the volume body again, and apply any modifications to your part in the folded state. A warning message is then displayed in the shaft if you are no longer within the defined values of the sensor.

SolidXperts teams can help you become true 3D experts! An additional question? Need information?

Contact us! 

SolidXperts team is always there for you!

How Does a 3D Printer Work?


How Does a 3D Printer Work?

By Application Specialist – Greg Bejtlich

Despite additive manufacturing being developed in the late 1980s, the term “3D printing” has been a fairly new topic in world news. Adidas is printing footwear, ICON is printing houses, and Ford is printing car parts. There are dozens of techniques for 3D printing, some for plastics and others meant for metal. The most common being FFF, or Fused Filament Fabrication. The principle of FFF requires pushing hot thermoplastic through a nozzle and onto an adhesive bed. Depending on the style of printer, the hot thermoplastic is deposited in the X and Y-axis, cools, and moves onto the next layer. Similar to our favorite childhood toy the “Etch A Sketch”, moving the print head on the X and Y-axis can create complex shapes and pathing. Repeating this process and stacking these layers can result in strong lightweight parts.



To best understand 3D printing, we’ll start with the extruded material. The material for 3D printing is called “filament” and can vary from high-impact plastics to flexible elastomers. The most common materials printed today are ABS, PLA, and Nylon. These plastics are sold in spools and range from diameters of 1.75 – 3mm. Filaments can also be supplemented with various additives such as fiberglass, ceramic, and carbon fiber. Innovators like Markforged are creating proprietary blends of thermoplastics resulting in nylon twenty-three times stronger than ABS with a 40% increase in heat deflection.



The spools of filament are loaded into a dry box and fed into a motorized extruder. The extruder’s bearings and toothed gears ensure that the material is fed into the hot nozzle at a constant rate and does not under extrude. Most commonly the extruder is located inside of an enclosure or mounted directly on top of the print head, also called “Direct Drive”.


Print Head

The print head consists of six major components that handle the extrusion of the build material. The filament is forcibly fed from the extruder into the heat sink and heater block. The heater block is comprised of three simple components. An aluminum block, a heating element, and a temperature sensor – most commonly called a thermistor. The heating element warms both the heater block and the filament while the thermistor keeps the temperature in check. In its molten state, the filament is pushed through an interchangeable nozzle with diameters of .1mm to 1mm. The most common filament nozzle is .4mm

The image below shows two colored areas. The red area of the diagram is the heater block providing temperatures of 180-275°. The blue heat sink is cooled by fans and prevents molten filament and heat from creeping up the print head, also known as “heat creep”. The cooling fans also ensure that the molten filament leaving the nozzle rapidly cools and adheres to the previous layer.


Print Bed

The last stage in a 3D printer is the print bed. The print bed is the flat and level surface where your part is built. The first layer of filament deposited on the print bed must have excellent adhesion or else the part may dislocate. Similar to constructing a house, the foundation’s quality will impact the rest of the building. To ensure proper adhesion, many printers have implemented heated build plates, tacky surfaces, or liquid adhesives. One-time use or disposable build plates can be inefficient and costly, unlike reusable build plates which require minimal cleanup and reduced waste


The material science and precision of 3D printing are key to the success of tomorrow’s technology. The ability to generate complex geometry with a broad selection of materials unlocks endless possibilities, and the next big idea could be yours.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and have an interest in creating strong 3D prints, head over to Markforged and check out the MarkTwo and X7. Their printers have an added twist on FFF and reinforce parts with kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Creating parts lighter and stronger than 6061 Aluminum!


For more information, to try Eiger for FREE, or to reach an Xpert visit our Markforged information pages.

Markforged releases new trend report – “The Additive Movement has Arrived!”


Markforged releases new trend report – “The Additive Movement has Arrived!”

WATERTOWN, MA – May 26, 2020Markforged, the leading manufacturer of metal and carbon fiber 3D printers, released a new Trends Report and Additive Applications Library that shows how modern manufacturers are using additive manufacturing to drive supply chain optimization and value in their organizations. The resources examine more than 100 applications within aerospace and defense, automotive, education, electronics, medical, and manufacturing; and applications across prototyping, tools and fixtures, end-use parts, and maintenance parts.

“Many of our industry peers still believe that the value of additive manufacturing is 10-15 years away when you can 3D print houses, cars, and airplanes,” said Michael Papish, VP of Marketing at Markforged. “But we’re seeing real value with customers today. Applications we’re featuring in our new Trends Report and Applications Library are already practical applications that manufacturers can use to save money, reduce downtime, and open up new revenue streams. Additive isn’t future hype, it’s already here calling from inside the house.”


Trends Report: “The Additive Movement has Arrived”

Markforged analyzed 100+ applications from around the globe across six major industries to understand how 3D printing is being used in the world today. The report found an unprecedented array of applications that demonstrate a strong, growing movement toward additive manufacturing. The applications centered around four major themes: accessibility, design freedom, physical strength and durability, and reliability — all of which are meant to improve or complement their traditional manufacturing processes and workstreams. This report discusses how we got here and the applications that are changing the way industries operate. This report authentically showcases a breadth of additive applications that are changing manufacturing, from the ability to relieve skilled workers to focus on prototyping instead of tooling to producing critical experimental test nozzles in a matter of days instead of months. The scope of applications included gives a unique view into the manufacturing industry and how additive manufacturing is driving business value.


Database: “The Additive Applications Library

The Additive Applications Library is a comprehensive exploration tool that allows users to find real-world 3D printing use cases and examples from Markforged customers around the globe. Users can filter by industry, application, and materials to help to identify similar 3D printing opportunities in their organization and provide inspiration for new ways to improve their manufacturing processes.


More Information


About Markforged

Markforged transforms manufacturing with 3D metal and continuous carbon fiber printers capable of producing parts tough enough for the factory floor. Engineers, designers, and manufacturing professionals all over the world rely on Markforged metal and composite printers for tooling, fixtures, functional prototyping, and high-value end-use production. Founded in 2013 and based in Watertown, MA, Markforged has about 250 employees globally, with $137 million in both strategic and venture capital. Markforged was recently recognized by Forbes in the Next Billion-Dollar Startups list and listed as the #2 fastest-growing hardware company in the US in the 2019 Deloitte Fast 500.

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Fun fact: 5 Amazing Objects Created with a 3D Printer


Fun fact: 5 Amazing Objects Created with a 3D Printer

Written by Senior Technical Representative – SolidXperts USA, John Nolin

There are many new uses for industrial quality 3D printers. The strength and part quality from plastic or composite printers and the price point for metal 3D printers has improved significantly over the last 5 years.

Largest in the World

Recently in the news, the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center achieved 3 separate Guinness World Records related to producing an entire full scale boat with world’s largest polymer 3D printer.


The boat is a 25 foot long model 3Dirigo, that weighs 5000 lbs and has already undergone initial testing in the Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory.

Reaching new terrain

Similarly, BowHead Corp produces the Reach adventure cycle that allows disabled persons to enjoy mountain bike or similar trail systems. The steering and suspension components are composite 3D printed and some power train components are metal 3D printed.


Christian Bagg is wheelchair bound himself and developed the first explorer cycle for his own use to better enjoy the Rocky Mountain area by the Bow River where he lives.

Better Robots

Several BattleBots teams use 3D printed components as weapons, drive systems, and chassis parts. Robots such as Overhaul and Sawblaze have been competing and winning with 3D printed parts since the 2016 season.




3D printed end effectors are a popular user upgrade or customization for traditional manufacturing pick & place robots. Also, several makers of warehouse robots and systems are incorporating 3D printed components within their end products.

A Smarter Dummy

The crash test dummy that certifies your next new car or truck has the proper safety design to protect you, has ribs and other parts that are 3D printed. The printed part design provides strengths similar to bones and allows wires and sensor electronics to be incorporated easily without interfering with the behavior in a crash.



3D printed molding fixtures are also used in the production of flexible crash test dummy neck rings. The printed molds are much more durable than other soft mold options and much less expensive than machined metal mold forms.

Forming new music

Wind instruments are generally hand formed by bending hard brass and similar tubing into the proper shape. The bending tools need to have the proper strength but not introduce any scratches which may ruin the sound of the finished product. 3D printed bending fixtures with internal reinforcement perform the job and are much faster and less expensive than traditional wood form production. For the French Horn shown, even some levers and finger pads were 3D printed.

The technique can be applied to more industrial applications such as rigid tubing pieces or microwave waveguide sections.



Several designs also exist for various sort of electric string instruments. The variety extends all the way from professional quality electric violins to a home built ukulele or guitar.

These amazing products are just a sampling of what is being accomplished recently with higher quality 3D printers and improved, lower cost materials. The SolidXperts website has several 3D printers with capacities for the inventor at home, all the way to the large firm producing metal components for test and end use.


For more information on our range of Markforged 3D printers or to talk to an Xpert, click here.

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