Well, we print everything we can now. Our customers always need to reduce their costs. So that carries over to us, and we get pushed to find ways to bring our costs down.
Markforged has been huge for doing just that. Not only can we reduce costs, but we can reduce lead time now as well. It’s been huge in prototyping as well. Our engineers just print everything and test right away. You come up with an idea, you print it, you test it, you find some aspect that doesn’t work quite the way you expected. Then update the design, print it overnight, and the next day you have the next iteration.
In the past we’ve used machine shops that have a pretty quick turnaround time, right, maybe three to five days you get your parts. But even then you’re still waiting three to five days to get parts. And it’s certainly more expensive than printing something in house.
One example is a project that we did for a different large medical device company. There was a two week period during which we were printing a new variation of a part and testing it nearly every single day. At the end of those two weeks we had the perfect geometries for a critical part with a few different components: a disc component that needed to swivel around a ball joint, with air flowing through as well, kind of like an upside-down air hockey table.
It was such a huge improvement over what they’ve been using in the past that they ended up replacing their entire inventory of these tools — about 15 of them made from machined aluminum. And they’re not cheap tools. So they replaced 15 of these because the 3D printed version we delivered worked that much better.
This was due to a combination of factors: both the quality of the printer and materials as well as our ability to rapidly prototype effectively.