Just days after Stratasys unveiled a 3D printer that can print multiple materials in various colors, a new product once again pushes the boundaries of what's possible for commercial 3D printers.
The "Mark One" printer, from Boston-based startup MarkForged, is the first 3D printer to use carbon fiber. It can also print with fiberglass, nylon, and plastic filament used in most desktop 3D printers.
At a cost of $5,000, the price is reasonable considering that the price point for some 3D printers that only print with plastic aren't far off, though prices for plastic-only printers are dropping. The company is taking pre-orders next month and plans to ship later this year.
The main benefit of carbon fiber is that you can print stronger items. The company says that the carbon fiber used in the printer is 20-times stiffer than the ABS plastic used in other 3D printers, and five-times stronger.
3D printers have already been used to print items like prosthetic limbs. But this could mean strong, lighter, and more practical limbs could be printed. Considering the price of prosthetics, the idea of one day purchasing a $5,000 3D printer to print off prosthetic that generally need to be replaced every few years sounds like a smart investment.
Of course, prosthetics aren't the only items you could print with a carbon fiber printer. Gregory Mark, the founder of MarkForged, developed the carbon fiber printer because he was looking for a way to take advantage of 3D printing to make parts for race cars. As Mark told Popular Mechanics:
"It's a material that everybody knows, but probably most people haven't used. So we made the price low and you can start using it. We wanted to make it really easy for people to start printing with it, so they can explore prosthetics, custom bones, tools, and fixtures."
This is could be a giant step for 3D printers that could help move them forward from prototype makers to useful tools for making practical items.
Check out the Mark One in action:
Sign up to pre-order here.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com