When global oil prices hit rock bottom, Andy Simpson’s role running oil and gas manufacturing facilities quickly changed. He went from running facilities and expanding their capabilities to shutting them down and reducing their capacity. This pivot forced him to reconsider his career. This led him to start his own business, Angus 3D Solutions.
Angus 3D Solutions is a 3D scanning, 3D printing and manufacturing service company based in Brechin, Scotland. They specialise in manufacturing parts that are impractical or impossible to fabricate with traditional manufacturing processes like laser cutting, welding and CNC machining. “There aren’t many places in Scotland doing this,” he says, pointing out how quickly his business has grown because of its unique offering.
Angus has invested in a number of 3D printers for his business, each enabling him to manufacture parts to different specifications (no two 3D printers create equal parts, so some are always better suited than others to an application).
Two of these 3D printers include a Markforged Mark Two and Markforged Metal X. The Mark Two was chosen for its ability to manufacture parts with nylon which is reinforced with a composite to create parts that are stronger than 6061 aluminium.
Angus uses the Mark Two to create jigs and fixtures for customers. He also uses Onyx, a part-nylon part-chopped carbon fibre hybrid. “Onyx is a great material,” says Andy. “It’s gone beyond my expectations, and beyond some of my customer’s expectations too.”
Printing in metal
Something Angus always wanted to do when he set out in the 3D printing business was to manufacture parts in metal. However, research into the metal 3D printer market dismayed him; the cost of machines was just too high. Also, there was a disconnect between the manufacturer and customer.
“I kept coming back to Markforged because they seemed more engaged and more willing to listen to what my challenges were,” says Angus, who knew the Metal X was the right 3D printer as soon as he saw it in action, “To be honest, there’s nothing I enjoy more than showing people this machine — they’re taken away by it, they’re surprised.”
Angus had always assumed metal 3D printing would be out of his reach, but the Metal X changed his opinion overnight. Not only was it affordable to the point where he could get a return in a relatively short space of time, but the machine itself isn’t so large as to reduce his workspace by any significant amount.
With the Metal X, Angus 3D prints with supports to create parts with intricate details and geometries that would be impossible, impractical or uneconomical to manufacture with a traditional process like CNC machining. Crucially, the parts printed are of an exceptional quality, perfectly replicating the digital drawing in CAD.
The Metal X utilises a technology / process Markforged calls Metal FFF. Metal FFF prints parts using a metal powder which transforms into a dense metal through sintering. The powder becomes solid through all axes with parts exhibiting the same strength as forged and cast parts. With Metal FFF, you can also make use of honeycomb infills and other geometries – geometries which are simply not possible with subtractive manufacturing.
For now, Angus is printing in 17-4 PH stainless steel but there are a wide range of materials in the Markforged development stage. These include 316L stainless steel, Ti-6Al-4V (titanium), Copper, IN Alloy 625, A-2 Tool Steel and D-2 Tool Steel. H13 Tool Steel has also recently left the beta stage and is in the final stages of release.
So far, Angus has 3D printed all parts in 17-4 PH stainless steel for a wide range of customers, from legacy parts for 1942 sewing machines to custom components for oil and gas manufacturers. “The Markforged Metal X is part of my journey and probably part of my success as well,” says Andy. “That technology allowed me to do that.”
Material used: Onyx, Nylon. With the Metal X – 17-4 PH stainless steel.
This information was first published on the Markforged website. If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our engineering and manufacturing page. All images in this post are credit to Markforged.