Markforged Customer Spotlight

11/12/2020                                                             Markforged Customer Spotlight


Automation components is one of the best use cases for 3D printed tooling. The low volume nature of the components coupled with the need for lightweight components that are strong make additive a great solution.


QSI Automation (Churubusco, IN) started its journey with additive in late 2017 with a Markforged Mark Two Printer. The decision to purchase a 3D printer was obvious after QSI lost a prototyping job to another supplier with 3D printing capability.


I spoke with mechanical engineer, Brad Sordelet, about 3D printing and how it has transformed operations at QSI. Many of the benefits are things we frequently hear from other customers, such as:


· Reduced component cost

· Faster time to market

· Focusing machinist’s skills on high value components

· Reduced engineering time with less parts needing detail drawings

· Better designs through rapid iteration


3D printing has allowed QSI to win business that would likely not have come their way without it. The complex nests required for inspection of automotive wiring harnesses would require a level of complex machining that is somewhat challenging. The ability to print those nests put QSI ahead of the competition on price and lead time. Not only was QSI awarded the job, it opened the door to many other similar jobs with the same customer.


Moving forward, QSI is considering at the larger build envelope of the Markforged Industrial Series and continuing to look where Metal X may fit in.


QSI Printing At A Glance



Markforged Desktop Series





Frequency of usage:

All 5 machines are virtually running 24/7


What led QSI to start looking at additive:

Prototyping and challenging geometries that would typically require 5 axis machining


Original applications considered:

Printing customer workpieces before they were available for the design and test phases, complicated part nest geometries


Additional applications found after implementation:

Drill templates to alter table plates in the field, vacuum circuits with internal plumbing


What have you been able to do with additive that you never thought was possible:

Perfect match grippers


Business problem(s) solved:

Not having to wait on customer workpieces for design, proof of concept, final testing of equipment

Cost competitive – competition couldn’t do at same price

On the fly design changes


What were additional add-on benefits that you hadn’t expected:

Cost, ease of manufacture, more throughput, more/new business, iterative design


Departments / processes that benefited:

Machine shop, engineering


Customer benefits:

Cost, time, faster turnaround on replacement wear items


What was easier about implementing additive than you expected:

QSI team jumped on board, parts came off the machine looked so good that acceptance was easy


What was harder about implementing additive than you expected:

Learning how to design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), customer acceptance of printed parts


What advice would you give to other companies that have been hesitant to consider additive:

Buy the one and get started as soon as possible


Next steps:

Larger Industrial Series Machine machine, keeping an eye out for metal printing applications


Automated wiring harness complete view.



Geometries that would be complex to machine are easily printed.


Here is an example of mixing traditional machining with printing. This locating feature required a metal component for the datum requirements. The block is mounted to an off-the-shelf Misumi angle block. Traditionally, the compound angles would make for a more challenging machining setup. A 3D printed adapter block was made so that the locator block could be produced on a 2+1 axis mill setup.


Gaging details are easily printed in for visual inspection.


Escapements can be challenging to design for a variety of reasons. Although Onyx likely won’t hold up to thousands of parts running across it, the surface finish and accuracy allows for fast and cost-effective prototyping and iteration for testing before a permanent final design is machined.


This sensor mounting block is used so frequently, it is produced as a standard item and used in many systems. The off-angle bore is much easier to print than to machine. A large batch of these can be produced overnight with essentially zero labor for pennies.


Mixing and matching Onyx printed part nests with steel locating pins and sensors.


This block holds a sensor at an angle and was produced for a fraction of the cost of a machined component.


More mixing and matching steel hardware with printed housings. These housings would require a 5-axis mill setup to produce.


2 of QSI’s Desktop Series machines. So many printed components have made their way onto QSI’s automation systems, one of their machines is dedicated for emergency printing of replacement components that customers have worn out in the field.

Spotlight by Adam Homan