Metal Wars! MarkForged and Desktop Metal Go Head to Head

Posted by Editor On March - 27 - 2018

An explanation of the processes in 3D printing in metal by Desktop Metal, who has sued MarkForged for patent infringement.

With allegations of corporate espionage already bandied about in an ongoing legal battle between the 3D printing industry’s two largest metal printer providers, this metal war bears nothing but gloom for an eager market. MarkForged CEO Greg Mark has issued a statement rebutting the accusations of spying made by Desktop Metal as “far-fetched.” MarkForged also announced a forthcoming countersuit.

The legal battle is over proprietary processes being invented to bring 3D printing in metal to an affordable range as moderately sized machines. The patents in question are U.S. Patent number 9833839 and U.S. Patent number 9815118. The court filing made by Desktop Metal is a preliminary injunction against MarkForged to prevent them from continued infringement of the patents. The request for a jury-based civil trial is also asking for compensation from MarkForged for twice the amount of their damages to the sum of nearly $1 billion.

The main point of contention is due to a sacrificial support layer added in the printing process that facilitates post production. For Desktop Metal, that separation layer is referred to as an “interface layer” while MarkForged uses the term “release layer.”

Both MarkForged and Desktop Metal began limited production roll-out of 3D metal printers late in 2017, with Desktop Metal planning a release of their production studio sintering oven manufacturing suite in 2019.

Enthusiasm for these devices is already frothing the surface of the 3D printer market and the prospect of desktop printing in metal is bringing many new buyers into the fold. Such an economic driver is bound to make people do dramatic things. According to Beau Jackson, a seasoned reporter for 3DPrintingIndustry.com, “With several 3D printing systems seeking to compete in this market it is not unwarranted to speculate that the current legal challenge may be part of an aggressive marketing strategy. Indeed, 3D Printing Industry first heard about the case in mid-2017.”

While such speculations are not without merit, there are factors in the case which beg some investigation. Former Desktop Metal technician Matiu Parangi is the brother of Abraham Parangi, director of technology & creative at MarkForged. The filing of the lawsuit by Desktop Metal alleges Matiu Parangi “downloaded documents unrelated to his work on the print farm, including documents containing Proprietary Information such as a document titled “Engineer Status and Goals -160912.” The matter is further complicated by Desktop Metal’s CEO Ric Fulop being an early investor and board member at Markforged who is quoted as saying, “We believe Markforged products clearly utilize technology patented by Desktop Metal and we will do what is necessary to protect our IP and our company.”

Stay tuned. This metal war could get loud.

For more on the story please see 3Ders.org.