Jan 26, 2017 | By Benedict

3D printing expert Thomas Sanladerer has reviewed the Markforged Mark Two 3D printer, reporting quality prints and minimal errors, but expressing reservations about Markforged’s patenting policy and the price of the 3D printer.

Thomas Sanladerer, an additive manufacturing expert who frequently publishes guides, reviews, and projects about 3D printing, has just sunk his critical teeth into the Markforged Mark Two 3D printer, a continuous carbon fiber reinforcement machine capable of printing with materials like nylon, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and kevlar. The Markforged Mark Two was unveiled around this time last year, and followed the successful Mark One, the world’s first carbon fiber 3D printer.

After reviewing 3D printers from AIO Robotics and Fischertechnik at the tail-end of 2016, Sanladerer this week put his reviewing hat back on to tackle the Markforged Mark Two. The carbon fiber 3D printer has a build volume of 320 x 132 x 154 mm and a Z-layer resolution of 100 microns, and works with Markforged’s own Eiger software. However, the most important feature of the 3D printer is, of course, its material capabilities, which are given suitable weight in Sanladerer’s review.

Before getting deep into the Mark Two, tech expert Sanladerer starts with what’s on the outside, and the 3D printer sure looks good to Tom. “Can we just take a second to appreciate how well this entire thing is built and how gorgeous it looks?” he asks, praising the “minimalistic tech piece that’s going to look good pretty much anywhere.” So far, so good.

Next up is the 3D printer’s interface and connectivity, which, like the outer shell of the machine, is relatively minimalist, favoring web and cloud connectivity and limited user control over precise settings. Sanladerer highlights that most of the fine tuning is left to the printer itself, with users given few parameters to twiddle with besides base material settings, continuous fiber quantity, and a few other bits. Overall, the reviewer sees this simplicity as a good thing: “I do like the simplicity of the interface, it provides the right options that you’d use regularly and leaves everything else locked-down for Markforged to optimize.”

Clearly, the most important area of the review concerns printer performance, and Sanladerer first evaluates printer’s fiber inlay process, which (in his terms) “irons” fibers into the layers of the print, which is otherwise made of the base ONYX 3D printing material. While the reviewer likens the fiber inlay process to “just tacking it on and then smooshing it down with the hot brim of the nozzle,” the process, he says, is incredibly effective, producing prints that are much stronger than those made from ONYX alone.

“…once you add fibers, you can massively alter and improve the mechanical properties of your print,” Sanladerer says. “Adding even a light amount of carbon fiber will turn your parts into fantastically rigid elements, and depending on how much fiber and how much base material infill you use, you can definitely create parts that can compete with ones machined from solid aluminum.”

Next up, Sanladerer discusses his experience 3D printing with pure nylon, something that few printers are capable of doing well. In this respect, his praise is less overflowing, since using the ONYX material wears in the toolhead, reducing its ability to print nylon. After a quarter a spool of ONYX, Sanladerer was already seeing degradation in his nylon prints, and as such would only recommend printing in nylon with a dedicated print head.

Other Mark Two features praised by Sanladerer include an effective bed leveling system, easy nozzle swapping, and high-quality Trinamic stepper motors. However, the printing expert expresses a bit of disappointment at the performance of the printer’s “Drybox" filament holder (required to keep ONYX and nylon filaments airtight while printing) because it occasionally caused tangling and because it lacks the aesthetic qualities of the 3D printer itself. Sanladerer notes that the Drybox “just doesn’t feel as sophisticated as the rest of the machine does, and it’s not like the Mark Two wasn’t hard enough to pick up and carry around already.”

Another gripe Sanladerer finds with the Mark Two is its heavy patent protection: “In this case in particular, I find it sad to see the technology getting locked behind closed doors for the next 17 years or so, especially since this (and most other printers) only exists because core patents for FDM 3D printing expired a few years ago and everyone starting jumping on FDM-style printers,” he says. More a question of business ethics than printer performance then, but nonetheless a factor to consider when thinking of buying a Mark Two.

Overall, Sanladerer rates the Mark Two 3D printer very highly, finding fault only with small aspects such as its Drybox filament holder and the patents attached to its hardware. He also acknowledges the steepness of the $13,500 price tag, compounded by the cost of Markforged filaments (twice that of other carbon and nylon options), which the company advises on using exclusively. The review concludes: “If [the patent issue] doesn’t bother you, then the Markforged machines are a great option for a sleek and high-performance 3D printer.”



Posted in 3D Printer



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L. Inges wrote at 4/26/2018 12:56:28 AM:

Add $5000 to the price if you’d like to run their proprietary software (required to use the printer), on your own network, as opposed to the cloud, as a part of THEIR service (where all your data is subject to espionage and government subpoenas). No, thanks!

Bruce Goodell wrote at 9/2/2017 1:44:47 AM:

Your video spurred me to suggest buying this printer for our company since we were in the market for a second one. We have recently purchased the printer and I now have it set up for the most part. So far it is exceeding my expectations with the onyx material alone. I have yet to print with the fiber, since I didn't have a print that needed it. I will be doing this next week though. The only issue I have at this point is with the Eiger software connecting to the printer. Still working on that so I have to use the USB option.

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