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3D printing has been around for a long time. A lot longer than most people realize. The idea was first introduced back in the 90s, but, it is only just recently popped into the mainstream. It’s quite the mystery why this technology took so long to catch on. I believe a major factor in its slow growth was the lacking ability to 3D print more than just plastics. Just like the rest of the 3D industry, this lacking ability is quickly disappearing.
Markforged is a company changing the game when it comes to printing stronger, more durable parts. The founders come from the auto-sport industry where they saw a need to be able to create working prototypes and production parts quickly and cheaply.
They bring their high-precision background to the world of 3D printing. Markforged didn’t want to create just another desktop printer though. They wanted to create something that could be brought manufacturing businesses and be used by some of the top engineers and designers in the world.
Markforged knew their market from the beginning. Their plan was to create an attractive, top-of-the-line, compact 3D printer that can produce metallic prototypes and production parts. The Mark One created quite the stir in the industry a few years ago.
It was the first carbon fiber 3D printer in the world. This time they give us an even better printer. With more precision, power, and functionality, the Mark Two is sure to catch the eye of engineers and designers.
What is Composite Material 3D Printing?
Before we get into the specs and features of the Mark Two, we must first understand it’s technology. Let me give you a brief, high-level explanation of what it means to print with composite material.
Never heard of a composite material? No worries, it’s fairly simple to understand. They are two or more independent materials that have different characteristics, either physical or chemical. But when these materials are combined they form a new material with new characteristics.
Some of the common benefits of composite materials are the strength and weight compared to other materials. As well, they are significantly cheaper to produce to reach these levels of strength and weight.
The Mark Two combines both the nylon filament with the composite material filament to construction your 3D prints. By using the nylon as a base layer, which is known as the inlay. From here, you apply the composite material to the inlay of nylon. The composite material is then smooshed, or almost ironed, onto your print. This creates a stronger and more durable model.
Now that we know how the Mark Two works, I’ll fill you in on all the other aspects and features of this great machine.
Cores Features of Mark Two
Dual extruders: I previously mentioned that the Mark Two utilizes two extruders. One for the Onyx nylon (Markforged specialty nylon), and the other nozzle for the fiber filament. The dual extruder setup is a crucial aspect of the Mark Two as it enables the entire process to work.
Both nozzles are made of stainless steel. This ensures the durability and longevity of the nozzles, especially when using abrasive fiber filaments. The stainless steel lasts much longer than traditional brass nozzles would last
Design and functionality: Overall looks, the Mark Two takes home the gold every time. It is an absolute piece of eye-candy when speaking in terms of 3D printers. Markforged took a minimalist approach to creating the Mark Two.
The minimalism is a proven hit in the tech world, think Apple, and Markforged hit the nail on the head with this machine. The Mark Two will be front and center in your shop or office for all to see. The minimalism is carried into the software of the machine as well.
Markforged offers the user just enough ability to tweak the printer settings. The majority of the heavy-lifting of optimizing each print is done by the software and the machine itself.
But the users still have just enough control to customize the prints and make sure each comes out to their exact specifications. Each customization is done within the simplistic cloud-based software, Eiger, or from the easy-to-use touch-screen display.
Eiger software: Markforged’s very own software is a great piece of software. It is cloud-based and runs on Chrome. I just mentioned the preset standards that will assist in optimizing your print to increase strength and functionality.
Eiger allows you to pause the print at certain layers. The benefit of this feature is the ability to add parts to your print and resume printing around the new parts. Think fasteners, inserts, bearings, etc.
The fact that its cloud-based means multiple users can load multiple prints from anywhere. Your team and operations will become more streamlined and efficient using the Eiger software.
Continuous Fiber: This is where Markforged sets themselves apart from other fiber 3D printers in the industry. Previous technology only allowed for very short, scattered fibers to pass through the nozzle and hot end. Markforged developed a method to print layers of continuous fiber strands.
Ultimately this greatly increases the strength of the printed parts. The mechanical properties of continuous fiber parts can match those of traditional manufacturing methods.
Here are the key specs of the Anet A6 3D printer:
|Build Area||12.6” x 5.2” x 6.1”|
|Print Speed||100 mm/s|
|Filament Types||Nylon + Carbon Fiber, Fiberglass, Kevlar, HSHT Fiberglass (High-strength, High-temperature Fiberglass)|
|Layer Resolution||100 microns|
|Nozzle Diameter||0.4 mm|
Pros of the Mark Two
Here are a few of the best parts of the Mark two.
Build volume: A large build area makes this 3D printer ideal for creating your fully functional prototypes. As well, if your parts are the right size and you organize them correctly you’ll be able to maximize the use of the build area. Using the Eiger software, you can have the Mark two produce multiple parts at the same.
Bed leveling system: The build plate is a solid piece of aluminum with a special coating. The coating allows for better coordination with the machine. This is important as the machine uses a three-point magnetic location sensor to hold the plate in position throughout the printing process. You will use a couple of small thumb screws to level the bed. However, the magnetic system makes removing the plate and builds a breeze.
Pelican Case: The Mark Two will come with a Pelican case, which is your Plastic Dry Box. This will hold your Onyx nylon filament and protect it from the elements. The nylon filament is prone to humid conditions as it tends to absorb moisture from the air.
This will change how the filament reacts to heat and ultimately lead to more clogs and broken prints. Luckily, the Pelican case will protect it and ensure it lasts much longer than it would without the case.
Value: To the hobbyist printer the price tag will probably be far out of your reach. But we must remember, the Mark Two is not meant for a hobbyist but rather for business, manufacturers, and machine shops.
This is meant to be a tool, a piece of equipment that improves someone’s product and processes. The ability to create high strength, long last, and fully functional parts at a fraction of the cost makes this machine well worth the asking price.
Cons of the Mark Two
Can there really be anything wrong with this 3D printer?
Closed Source – I know this isn’t much of a “con” as it is a business decision, but to the rest of the industry and those fanatics of 3D printing it sure doesn’t help us. Given the company was originally based on the open-source 3D printer you would think some aspects of this machine would be available to the public.
Just imagine how quickly the industry would advance if others could borrow the science behind this. But for now, we will just have to hold out and wait for someone else to figure this out.
Besides the system being closed-source, there isn’t anything negative I have to say about this machine. Like it, love it, go get your business one and start creating.
Final Take – Mark Two for the Win!
This is an aesthetically pleasing, higher performing machine. It is an investment, but it is a very wise investment as the cost-savings it provides will quickly make up for the price. Also, when compared to other composite 3D printers on the market, there are none like this. To get anything relatively comparable you will be needing to spend at least two to three times as much as the Mark Two.
The revolutionary continuous fiber technology, the large build area, and Eiger software all combine to make this 3D printer one of the best machines available. It produces high-quality parts relatively quickly. The software is user-friendly and improves your designs.
This is truly one of the finest 3D printers available. If you are looking for a new tool or you have some extra cash to splurge, I highly recommend looking into the Mark two from Markforged.