Markforged X7 VS Ultimaker S5

Recently, we compared Markforged vs Formlabs and Ultimaker vs Formlabs. Now, what about Ultimaker vs Markforged? In this case, Ultimaker S5 vs Markforged X7. These flagship machines are at the top of what each company can offer industrially and business-wise. …

Alejandro Auerbach

September 27, 2021

Recently, we compared Markforged vs Formlabs and Ultimaker vs Formlabs. Now, what about Ultimaker vs Markforged? In this case, Ultimaker S5 vs Markforged X7. These flagship machines are at the top of what each company can offer industrially and business-wise. Just as it happens with other big names like Formlabs, both companies began around early 2010 within similar contexts. Both companies aimed at delivering professional workflows within their technologies and still do to this day. The first thing worth mentioning is that, although both printers are FDM, they follow two completely different approaches. So, we’ll essentially compare apples to oranges in this article; what’s important here is to set a precise range of applications between both products.

Let’s briefly overview each machine, followed by a comprehensive specs comparison.

Markforged X7

Markforged focuses on the specific niche of part performance for high demanding engineering requirements throughout their distinctive technology, Markforged’s Continuous Fibre Fabrication (CFF). It undoubtedly goes beyond standard FDM printing; you can even consider it a whole separate category.

This equipment lets you print nylon-based plastic from one nozzle throughout its dual extruder, while the other nozzle simultaneously places continuous fibres to reinforce the part. Just like its desktop counterpart, the Mark Two, it is compatible with the whole Markforged essential fibre catalogue, plus additional fire-resistant and ESD high-end variations.

So, why would I need a printer like this if the Mark Two does print all kinds of composite fibres with properties comparable to aluminium? Well, the deal with this machine is that it is not only made for printing composite parts. Industries like aerospace, automotive or defence must follow the strictest quality standards, so reliability and traceability are of utmost importance for end-use industrial 3D printing. The actual value you’ll get from the X7 is its arrangement of sensors, like stepper encoders and autocalibration laser, installed to guarantee accuracy and consistency throughout your prints. Moreover, the best addition came out quite recently with the release of the Blacksmith software; with this, the X7 can make in-situ inspections as the part is printed!

So, as innovative end-use AM solutions are becoming more legitimate in these industries and continuous fibre materials are steadily displacing metal parts, having a machine like the X7 at your disposal would definitely be a wise choice. Some notable clients already using the X7 are Siemens, Airbus and Toyota.

Ultimaker S5

Now, Ultimaker is much more difficult to pinpoint. At first glance, you can see it as your standard FDM machine. But, if you look closely, Ultimaker aims to add to their designs all the professional features that a printer needs to make it enterprise-friendly and highly productive, and the S5 model is the pinnacle of that. This machine has one of the largest build volumes a desktop printer can have, plus a highly robust modular design that enables exceptional printing quality. One notable example is its dual extrusion system, allowing users to print complex fibre-reinforced materials and soluble support structures to boost design freedom.

However, the best thing you get from the Ultimaker S5 is its friendliness. And what do I mean by that? A 3D printer can be seen as something beyond an isolated entity but part of a whole workflow. So, Ultimaker products are specially designed to provide ease-of-use, excellent connectivity and compatibility, exceptional support and a broad user community to boost productivity which is extremely valuable for business. Furthermore, you can even upgrade it with the S5 Pro Bundle additions to improve your workflows even more. Both the Material Station and the Air Manager come in to further improve user-friendliness by automatically managing material spools and air safety. For more information on what makes Ultimaker unique, we review it deeper in this other article.

And talking about business, notable companies currently benefiting from the S5 are Siemens, L’Oréal and Ford.

Specs Comparison

Now that we have an overview of each printer model, let’s see the specs in more detail. The following table provides a side-by-side comparison between the main characteristics, which we’ll use as the basis for our analysis and final verdict.

MachineMarkforged X7Ultimaker S5
TechnologyFDM, CFFFDM, dual extrusion with auto-nozzle lifting system and swappable print cores
Size584 x 483 x 914 mm495 x 585 x 780 mm 495 x 585 x 1197 mm (Pro Bundle)
Weight48 kg20.6 kg 41.9 kg (Pro Bundle)
Build Volume330 x 270 x 200 mm (17.82 l)330 x 240 x 300 mm (23.76 l)
Layer Resolution100 μm default 50 μm minimum 250 µm maximum0.25 mm nozzle: 150 – 60 μm 0.4 mm nozzle: 200 – 20 μm 0.6 mm nozzle: 300 – 20 μm 0.8 mm nozzle: 600 – 20 μm
Print BedPrecision ground composite – Flat to within 80 μm – Kinematic coupling20 – 140 °C heated glass with advanced active levelling
ConsumablesThe whole Markforged proprietary composite Filament Catalogue (Exc. Metal)The whole Ultimaker 2.85mm Filament Catalogue, plus the vast Ultimaker Material Alliance options.
Power100-240 VAC, 150W (2A peak)100-240 V CA, 600W (2.5A peak)
ConnectivityUSB, WiFi, EthernetUSB, WiFi, Ethernet
SoftwareEiger Cloud Slicer BlacksmithUltimaker Personal (for individuals – includes Cura and Marketplace) Ultimaker Essentials (for organizations – includes Cura Enterprise, Marketplace, Digital Factory, and upgrade plans)
Touchscreen Interface4.3″4.7″
PriceAround £ 50000 (Blacksmith not included)£ 5,143 ex. VAT (Basic) £ 8,273 ex. VAT (Pro Bundle)

Industrial Performance VS Enterprise Productivity

As you can see, the price differences are vast. So how is this even a comparison? The Markforged X7 is clearly on the industrial level. In contrast, the Ultimaker S5 has a broader spectrum of applications with countless settings to cover, from industrial shop floors to small businesses to simply hobbyists. The first one aims for industrial performance, while the latter is the ideal option to streamline productivity for business in a more general sense. We can spend the whole day comparing every single detail, but the most relevant factors we chose for evaluation are materials and quality.

Materials

Let’s start first with Ultimaker. Thanks to Ultimaker’s open filament system, you can use virtually any third-party filament option in the market as long as it has a 2.85 mm diameter calibre. If you sum it all, you can have a totality of over 200 materials available at your disposal. From the commonplace materials like PLA, PETG and ABS to the most exotic blends you can imagine. And, if the material you choose belongs to the Ultimaker Material Alliance, its integration into the Ultimaker ecosystem becomes a much smoother process.

In comparison, Markforged has a much more reduced set of proprietary options; all purposed especially for high-end mechanical performances. But if the S5 can also print strong functional composite parts, why would you go to the lengths of buying the X7? Well, obviously, chopped fibre blends can’t match continuous fibre arrangements. But, how much of a gap is there between potential part properties? Let’s quickly compare some Markforged options and some of the best composite options in the Ultimaker marketplace.

ReinforcementFilamentTensile Modulus (GPa)Tensile Strength (MPa)
Carbon FibreMarkforged Carbon Fibre60800
Lehvoss LUVOCOM 3F PAHT CF 9891 BK 11.5130
Glass FibreMarkforged Fibreglass21590
Polymaker PolyMide™ PA6-GF 3.33 61.4
Aramid (Kevlar)Markforged Kevlar27610
Fillamentum Nylon AF80 0.51 50.4

Quality

The Ultimaker S5 is one of the most reliable FDM printers in the market. Thanks to its robust hardware and spot-on sensors, this machine can print with an impressive 6.9 μm XY accuracy and 20 μm layer height. In addition to the highly efficient learning curve the Ultimaker ecosystem offers, these advantages can boost quality and repeatability for end-use projects, especially those with tight tolerances.

Nonetheless, when it comes to quality, the Markforged X7 is on a whole other level. If a strong built, precision machined components and advanced sensors weren’t enough, this machine even has a micron level laser incorporated! With the addition of the Blacksmith software, this machine can inspect the part as it prints, delivering a deviation map of the final result, overlapping it with the nominal design. This system is one massive step into 3D printed part certification in high-end industries.  

Final Thoughts

Making a choice on which of these two machines to pick depends on the specificity of your requirements. The Ultimaker S5 is one of the most well-balanced FDM printers on the market, and it has capabilities for high-end applications unexpected for desktop machines. The Markforged X7 is a far superior machine for specific industrial purposes with a far more sizable investment, so you must deeply inform yourself on whether or not this machine covers your requirements and whether it can result in an overinvestment. Thankfully, the expert team at SolidPrint is here to help you make the best choice you can possibly make. For more information, please call SolidPrint at 01926 333 777 or email info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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