Markforged Mark Two VS Formlabs Form 3
Nowadays, investing in a desktop 3D printer for your business is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do. The thing that all these technologies have in common is, basically, the design freedom they offer to make fast prototypes …
Nowadays, investing in a desktop 3D printer for your business is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do. The thing that all these technologies have in common is, basically, the design freedom they offer to make fast prototypes and bespoke end-use and tooling parts at lower costs and lead times than their traditional manufacturing counterparts. Since 3D printing technology is seeping into a broader range of applications, from engineering and consumer products to medical, art and even foods, making the best choice for you becomes harder and harder. So I understand it is common to look out for comparisons between technologies available on the market. Among professional desktop 3D printer brands, Markforged and Formlabs are among the first household names we think of.
So, where to start the comparison? After all, these are entirely different technologies. Moreso, rather than being antagonistic, they complement each other very well. Although they focus on different technologies and approaches, their origins are pretty similar. They both seized the opportunity during that breeding ground that was the desktop 3D printing revolution in the early 2010s. These two American startups took similar business approaches in developing 3D printers, with a more professional, proprietary, business-centred, out-of-the-box approach than their DIY, open-source counterparts. Both Markforged and Formlabs go beyond standard FDM or SLA printing. While Markforged developed composite fabrication solutions by introducing the first continuous fibre 3D printing system, Formlabs, on the other hand, was the most significant contributor to the widespread adoption of SLA desktop printing in a market primarily focused on FDM.
Though both companies grew beyond just their core desktop products, now offering industrial solutions (For instance, Markforged with its Metal X or Formlabs with the Fuse 1 SLS system), this article focuses on their flagship desktop models, the Mark Two and the Form 3.
When we talk about Markforged’s Continuous Fibre Fabrication (CFF) technology, looking at this machine from your standard FDM experience is a complete misunderstanding. The Mark Two can print nylon-based plastic from one nozzle throughout its dual extruder, while the other nozzle simultaneously places continuous fibres to reinforce the part. This machine is at the top of the Markforged desktop line since it can print a wider variety of composite fibres than the other models.
Therefore, parts printed with a Mark Two have the accuracy and performance comparable to strong engineering materials like aluminium. Thus, making them ideal for functional prototyping, bespoke end-use parts, tools, fixtures, and jigs, however, with lower lead times, higher design freedom and lighter weights than other conventional methods like CNC machining. Also, with its sturdy aluminium design for both the body and the print bed, extremely accurate prints coming out of the Mark Two is the natural result.
So, what are the ideal sectors for this technology? Well, industries like aerospace, automotive, defence, energy and industrial equipment can benefit greatly from this. We get a clearer picture when we see that notable clients like Siemens, NASA, US Air Force, Volkswagen, Microsoft, Lufthansa, Bosch, among many others, are already using the Mark Two.
Nowadays, plenty of desktop SLA printer models are available on the market; however, none shine like the Form 3 does. But, in what way? Formlabs as a company has had many years of a learning curve that lead to what we have today: An optimal balance of quality, affordability, ease-of-use, workflow productivity, material versatility and a deep understanding of customers needs, all contained within the Form 3.
But perhaps its most notorious feature is its Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) technology, which uses a flexible tank that flawlessly responds to one of the most significant issues SLAs commonly have: peeling forces. Consequently, the Form 3 prints parts with extra detailed features, smoother surface finishes, and a better support contact point placement, enabling cleaner removals.
When it comes to uses, the Form 3 offers a broad and versatile range of solutions applicable in numerous sectors, where surface quality is essential. To mention just a few, dental, medical, consumer goods prototyping, engineering, arts and jewellery are some instances. Some of the most notable clients using the Form 3 are Google, Tesla, Sony, Gillette, Ford, and New Balance.
Now that both printers are introduced, let’s go deeper into the specs. The following table provides a quick comparison regarding all the key parameters you need to know. Nevertheless, keep reading our insight involving some key parallels.
|Machine||Markforged Mark Two||Formlabs Form 3|
|Technology||FDM, CFF||SLA, LFS|
|Size||584 x 330 x 355 mm||405 x 375 x 530 mm|
|Build Volume||320 x 132 x 154 mm||145 x 145 x 185 mm|
|Layer Resolution||100 – 200 μm||25 – 300 μm|
|XY Resolution||125 μm||25 μm|
|Consumables||Proprietary Filament Spools Onyx (Nylon with chopped carbon fibre strands), Nylon (Matrix plastics) Carbon Fibre, Fibreglass, Kevlar, HSHT Fibreglass (Continous Fibres)||Proprietary Resin Cartridges Most of the Formlabs resin catalogue (Except bio compatibles)|
|Power||100-240 VAC, 150W (2A peak)||100-240 VAC, 220W (2.5A peak)|
|Connectivity||USB, WiFi, Ethernet||USB, WiFi, Ethernet|
|Software||Eiger Cloud Slicer||PreForm Slicer, Dashboard Cloud Management|
|Price||Only package £ 15,995 ex. VAT||£ 2,900 ex. VAT (Basic Package) £ 4299 ex. VAT (Complete Package with washing and curing stations)|
Materials: Mechanical Performance VS Versatility
We could make the typical comparison of SLA vs FDM, but, again, these machines are just not your typical SLA or FDM printers, and, indeed, the core factor that sets the difference between the Mark Two and the Form 3 is their unique material spectrum. While the Mark Two specialises in a very selective range of engineering materials for mechanical applications, the Form 3 has a broader range for all types of applications.
Formlabs offers more than twenty resin options with different properties, from engineering materials to castable resins and bio compatibles for medical and dental uses, along with many more options. The Form 3 is compatible with most of the catalogue materials, except for bio compatibles which require the specialised Form 3B. But even without the biocompatible resins, the range of applications is still vast.
On the other hand, though with a much shorter and straightforward catalogue, the Mark Two can print parts with far superior mechanical performances. The following examples might provide you with some sense of scale on what each machine can achieve, so you can see what I mean.
|Property||Mark Two||Form 3|
|Max. Tensile Modulus||60 GPa (Carbon Fibre)||10 GPa (Rigid 10000)|
|Max. Tensile Strength||800 MPa (Carbon Fibre)||69 MPa (Rigid 4000)|
|Izod Impact Strength||2000 J/m (Kevlar)||114 J/m (Durable Resin)|
So, in the end, we can say that it all comes down to the specific applications you want to fulfil; Mechanical performances or versatility?
If you want to see what the printers can do for you on a more practical level read these case studies
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