markforged-logo-carbon-fiberBack in October, Markforged introduced the Mark X, a large, industrial-grade, powerful fiber composite 3D printer – the most powerful printer on the market, in fact, according to the company at the time. Markforged wasn’t finished once the printer was released, however – like many successful 3D printer manufacturers, the company sees its machines as constant works in progress. Markforged is a company that likes firsts – they made their name with the first-ever FDM carbon 3D printer, the Mark One, and since then they’ve continued to introduce never-before-seen features with their subsequent releases. The Mark X was no exception.

download-7“The Mark X is an industrial grade printer designed from the ground up to deliver large-format strong parts with accurate dimensions for fixtures, jigs and other manufacturing applications. When we launched the X in October last year, we introduced the first in-process laser inspection functionality,” Jon Reilly, VP of Product at Markforged, told 3DPrint.com. “The laser micrometer built into the print head allows users to scan their part mid-print and make sure it meets expectations.”

That built-in laser micrometer is the key to the Mark X’s newest feature: Adaptive Bed Leveling. Most newer 3D printers boast some kind of easy bed leveling system, whether it’s automatic or assisted. Getting a perfectly level print bed, however, is difficult no matter how easy the leveling system – because print beds aren’t perfectly flat by nature. Imperceptible variations in the height of a build platform can cause imperfections in the first layer of a print – so even when you’ve leveled your bed, double checked it, and congratulated yourself on a leveling job well done, there can still be factors beyond your control that can mess up your print in small or large ways. Most print failures happen in the first few layers, and if you’ve torn your hair out trying to figure out why your prints are failing when you’re doing everything right, it could very well be a print bed issue.

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The Mark X performs a laser scan of the print bed

Adaptive Bed Leveling does just what it says it does: it adapts to those print bed imperfections. Using the laser micrometer, the Mark X scans the print bed and constructs a complete topography of it. If it isn’t level, it instructs the user to adjust the bed using the screws at the corners, like most printers do. Once the bed is level, the Mark X prints a calibration line on the left side, and once it begins printing, it makes tiny Z-axis adjustments during the first layer, compensating for any print bed imperfections it detects and ensuring consistent adhesion.

dsc_05281-500x334“One of the benefits of owning a Markforged printer is that we frequently upgrade the experience through software,” Reilly told us. “We are constantly working to print better parts and improve the printing experience. The latest free update includes adaptive bed leveling – leveraging the 1-micron accuracy of the laser inspection tool to compensate for micron-scale variations in the print bed. Simply put, now you get even more accurate parts on an already accurate machine.”

If you already have a Mark X, you just need to download the software update, rebuild your print files in Eiger, and make sure that “Scan Before Printing” is enabled on the printer’s touchscreen. The team from Markforged has been enthusiastic about their software offerings, as this is the key to unlocking the full power of their hardware. CEO Greg Mark has told 3DPrint.com before – most recently at SOLIDWORKS World and at CES – about this kind of focus, and the new offering of Adaptive Bed Leveling is another smart move from a company built by engineers.

“We basically throw engineers in every position here. Most of the Markforged marketing team are engineers,” Mark told us. We think it’s a strategic advantage.”

Discuss in the Markforged forum at 3DPB.com.

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