What Might We Expect To See In The Prusa MK4? Part 1

By on August 12th, 2020 in Ideas, printer

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What Might We Expect To See In The Prusa MK4? Part 1
What might a hypothetical Prusa MK4 be? [Source: Fabbaloo]

No, there have been no announcements regarding a new “Prusa MK4” 3D printer. But what might be included in a MK4?

This is part one of a two-part series on a potential Prusa MK4 3D printer. Please read part two.

Prusa Research is the producer of one of the most popular desktop 3D printer lines available today, with thousands being sold each month. Last year they passed 100,000 3D printers shipped, a milestone very few other 3D printer manufacturers could claim.

The reasons for their success are several, including: well-designed devices that operate reliably and produce great quality output; low purchase costs; and very broad support services.

One more reason for their ongoing success is their uncanny ability to build on previous success. They began with an initial i3 model, but then made the design significantly better with their breakthrough MK2 design. Then in 2017 they announced the MK3 line, which has become their most popular offering.

Since the September 2017 announcement of the MK3, Prusa Research has not proceeded to a MK4 device to continue their pattern of advancement on their flagship product. Instead, they’ve been developing and releasing a variety of other products, including a high-resolution resin 3D printer, the SL1, a multi-material attachment, a new line of ultra-high quality 3D printer filament and a new “MINI” 3D printer. Most recently they’ve been incredibly busy assisting with the pandemic in a variety of notable ways, setting an example for others to follow.

Nevertheless, it’s been almost three years since the MK3 announcement, and there has been no public hint of a MK4, as far as I can tell. We have heard they’re developing a stretch version of the MK3 called the “XL”, but this isn’t the elusive MK4.

I suspect part of the reason for the absence of a MK4 is that the MK3 is simply that good a machine: it doesn’t need to be updated.

At least for now.

Eventually competitors will put pressure on Prusa Research to make a move, either through additional features or price pressure.

If and when that occurs, what might we expect to see on a hypothetical Prusa MK4? Here’s some random thoughts on this hypothetical machine.

Prusa MK4 Build Volume?

The de facto standard of 200 x 200 x 200ish mm will not change [Source: Fabbaloo]

The build volume on the MK4 is likely to be the same or similar to the previous MK3 device, as it has been much the same for previous flagship desktop 3D printers from Prusa Research. More than likely this is because the industry has essentially found the “sweet spot”, something close to 200+ x 200+ x 200+ mm as the most popular build volume. This is unlikely to change in the MK4.

Also, Prusa Research has already indicated they are to produce an XL version of the MK3 that will have an extended build volume. This offering should take up any demand for larger build volumes and clear the way for continuing with the current MK3 build volume.

Prusa MK4 Extruder / Hot End?

Prusa Research’s own MINI hot end [Source: Fabbaloo]

Prusa Research’s hot ends have succeeded with their relationship with E3D-Online, and that is likely to continue. E3D produces some of the most advanced and reliable hot ends today and the only reason I could see Prusa Research not continuing with them is if there is some kind of pricing issue.

One could look at E3D’s hot ends and see which advanced hot end might be eventually deployed into a MK4, or it may be the two companies are collaborating behind the scenes on something entirely new.

On the other hand, it seems that Prusa Research has successfully developed a very functional hot end / extruder system on their own. This is used in their new Prusa MINI device, so it may be that they could move towards an in-house design instead of using E3D’s.

On yet another hand, if I had one, it could also be they made the Prusa MINI extrusion system only to lower its price, and would not need to do so for a higher-priced MK4 device.

Prusa MK4 Multi-Material?

The Prusa MMU2S multi-material accessory [Source: Fabbaloo]

All of Prusa Research’s flagship machines have been single material devices, but that could change.

The company, of course, has been marketing the MMU2S accessory, which allows an MK2 or MK3 machine to handle up to five different filaments at the same time by using an in-job filament switching process. However, it’s sold as a kit and has a difficulty level that effectively bars it from the majority of users. I don’t think something like the MMU2S will be standard on a future MK4.

However, several other 3D printer manufacturers have taken a step into multi-material 3D printing by simply adding a second extruder/hot end. The idea here is to allow the use of soluble support material on the second extruder and thus easily 3D print highly complex geometries without issue.

I suspect Prusa Research will NOT take that step for a several reasons:

  • A second extrusion line on the machine will add notably to the cost and that’s not aligned with the market for this type of machine
  • A second extrusion system would introduce a lot of added complexity in hardware, software and thus potentially lower reliability, which is Prusa Research’s strength
  • Soluble support material is very expensive and is unlikely to be used by the majority of their market simply due to price

Therefore I believe a MK4 would continue to be a single extrusion system, as it is today in the MK3S.

This is part one of a two-part series on a potential Prusa MK4 3D printer. Please read part two.

Via Prusa Research

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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