The Ultimaker 3 3D printer came out yesterday. Today we’re at Lay3rs, the 3D printer shop in Eindhoven, to do the first unboxing and hands on review of the Ultimaker 3. Together with Albert and the other 3D printing maestros of Lay3rs we’ll unbox, install and put the Ultimaker 3 through its paces for the first hands on review of this new printer. We’ll even throw in some of our own photos for you! We’ll run you through the mayor new features and improvements show you the new Ultimaker 3.
The 3 is an incremental but significant improvement over the Ultimaker 2 and Ultimaker 2+. The printer has the same general appearance but the important improvements are under the hood. Ultimakers were already known for their reliability and repeatability over other desktop systems. Rather than lots of whizz bang new features the team has focused on further increases to the overall reliability and results on the machine. Print quality straight out of the box is the mayor step up. Dual extrusion that works is also a very important feature for this printer. This printer comes in at a significantly higher price point than the previous Ultimakers selling for 2995 Euros for the Ultimaker 3 and 3695 Euros for the Ultimaker 3 extended. The machine is positioned in the Pro 3D printer segment and aimed at businesses.
The Ultimaker 3 has a 20 micron layer resolution and an increased print temperature of 280 C. The increased resolution should provide for smoother parts and more detail on prints. The higher temperature should cater to people wanting to print materials such as Nylon. Sadly no 350+ temperatures for exotics such as PEEK.
Ultimaker 3 Nozzle and Print head.
The major visible improvement is that the printer has dual nozzles for the first time giving it a dual extrusion capability. This lets you print two materials simultaneously or 3D print support material alongside your build material. Ultimaker calls these AA materials for build materials and BB materials for support materials. The use of PVA supports will make many more geometries printable for users and this is a significant improvement.
The print head is ingenious and a Swiss watch of a thing. Beautiful inside and out. Nozzles can be removed at a click of a button. You simply pull down the print head fan bracket and click out the core. New cores will be detected by the machine but must be calibrated. This will let the community make custom interchangeable nozzles for particular materials. The print cores as Ultimaker calls them now can also be exchanged. The print core (nozzle plus nozzle assembly) is a consumable and we’ll have to see how long they last. Replacement cores cost 99 Euros and come in the types AA cores and BB cores. The AA core is for Nylon, PLA, ABS and CPE with the BB core being optimized for PVA. The AA core goes in Print slot 1 on the printer. Future wider availability of custom print cores should engender the printing of more exotics such as carbon filled, flexible, conductive or other materials. 3D printing flexible materials has traditionally been difficult on Ultimakers because of issues with the bowden tube and feeder. Whereas TPE (TPU) flexible materials will become available they are not launched now in conjunction with the machine. The TPE/TPU material will be important for the Ultimaker 3 since so many new applications are being found for these flexibles. PC (polycarbonate) will also be added later. The dual nozzle lifting is ingenious well executed. As is retraction on both nozzles. This should let one mix colors and materials well in prints. It should also help with the surface quality of models and with rounded edges. The nozzles themselves are 0.4mm. Nozzle heat up time has been reduced to two minutes. The cooling fans have been upgraded and there are now two cooling shrouds surrounding the nozzle. There are also LED indicator lights on the nozzles which indicate if there are any problems with the nozzles themselves.
Build Plate and Build Volume
The build plate of the machine is a heated borosilicate glass bed and there is automated bed leveling. The system has both active bed leveling which compensates for slight bed inaccuracies during your print or a bed leveling procedure that is part manual, to calibrate the bed. So for the first time one still has to put a piece of paper below the nozzle to do a pull test. The build plate heat up time has been improved and now takes up to four minutes. This reduces wait time when starting prints and is a great feature to make living with the printer easier. The maximum build plate temperature is 100 C which gives us a broad range to play with for new materials. The Ultimaker 3 has a build volume of 215 x 215 x 200 mm and the Ultimaker 3 has a build of 215 x 215 x 300 mm. Both build volumes are reduced when using dual extrusion to 197 x 215 x 200 mm and 197 x 215 x 300 mm respectively.
Feeder and Spool Holder
The spool holder is at the back of the machine. This is limiting since it would be easier to have the consumables and all controls accessible from the front. There is one spool holder for both spools and they are limited to 750 Grammes total. Large one Kilo spools won’t fit, let alone two one kilo spools. This further complicates our plethora of many spool types in 3D printing and is limiting. I for example tend to only have 1 KG spools at home. There is material detection via an NFC chip. Knowing the Ultimaker guys I would not assume that they’re trying to lock the machine but rather that they want to ensure that materials are printed with the right profile settings. There is no filament end detection on the machine.
Gone is our trusty friend the SD card. You can now use USB or WiFi to send prints to the machine. This will simplify use especially when the printer is in a shared office space. The printer can connect to Cura via wifi or LAN but you can also use other slicers or software for your Gcode or files. There is also tighter integration with Cura allowing for more material profiles and the easier matching of profiles with materials. There is no super fancy touch screen on the device. This seems a bit underwhelming at first since far cheaper systems are now getting full color touch screens. But, controls are intuitive and easy to operate. The printer comes with a camera to allow for remote monitoring by the user.
The launch materials are Nylon, PVA, PLA, ABS and CPE. Nylon is a tough high temp material that is extremely useful for end use part applications. It could enable food safe or extremely tough applications. PVA is a water soluble support material and has traditionally been tough to work with especially with water and moisture absorbtion. It is biodegradable and can be used with PLA and Nylon. For ABS supports will have to be done from ABS material which will make support removal somewhat tedious. It is however easy to take off your PVA support from a Nylon or PLA 3D print under a tap or warm water tap (you can also just put your prints in a dishwasher at low temp but don’t blame me if this messes up your dishwasher. Dishwashers are also awesome at cleaning SLS 3D prints by the way). The PVA material is rather expensive being sold for 39 Euros for 350 grammes. ABS is the same material as in Lego and is tough and durable. Just getting one 3D printer set up that reliably prints both PLA and ABS is difficult so this is a decided advantage for the printer. Many competitors systems are good at one or the other. ABS may produce harmful fumes so I would always recommend a fume hood with 3D printing in general and especially with ABS, flexible materials or filled materials. You can also print ABS in two nozzles at once, same for CPE and PLA. CPE (a general name for co-polyester) is a relatively new material to most in 3D printing. It is an easier material to work with than ABS and should come into its own when making objects that need to last a long time.
Standard brown box, inside is a styrofoam inner box which neatly holds the printer and all parts inside.
Both CE and UL certified may seem like a detail but certification is going to be very important for 3D printing going forward. Also an actual hardware device, manufactured in the Netherlands!
What’s Inside the Box?
As always Ultimaker includes a factory test print inside your shipment. This test print was printed on your printer. There are two spools of filament PLA and PVA, each 350 grammes. Included are two AA cores for build material and one BB core for support material.
Yes our trusty friend the glue stick is still there. This time not a Staples glue stick but an Uhu one. Please only use it for ABS and materials that require it! For best results with PLA just clean your build plate thoroughly with a detergent high in alcohol and don’t touch the top of it. Old friends as well, the X and Y axle machine oil and the Magnalube for the Z axle.
A new thing is a XY calibration sheet to let you calibrate your printer and the cores more accurately. A calibration card is also included.
Unpacking and set up
You can remove the accessory box and then take off the styrofoam enclosure. Zip ties secure the axes and you can cut these off.
Our spool holder is printed because Lay3rs got one of the first machines, yours will probably be injection molded. The spool holder just snaps on, as in previous Ultimakers. You can now guide the NFC cable in place and connect it. Then you can snap on the cable cover.
Placing or removing the print cores is easy.
Feeding material is similar to earlier Ultimakers. Gently slide in, wait for the wheels to grab a hold. The only difference now is that the printer can detect Ultimaker NFC chipped materials and automatically use the right settings. Print material 1, print core AA on the Print slot one is Counter clockwise! Repeat after me. The printer directs you which cores to put into the machine, detects the cores and detects the filament. This will greatly increase the ease of use for printer operators. I’m a tad worried about how long that PVA spool on the back of the machine will print well in a humid room.
- WiFi and firmware updating is a breeze.
- The main controls are a familiar push/rotate button which gives you a fast operation through the menu structures.
- Installing, setting up and running the Ultimaker 3 is simple. It is very intuitive.
The removal and replacement of the cores is super simple. No more nonsense with disassembling the head, they just pop off in seconds.
From the front of the machine everything looks very familiar. The SD is gone and replaced by USB but the control wheel and menu structure is entirely familiar.
The Ultimaker team has really made a significant incremental improvement to its 3D printer line up. The new machine doesn’t have a whizz bang list of out of this world features or industry leading build volumes. Immediately after launch several people told me that the specifications and list of improvements seemed underwhelming to them. It is a better, easier to use 3D printer however. Rather than go for sales heavy features or amazing marketing gimmicks Ultimaker seems to focus on improving the device itself. The printer is easy to use, easy to tweak and easy to set up. For Ultimaker materials there is no longer a need to spend long times dialing in a new material. It is quiet, gives good results straight out of the box and in its initial test runs gives a good print quality. Dual extrusion prints work well and the software set up to make all of this possible on the printer and in Cura must have been immense. Working with the software, dual extrusion, new cores and NFC materials seem to all increase the ease of use of the machine. I think the community will have to find a solution for keeping the PVA material dry. I also am unhappy with the two 350 gramme spools and immediately want to figure out how I can make a simple thing to attach larger spools to the machine. We’ll also have to wait and see how the printer performs on long term reliability tests. The initial impression is that the new Ultimaker 3, is a 3D printer that works. It more than justifies the higher price point, with features that actually matter to the user. This is a machine made for the 3D printer operator with her daily use of it in mind. Ultimaker once again has thought about user benefit and designed the machine around this. This is clearly a step in the right direction for 3D printing. Instead of making empty promises and more hoopla, this is a 3D printer that delivers. The Ultimaker 3 looks like a valuable addition to the ever expanding list of 3D printers on offer. I really can’t wait to see what everyone will make with it!
Ultimaker 3 videos
A rundown of the mayor new features of the Ultimaker 3.
This is the official Ultimaker 3 unboxing video.
This video explains (with a super annoying voice) how to use PVA and what PVA support material means.