Honest review: The Ultimaker

Honest review: The Ultimaker

Here’s what i think about the original Ultimaker!

Pokémon models by Augustin Flowalistik

Ultimaker Review

I’m Tom, and this is my review of the original Ultimaker.

Now, i know what you’re saying: Wait a minute, why is he reviewing a printer that came out in 2011? And why the heck is that thing painted in that awesome orange and black? Well, i’m about to answer that.

First of all, like the Printrbot, this is Nils Hitze’s Ultimaker, who also happens to sell them at 3dDinge.de. And that already explains the awesome color scheme – you see, normally, the Ultimaker (1) comes in plain plywood, but black just looks sweet and orange is the national color of the netherlands, where the Ultimaker is from. So, that the answer to the first question.

Now, why am i looking at the original Ultimaker and not at the the Ultimaker 2 that came out in the end of 2013? Well, let me answer that question with another question: Why should i not review the original Ultimaker? You see, the Ultimaker was never built to become obsolete like many of the other consumer 3D printers. It was built to last and got upgrades throughout its lifespan. For example, the Ulticontroller was originally introduced as an upgrade part, but now comes standard with every Ultimaker. The extruder is also an updated design that lets you easily swap filament, but also works really well for, you know, driving filament into the hotend. Now, the Ultimaker has always been a bowden design to keep the printhead as light and fast as possible. And for the most part, it’s still working spectacularly well. Yes, the bowden requires a bit stronger retract settings to reduce strings and blobs, but with the clips that keep the bowden connectors tensioned during retracts, the retracts lose much of their scariness. In fact, the experience of my first prints on the Ultimaker were the first time in a long while that 3D printing really managed to impress me. I’ve seen a lot of printers and many great results, but what’s special about the Ultimaker is with what kind of ease it pulls off practically perfect prints. You see, Ultimaker also offer the Cura software, which integrates a basic stl pre-processor, a slicer and a host. And while it’s not limited to the Ultimaker, but also works with every other open-source printer, you can really tell that, with an Ultimaker, you get the full-on experience. Things are simple: You tell Cura you have an Ultimaker, it runs you through some basic checks, offers to update the Ultimaker’s firmware, and then, right away gets you high-resolution, perfect prints. But it also gives you the option of doing even lower layer heights at an even better quality. You see, Ultimaker are applying a different standard when it comes to the quality of their printers. While most other printers consider 0.1mm a high print resolution, for Ultimaker, that’s the standard setting. On most other open-source printers, you need to at least calibrate the extruder before you can really use it, i just happen to have a video on that procedure. But on the Ultimaker, there’s none of that.

Ok, so i think i’ve established that i really like the way the Ultimaker prints. And i mentioned that Cura works really well with the Ultimaker. Man, i love Cura, there’s just so many details in there that make it feel super efficient. Polished. Just really nice.

But what about the way that the Ultimaker itself is built? Well, first of all, the Ultimaker is a box, obviously. A box frame means that everything is absolutely stiff in every direction. And that works. Now, the motion system the Ultimaker uses is a bit special, in a good way. What the Ultimaker does is two things: It pushes the print head with these two rods that are each driven from either side by these carriages. Now, these ride on another rod, which, of course, supports the linear movement of the carriage, but also rotates and drives the pulley for the belt of the other axis. It’s a rather complex design to wrap your head around, but it works well. The Z-axis is driven by a proper leadscrew with proper end machining and a proper coupling for the motor. It also rides on properly fat linear rails. And that works well. Well, ok, this particular bot could use a little grease.

The hotend Ultimaker uses is a fairly standard PEEK-based design. This one leaks a tiny bit out the top, but not to an amount that would cause any kind of trouble. Probably just needs to be tightened down. Ultimaker also includes a fan to cool the print, and it comes with a simple fan shroud. Again, that works. The other fan sits on top of the Ultimaker’s electronics on the bottom of the printer and sounds like it’s about to give up. The printbed is a fat piece of acrylic, so it’s not heated and only works for PLA and some other specialty filaments. Warp isn’t much of a problem with the proper blue tape.

Now, for the Ulticontroller, i must honestly say that i didn’t use it much at first. I’m used to just hooking up the printer with USB or having it available through a browser with Octoprint. But the Ulticontroller grew on me. It lets you do everything you’d normally use the printer host for, and since using SD cards works so well with Cura, that quickly became my main way of printing files. And, of course, it allows you to print without dedicating a computer or a Raspberry Pi to your 3D printer.

Now, i feel like i should mention this because i also mentioned it on the review of the Printrbot. Ultimaker is a great company. They release the plans of their printers. They hired the main developers behind Cura and the Marlin firmware. They have great customer support and enjoy engaging with the community. Basically, they’re awesome. Makerbot? Not so much.

So here’s the deal: The Ultimaker is a printer that really impressed me. Yes, it only print prints PLA and it’s a bit on the noisy side. But its actual printing quality is absolutely top-notch. There is really not much out there that prints this well. Now, you can either get the Ultimaker (the printer) as a kit without the Ulticontroller directly from Ultimaker (the company) for 995€. Plus tax and shipping, and imports if you’re outside the European Union. So about 1200€ including tax. Or you can get an assembled version with the Ulticontroller for about 1800€, plus shipping, from either Ultimaker or 3dDinge. And it’s definitely worth that much. No 3D printer i’ve used so far, including some much more expensive, professional machines, or printers from other manufacturers pulls off high-quality prints with that kind of ease. By the way, the paint job is extra.

So that concludes my review of the original Ultimaker, thanks for watching! Please don’t hesitate to click the subscribe or like buttons, and feel free to share any of my videos on your most-used social media platform.

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