I purchased the Ultimaker2 recently and I’ve been heavily using it.
Before I begin, here are some of this weekend’s prints:
Now for the review…
This is a $3000 3D printer, in the age when everybody else is pushing for prices lower than $500. If know me, I’m supposed to be a cheapskate, so this might surprise you. But for this price, it combines many features that makes it worth the extra cost:
- Comes assembled (but this is not why I picked it)
- Currently has the best advertised precision and accuracy specifications on the market for the consumer class 3D printer
- Heated glass bed, with preset and customizable temperature settings. This allows me to experiment with exotic filament materials
- One of the largest print volume
- Reportedly one of the fastest and quietest printers out there right now
- Open source, I can hack it and fix bugs whenever I want
The $3000 price tag caused me some headaches. The price is more than the limit on any of my credit cards, and it is more than the spending limit on any of my debit cards. I had to pay for it by mailing a cashier’s cheque to MakerShed, and the whole process got dragged out a bit. Also, they are constantly sold out of filament. This isn’t the printer’s fault but just beware.
It takes less than 30 minutes to setup the printer. But the initial setup process is prone to accidental presses of the button, it doesn’t have a “redo” or “back” button. This isn’t such a big deal because you can start the entire initial setup again but it is still a slight annoyance.
I had it shipped to my desk at Sony PlayStation (I trust our shipping department, much better than leaving it unattended in front of my door at home), and I set it up right there for a few days. It glows brightly while it’s on, and it sure caught people’s attention, some people thought it was a mini fridge.
The packaging it came in seems safe enough. It is certainly dirty, there was a lot of cardboard debris inside the printer. You should definitely vacuum clean the printer, and clean the build plate, when you first get it out of the box. You don’t want the dirt to get into the mechanical components, and you don’t want dirt to hinder the thermal conductivity between the glass plate and the heater.
The build quality is fantastic and solid. The only two problems I faced was that the filament guide didn’t really fit in until I filed down some plastic on it, and also feeding in the filament into the feeder takes an alarming amount of pushing. The spring loaded wheel in the feeder is pretty tight, so don’t be afraid to use a bit of muscle.
The printer is pretty quiet, which is a sign of solid construction. But sometimes you’ll hear a super loud squeak, that actually comes from the large filament spool rotating. This just means the spool and the spool holder are rubbing, which is normal, so don’t worry, nothing is breaking, just add some oil. The metal components don’t make alarming noises. The fan is pretty loud though.
I’ve been printing several things and not having any issues with PLA deforming. I am only using the glue stick that came with the printer. I’ve also adopted the “mouse ear” technique to stop deformation. A finished print might be hard to remove but I got a putty knife and some compressed air (air duster) to solve that problem.
I am very pleased with the accuracy and precision of the resulting printed parts. The surface is smooth. Parts that should mate fits perfectly. I’ve printed things such as a holder for loose allen keys and they fit perfectly. I’ve printed features such as cavities for nuts and standoffs and they’ve fit perfectly. I’ve even printed fake nuts to insert into those cavities and they also fit perfectly. This printer is definitely very precise.
Remember, a solid construction and sturdy frame means less vibrations. Less vibrations means the motors and parts are allowed to move faster with less pausing to settle, allowing for faster printing with better precision. I leave my printer on the floor to minimize vibrations, because my desk is slightly shaky.
The firmware is very good. The slicer software provided is also very good. Advanced/expert options are available, you just have to unhide them. Rotating, resizing, and moving models is easy. There is a good preview mode that actually shows the toolpath. Copying to a SD card and ejecting the SD card (aka “safely remove hardware”) takes two button clicks. This printer only prints using the SD card, which is actually great because I don’t want to run a cable from my laptop to it during a 8 hour print.
It is very easy to sit a camera on the printer and create a live video stream of the printing process. I did that a few times already. I was able to check the progress of the print while shopping. The LEDs inside the printer are super bright, making it perfect for showing off. If you broadcast the video stream to the public, expect a lot of comments requesting guns and dildos.
It seems like the head is designed for dual extruders but right now only one is installed. The Ultimaker team is working on a dual extruder addon.
The open-source-ness checks out, I found everything on github, the software source code, the firmware source code, schematics, mechanical, and there is a nice assembly manual showing how it was put together.
I wish it had a sleep mode, there’s a cooling fan that is constantly ON. And I wish there was WiFi printing. Maybe I’ll hack these features in there myself. (There is a way to load files onto the SD card via USB, and there is a way to remotely print using a Raspberry Pi)