Either for the home studio or for the University, I get the opportunity to try out a lot of different kinds of 3d printers. Here’s the new Ultimaker I picked up for the University to replace our old Prusa RepRap and hopefully provide a more reliable FDM-style machine for the students to work with. Yeah, good timing with the announcement of the new version…. This is the second machine I’ve purchased assembled–the first the Form1–so I was excited to see if this machine was as easy to get up and running.
The machine shipped with this nice little selection of test prints, which were at the same time impressive in quality but also promised some work ahead. Typical Ultimaker stringiness meant retraction needed some work and the tape on the printbed was both torn and the flat part of the large torture test piece had peeled up meaning the print bed was not at all level. Before I started digging around the interwebs to find proper settings for the new machine I thought I would see whats on the SD card and use the controller to print something right away.
The controller is a joke. I’ve avoided these in the past because I don’t see the value in them and actually using one proved it for me. It’s nice to not have to have your computer attached to the machine the whole time but the user interface is horrible and only barely usable. The new Ultimaker 2 has a much better display and UI. Oh well.
After poking around the SD card I found the Ultimaker robot so I gave that a shot. The first time it failed because of the printbed but the second time around I manually adjusted the z-axis to get the layer height right and here’s what I got. Although the file has some crazy g-code in there to knock the robot off the platform and start printing a new one in succession… scary when you don’t expect it. How about not including weird files on the SD card?! Figuring that the layer resolution was looking sharp I set about leveling the bed and found something that would be a good test for the Ultimaker, if not a little ambitious.
Here’s a Zeppelin Trireme from Arnold Martin sailing a sea of failed prints. Oh how things went wrong. To start with, getting the bed level was rather tedious. I also really don’t like printing on blue tape as it seems there is a small margin of error between squishing the layer too flat and the layer just not sticking at all. Then I had all sorts of problems with the motors overheating and shutting down mid-print.
To get things working I had to dive under the machine on more than one occasion to adjust the tiny little trim pots that control the current going to the motors. Oh and thanks Ultimaker for making those trimmers turn in the opposite direction to just about every other driver out there. Now, why would a printer shipped fully assembled and calibrated ship with motors that could raise a blister on your finger when you touch them? Oh and I also had to re-lube all the drive shafts with some PTFE grease to get things to move smoothly enough to work with the adjusted driver current.
After the miserable zeppelin attempt I went ahead and started on some upgrades like this new extruder drive gear from Felix to replace the pathetic lasercut drive gear that comes standard. Hopefully this will help the retraction and make some better prints.
Many who have used the Ultimaker call it the Lexus of desktop 3d printers but so far I am not at all impressed. For nearly $2,500 delivered, I think I rightfully expected plug and play performance but that is nowhere near what I received. Instead I spent my entire weekend working on a machine that I intend to demo to the students Monday night. I had considered purchasing one for myself, drooling more than a little bit over the new pretty version of this very machine but at another $200 that just is not going to happen. This summer I built an ORDBot for about $700 which, even though there are some things I don’t like about it, has produced much greater print quality in a much shorter amount of time. In the end, if this is normal for this kind of high-end machine then I seriously doubt that a completely plug-and-play 3d printer even exists in this current market.