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The new Ultimaker 3D printer made in the Netherlands has arrived in the US. The machine, which prints bigger and faster than MakerBot printers, was created by three Dutch makers who met at the Fab Lab in Utrecht, Holland two years ago. The Lab is one of dozens of digital fabrication centers around the world affiliated with MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. Fab Lab/Utrecht’s manager, Siert Wijnia, collaborated with web designer Martijn Elserman and grad student Erik De Bruijn on the speedy new machine.

“We wanted to have a better 3D printer, not necessarily to start a business,” says De Bruijn, who had built several open source RepRap 3D printers before tackling the project. “If Fab Lab wasn’t there, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened,” insists Elserman.

Ultimaker creators, Erik De Bruijn (left) and Martijn Elserman (right), with product ready to ship.

A prototype of the Ultimaker was demonstrated last December at Botacon in Brooklyn, which is described as a get-together of “robots and the people who are creative near them.” The reaction, according to Elserman, was, “Wow, this is a whole new step forward [in affordable 3D printing]. I was sure that we could start a working business.”

And they did. The three partners all live in different cities in the Netherlands (De Bruijn is in Tilburg, Elserman in Geldermalsen, and Wijnia in Haarlem). Ultimaker started shipping its open source 3D printer in April. The machine costs about US$1700, and with next day shipping, the price approaches $1900. According to De Bruijn and Elserman, more than 120 printers have been sold and close to 70 have been shipped so far. It takes between four and six weeks between order and delivery. Half of the new printers have been sold in the Netherlands, thanks to exposure on a national TV program. Customers include a disabled Dutch woman whose Ultimaker has printed gripper hands for robotic arms that she uses to grasp small candies, something her previous gripper could not do.

Like MakerBot, Ultimaker can print with either ABS or PLA plastic, though the company says printing with the plant-based PLA makes for a faster and more stable build. The Ultimaker is getting high grades for its design. Unlike the MakerBot, which has a moving build platform, the Ultimaker has a print head that moves. It is compact and weighs considerably less than MakerBot’s print head, and the Ultimaker’s motors are mounted on the printer’s frame, not on a moving part like MakerBot. This allows for bigger objects to be made (8.25″ cube for Ultimaker vs. 5″ cube for MakerBot) at higher speeds.

Ultimaker boasts that its low speeds are easily twice as fast as RepRap’s and MakerBot’s. In a blog post in late January titled “Insane Speeds With PLA on Ultimaker” the company boasted its machine “reached printing speeds of 350 mm/s during travel and 300mm/s during extrusion.”

Father and son, Aljosa and Bozidar Kemperle, with their Ultimaker and MakerBot printers (with a RepRap Prusa Mendel on the way).

But Aljosa Kemperle, who has been using both Makerbot and Ultimaker 3D printers and is getting ready to put together a RepRap printer known as the Prusa Mendel, scoffs at the notion that Ultimaker blows MakerBot out of the water. 

”I like them both equally,” Kemperle says. “Both are finicky machines.”

 “You can see the Dutch [touch in the design],” says his father, Bozidar Kemperle, a sculptor and installation artist who lives in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, a block away from Makerbot headquarters.
“These guys [at Ultimaker] come from a completely different garden.”

 The elder Kemperle relies on his 25 year-old son, a 3D animator, to keep the MakerBot and Ultimaker printers up and running in his cave-like studio, which is housed in an old glass-blowing shop in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, on the East River.

Bre Pettis, co-founder of MakerBot Industries and one of the founders of the Brooklyn hackerspace NYC Resistor, concedes that Ultimaker is damn fast.

”They can move their machine around at a pretty amazing speed,” he told MAKE. “There are some things they did that are pretty clever.”

Pettis says he’s not worried about Ultimaker cutting into Makerbot’s market share. “This is what happens when you do something that’s successful. Other people figure it out, too, and start businesses. More 3D printers are good.”

There are currently 5,000 MakerBots out in the world and a staff of 33 at the company’s “Bot Cave” is busy cranking out more. (The company’s landlord put a clause in the lease requiring that all robots made in the space follow sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics, which include a mandate that robots refrain from injuring humans.) Makerbot’s Thing-o-matic 3D printer costs $1299 as a kit and is selling like hotcakes, according to Pettis. The company recently started selling an assembled version for $2500. MakerBot, which started an artist-in-residence program in January, is currently looking to hire more people, including a publicist. Pettis denied a rumor that one of the giant printer manufacturers made overtures to acquire the company.

One indication of the hunger for affordable 3D printers is that 100 units of a RepRap machine dubbed Huxley were offered recently for around $500 on the web site IndieGoGo by a new UK-based company called eMAKER. But orders came in for a total of 305 Huxleys and eMAKER’s founder, 33 year old Jean-Marc Giacalone, says he’s hoping to have more on sale for $550 in October or November. The production of Huxley is being farmed out to individuals and companies around the world, Giacalone says. Not bad for an enterprise started in a garden shed in Milton Keynes, UK by a stay-at-home dad. EMAKER is now based in Bristol, England. “I see a great future for these machines,” Giacalone declared during an interview over Skype.

The optimism is shared by Pettis and the Ultimaker team. Because Makerbot and Ultimaker are both open source endeavors, the two companies are free to borrow each other’s technology. Ultimaker, in fact, is using MakerBot’s Replicator G software, though Ultimaker owners are free to purchase NetFabb Engine Basic for Ultimaker, proprietary software that costs an additional $250.

Aljosa Kemperle thinks the Ultimaker software needs some more work. “I would say they didn’t put enough development into that. I think they slapped it together and shipped it because they wanted to get it out of the door, which is understandable.”

But he praises the Ultimaker’s mechanical design. He likes that the electronics bay is hidden on the bottom of the printer and got a kick out of the use of kite fabric to cover switcher cables and stepper motor cables that run down the inside corners of the Ultimaker’s wood frame. “You can see these guys thought about all the little things,” Kemperle says.

Dave Durant, a software engineer at Stratus Technologies in Boston, can testify that even a well-designed 3D printer like Ultimaker can be grief at times. Unable to get his to print, he tweaked, pulled apart, and scrutinized various parts before putting out a call for help in the Ultimaker Google group. Martijn Elserman suggested he put some grease on a threaded rod. Voila, problem solved.

Ultimaker says that eventually it will offer another model with a taller build capability.


Bio: Jon Kalish is a contributor to MAKE magazine and a special contributor to Makezine.com. He also covers the DIY beat for National Public Radio.

Jon Kalish

Jon Kalish is a Manhattan-based radio reporter, podcast producer and newspaper writer. He’s reported for NPR for more than 30 years.


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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    That’s astonishing speed!  Well done guys!

    This certainly adds fuel to the 3D printed fire.

    1. Note that the first image is of the November 2010 version of the Ultimaker. Since then many things have been improved making assembly a breeze.
      Note, here are images of prints made on an Ultimaker: https://picasaweb.google.com/erikdebruijn1/UltimakerGallery#5621752030724499330
      https://picasaweb.google.com/erikdebruijn1/UltimakerGallery#5622501612365797538

      1. Dave Durant says:

        Aren’t you now running +500mm/s travel with the new sprinter firmware, Erik?

      2. Anonymous says:

        Intro image now swapped out for current model.

  2. Chris Willhoite says:

    I’m more interested in which has the higher print resolution. I was leaning towards getting a MakerBot, but it the Ultimaker is higher resolution I’ll consider getting it instead. I haven’t been all that impressed with the results I’ve seen from some other printers.

    1. MakerGear says:

      Chris – take a look at the MakerGear Mosaic. It is fast, produces very high quality prints and costs less than the Makerbot and Ultimaker!!

      Rick

    2. Dave Durant says:

      Resolution is a tricky thing, Chris..

      All these machines are capable of a lot more than the suggested/stock values – I’ve printed at 0.075mm layer thickness on the Ultimaker, even though the stock value is 0.25mm. The tricky bit is that you start hitting the limits of the materials before you start hitting the limits of the machine. A miniscule 0.075mm layer height is cool to have done but things like the surface tension prevent it from being useful on most prints. PLA and ABS just don’t like to be spread that thin.

      I don’t have any experience with the new Makerbot machines but the Ultimaker is definitely an awesome box. Pretty much anything from MakerGear is a good bet, too - I also don’t have any experience with their Mosaic printer but Ricks reputation is as good as it gets and, IMO, very well deserved.

  3. DeadlyDad says:

    Wow!  Just imagine how many mph* you could make with something that fast!

    *mistakes per hour  :evilgrin:

  4. DeadlyDad says:

    Wow!  Just imagine how many mph* you could make with something that fast!

    *mistakes per hour  :evilgrin:

  5. Jelle Boomstra says:

    Nice of you to mention fablab utrecht, but it has a name, and that name is protospace.nl.
    Though we licence the trademark ‘fablab’ from fablab.nl, we are not related to them. Could you please point the link-love to protospace.nl instead?

  6. Tom Seom says:

    There is one machine that you have omitted that could really change
    things. Its called the SUMPOD, SUMPOD.COM and it purports to be the
    equivalent in quality of the makerbot and ultimaker but for a fraction
    of the price.

    It seems to be at the beginning but has potential to change the 3d printer landscape.

    Tom

  7. Tom Seom says:

    There is one machine that you have omitted that could really change
    things. Its called the SUMPOD, SUMPOD.COM and it purports to be the
    equivalent in quality of the makerbot and ultimaker but for a fraction
    of the price.

    It seems to be at the beginning but has potential to change the 3d printer landscape.

    Tom

  8. Dave Durant says:

    edit: arg.. and, as proof I can be an idiot, I double posted. Feel free to delete this one, mods..

  9. Dave Durant says:

    edit: arg.. and, as proof I can be an idiot, I double posted. Feel free to delete this one, mods..

  10. Dave Durant says:

    Just to make sure context is set correctly, my blog about getting the Z stage happy started with “After a bit of startup struggling, I think I’m finally on track with the Ultimaker. To be fair, said struggling was mostly my own damn fault. Sigh.”
     
    That experience was far more “I can be an idiot and miss the easy, obvious solution” than “even a well-designed 3D printer like Ultimaker can be grief at times.”

    This machine is frickin’ awesome.

  11. Dave Durant says:

    Just to make sure context is set correctly, my blog about getting the Z stage happy started with “After a bit of startup struggling, I think I’m finally on track with the Ultimaker. To be fair, said struggling was mostly my own damn fault. Sigh.”
     
    That experience was far more “I can be an idiot and miss the easy, obvious solution” than “even a well-designed 3D printer like Ultimaker can be grief at times.”

    This machine is frickin’ awesome.

  12. Franklin says:

    can it make me a girlfriends

  13. Franklin says:

    can it make me a girlfriends

  14. Owen Iverson says:

    and my Thing-O-Matic is still sitting in pieces.  damn.

  15. Ruri says:

    This seems like a huge improvement over past machines the speed is just impressive.

  16. This is awesome! So, I count four pretty decent 3D printers that you can build relatively cheaply (Makerbot, Ultimaker, Mendel, Mosaic), for varying tradeoffs of cheapness and reliability. I wonder how many more of these designs we’ll see. 

    I also wonder why people are buying the Ultimaker at $1700, when a fully-assembled machine costs less than $1,000 more (the UP! printer). I’m not saying they shouldn’t, I just wonder what the reasons are.

    1. Anonymous says:

      My first thought is that since they are going to have to maintain the machine themselves, they’d be better off building it themselves, so they know every nut and bolt of the unit.

      1. I think you’re right, but isn’t the idea, though, behind the fully-assembled machines that they’ve done the work for you? For example, does the fully-assembled version of the Makerbot (also $2,700) not come with some kind of warranty? For a lot of people I think skipping the construction part might actually be worth it.

        I wrote a blog post with some more thoughts here, by the way: http://justindunham.net/2011/08/where-is-open-source-3d-printing-going/

      2. I think you’re right, but isn’t the idea, though, behind the fully-assembled machines that they’ve done the work for you? For example, does the fully-assembled version of the Makerbot (also $2,700) not come with some kind of warranty? For a lot of people I think skipping the construction part might actually be worth it.

        I wrote a blog post with some more thoughts here, by the way: http://justindunham.net/2011/08/where-is-open-source-3d-printing-going/

  17. joris [van tubergen] says:

    Speed is not only the power of the machine, it is also the design. See http://www.facebook.com/europerminutedesign
    This shows that waiting for your objects is not the future anymore, but it is happening right now!

    cheersjoris

  18. Hello Jon,
    Very interesting post about the current state of some of the low cost 3D printers hitting the consumer market. I have commented on Justin Dunham’s blog that all those out there, even the UP printer are still focused on the concept of building parts to build others kits and tweaking madly to get them to print something, anything! This exclude people like myself, interested in the technology for its creative and design possibilities’ because of their usability issues. As yet I have not seen a pre-built kit that is ‘usable’ by a non-techie person such as myself who wants to spent their time being creative not fiddling and getting frustrated. I run a company that is doing for the 3D digital modelling sector what I am asking from the developers of low cost 3D printers - accessible technology that enables anyone and everyone to enjoy the delights of digital 3D creativity. You can get more info about what I mean and about how we have developed our 3D haptic ‘Cloud9′ modelling software here – http://anarkik3d.co.uk

    1. Dave Durant says:

      You’re right in that it’s not exactly plug-n-play, Ann Marie. It’s not THAT bad, though. The newer versions of the software really take a lot of the mystery out of getting the machine configured and printing happily. There are a number of google groups (search for Ultimaker, Makergear or Makerbot) where you’ll find people that are happy to talk about such things.

      The UP! boxes look quite nice but I’ve heard more than a few people say that they’re not overly reliable. I haven’t used one myself though, so that info is 2nd hand.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The Ultimaker is my first experience of 3d printing, so I cannot compare it to other machines.
     
    Putting it together was child’s play, as close to plug and play as I can imagine a 3d printer ever being.  I did not have to cut, file or solder anything. I did a light sanding before staining it blue (it is a Blue Bot).  Personalising it did take a few days.
     
    Happily so far I have had no issues, even my first test cube was flawless apart from flecks of black ABS in the model from where I had sealed the print head with it.
     
    Currently my quality print settings are for a 0.09 mm layer with half height outer layers of 0.045mm or 45 micron if you prefer. The results have blown me away with the silky finish of the prints at this layer height as well as the ability to print 15 degree overhangs. Happily I won’t need to print much in the way of support structures :)
     
    As an example of how surprisingly fast a high quality print is with a 0.045mm outer layer, the Thingiverse Octopus plate V10 at 50% scale took about 1:40 see it and the overhang tests I did here:
     
    http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/66753090@N08/6078178074/
     
    So to some up I am thrilled, the Ultimaker keeps surpassing my wildest dreams on speed and quality.
     
    Frankly it’s been a dream purchase, if only other things I have brought in life had turned out so well….
     
    Kind regards
     
    Blue Bot

    1. Brian says:

      Hi there, your results are quite impressive! I was wondering, is your Ultimaker running the basic configuration as it was shipped, or have you done any modifications to it?

      I have been thinking about getting one, but am not sure how much upkeep and tinkering there is with the machine. I found your post encouraging, thanks!!

  20. Very interesting post about the current state of some of the low cost 3D printers hitting the consumer market. I have commented on Justin Dunham’s blog that all those out there are still focused on the concept of building parts to build others kits and tweaking madly to get them to print something, anything! 

  21. prototype says:

    I’ve used almost every RP system to date and the Z resolution people are posting are unrealistic . Anything below .2mm is pushing the limits of any FDM style printer. Even $100,000 production machines only print at .127mm.

    The build speed is nice but what is the X,Y resolution. Anytime you print at those speeds you have issues with over/under travel. X,Y,Z accuracy is the true judge of a machine, not its build speed.

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