Price as tested $2,565 Print volume 8.9″×8.9″×8.1″ Heated bed? Yes Print materials PLA or ABS OS supported Linux, Mac, Windows Print untethered? Yes Open-source hardware? Yes Open-source software? Yes Printer control software Cura Slicing software CuraEngine
Ultimaker has revamped an already excellent machine to create one of the best consumer 3D printers we’ve seen. The Ultimaker 2 has a bigger print volume and lots of hardware upgrades, and thanks to the company’s open-source Cura software, it’s easy to use. This is a top-quality machine for people who just want to hit “Print,” and it’s also wide open to those who enjoy tinkering with their printer to get the most out of it.
Ultimaker was founded in May 2011 by hardcore early RepRap adopter and all-around desktop 3D printing guru Erik de Bruijn, designer Martijn Elserman, and ProtoSpace FabLab manager Siert Wijnia. Ultimaker sells kits and assembled printers, as well as add-ons and filament. In addition, they recently launched YouMagine.com, a 3D file-sharing website that features their new UltiShaper 3D modeling tool.
The Ultimaker 2 is one of the best-looking printers on the market, with a frame constructed of sleek aluminum-polymer panels and frosted acrylic. LED strips illuminate the inside, and ambient mood lighting diffuses through the sidewalls when printing at night; it’s quite beautiful. Simple parts and sheet-metal covers give off a clean look.
Tons of Upgrades
The new heated glass print bed supports ABS printing and is larger than before. You can print PLA directly on it without tape or other surface treatment, and after the bed cools, the printed part pops right off. (This should be standard on high-end printers.)
The redesigned extruder is now direct drive, providing quicker and quieter retraction. The hot-end is constructed of metal with a Teflon insulator; it heats up fast (220°C in 1 minute) and uses a more accurate PT-100 temperature sensor instead of a thermocouple. Dual fans cool parts more uniformly (this helped to create one of the best pairs of MAKE robot “armpits” seen during our testing).
The new electronics digitally control the motor current via firmware, rather than by a physical potentiometer. Less current is used, so the motors produce less noise.
Ultimaker’s handy onboard control interface is now built into the printer and has been redesigned to be cleaner and more user-friendly, with a graphical OLED screen and a larger dial-button combo. New scripts guide the user through bed leveling and filament changing. Print settings can be adjusted on-the-fly during a print.
And the software’s improved. Cura has been upgraded to slice faster than the competition, and Ultimaker has developed UltiGCode, a “flavor” of G-code that allows retraction and material settings to be changed in the printer settings (instead of in the slicer) without having to reslice.
How’s It Print?
The Ultimaker 2 is even more accurate than the original. The Secret Heart Box printed very well: The hinges articulated perfectly and the outside finish looks great. Small features on the MAKE robot’s back logo were sharp and crisp, among the best we printed. We did experience some ringing when printing small parts on the default High Quality setting, which set the speed too high. However, Ultimaker constantly improves their software, so we wouldn’t be surprised if this issue is addressed by the time you read this review.
Keeping It Open Source
Ultimaker 2 will remain open source. From de Bruijn: “As soon as we start shipping, we will release the first major part of the system: the completely redesigned electronics (under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike) … We plan to have released everything in at most 6 months.”
Ultimaker has delivered a bleeding-edge machine to the consumer market. The Ultimaker 2 is solid and beautiful. Its heated bed works wonderfully, and not having to apply extreme force to remove large prints is a huge advantage. Although it has a bit of catching up to do in print quality, its hardware and software upgrades make it a real contender for the prosumer crown.
- Heated glass print bed
- Accurate and fast
- SD card printing
- Built-in printer interface with a user-friendly UI
- Best-in-class software
Who’s It For?
- Ultimaker print settings are on the speedy side. When printing small parts like the MAKE robot, reduce the print speed to 20mm/s but keep the infill at 50mm/s to get a super smooth finish on the outer surface.
- Stick with one type of plastic if possible. ABS residue could jam in the nozzle when printing in PLA, due to the higher melting point of ABS.