The PowerSpec Ultra 3D promises capabilities comparable to the MakerBot Replicator 2 or 2X. Similar in appearance, it has dual extruders, an enclosed print area (including acrylic windows and removable hood), and a graphical touchscreen interface. The enclosed area and heated build platform makes large, warp-free ABS prints possible. As a mid-range option it offers a balance of capability and price with decent print quality.
We were granted access to a preproduction unit, and there were some minor issues that will likely be addressed before its official release — namely, buggy firmware. But the issues were never a real impediment to printing, nor did these flaws translate to problems in the prints. Once we were up and running, the Ultra ran consistently and without any significant surprises. The online chat support was convenient and able to get us unsnagged and going.
The Ultra 3D printer shines in one area particularly thanks to the all-new PowerPrint software. While visually similar to MakerWare, PowerPrint eschews total web assimilation for simple usability improvements, like automatically displaying a graphical preview of the generated G-code. The software regularly produced accurate print time estimates, though the application did have its idiosyncrasies (for one, G-code files always default to unknown.gcode).
It was obvious that PowerPrint was relying on Slic3r for the heavy lifting — suggesting that with a little poking around, a knowledgeable user should be able to use Slic3r directly, taking advantage of all the advanced configuration options and regular software updates that this implies, and without fussing with third-party firmware.
Priced as it is, the PowerSpec Ultra 3D falls safely in the midrange of our menagerie. With clean, straightforward software and a few premium features — like a metal frame, an acrylic hood, and Wi-Fi connectivity — it punches higher than its midrange cousins, giving it an edge in value. Plus, the Ultra holds the promise of using a wide range of materials and expert software to unlock its full potential.