Ultimaker: FDM Printing for Today’s Productivity
As one of today’s leading desktop FDM brands globally, Ultimaker is the primary choice among countless SMEs and big companies like Siemens, Volkswagen, Ford and L’Óreal. Also, Cura, Ultimaker’s slicing software, is the most popular in the world, from an …
As one of today’s leading desktop FDM brands globally, Ultimaker is the primary choice among countless SMEs and big companies like Siemens, Volkswagen, Ford and L’Óreal. Also, Cura, Ultimaker’s slicing software, is the most popular in the world, from an enterprise-level, all the way down to casual hobbyists. So, why is Ultimaker loved so much? Many professional FDM printing brands like BCN3D, Sindoh, Raise3D, BigRep and Markforged also have comparatively great performances. So, again, what makes Ultimaker unique? We’ll answer this question in this article.
First, let’s have some context on the company itself.
Ultimaker’s History of Excellence
As one of the pioneering companies sprouted from the RepRap desktop 3D printing revolution, Ultimaker was born in 2011 within a FabLab environment. From the very start, this dutch company adopted an open-source philosophy they still maintain to this day.
After just a few years of building a community, winning awards, and consolidating their place in the industry, what began as a small startup, quickly grew into a 400-employee global company with branch offices in both the USA and Singapore. Ultimaker’s objective evolved from producing DIY kits for enthusiasts to the development of a whole suite of professional 3D printers, software and material solutions. Furthermore, they don’t shy about aiming to accelerate the world’s transition to digital distribution and local manufacturing. Just as Nuno Campos, Ultimaker’s CMO, stated:
“It is Ultimaker’s vision to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable manufacturing. We provide an easy to use, flexible and open 3D printing platform that enables sustainable additive manufacturing”
With a reputation for fast and high-quality printing, companies from many sectors, including consumer products, foods and beverages, fashion, and architecture, rely on their products to support seamless prototypes, tools and end-use results. Now, you might have a hint as to where we’re going with this article. So, again with the original question.
What Makes Ultimaker a Unique 3D Printing Approach?
Ultimaker 3D printers are well known for their robust and reliable designs and high-resolution prints. For instance, their flagship printer, the Ultimaker S5, offers up to 20-micron layer resolutions and a large build volume of 330 x 240 x 300 mm, something not many desktop FDM printers in the market can achieve. Not to mention that its reinforced feeder wheels made from coated hardened steel deal with highly abrasive composite materials like carbon fibre flawlessly.
Still, investing in 3D printing nowadays goes way beyond just the raw technical performance. Users must consider the overall effectiveness of their production processes. And, what makes Ultimaker outstanding is its vision of boosting productivity. Ultimaker is the epitome of professional desktop FDM printing. And this is not just because of its powerful printing capabilities, but especially for its unique ecosystem.
Ultimaker offers an open and easy-to-use ecosystem of 3D printers, software, and materials that enable professional designers and engineers to transform the way they manufacture. It allows them to innovate at any place and anytime while remaining versatile in responding to the global market demand. And, in a complex and rapidly changing market, innovation is essential for future-proofing manufacturing.
From the beginning, Ultimaker, as a company, has a very open mindset. When talking about open-source, what first comes to mind is the widespread use of this company’s famous free slicer: Cura. Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Ultimaker also has a huge community where users and partners are involved. Thanks to this attitude, not only the Ultimaker filament catalogue is available to use, but also third-party products.
Consequently, this enables Ultimaker printers to have the broadest material choice on the market. Ultimaker’s open filament system lets you print with any 2.85 mm filament and print profiles from the Ultimaker Marketplace. And, what exactly is the Ultimaker Marketplace, you may ask?
The Ultimaker Marketplace offers end-users Print Profiles that enrich their toolpath, thus substantially improving printing reliability and printing quality. End-users can install these printing profiles directly from Ultimaker Marketplace with a mouse’s click. And this is possible thanks to the Ultimaker Material Alliance Program. This initiative allows filament companies to offer their products in the Ultimaker Marketplace.
Companies can upload their Print Profiles and provide extensive information. Collectively, Ultimaker and filament manufacturers offer exceptional, reliable and easy first-time-printings to end-users. Some big names partaking in the alliance are the chemical giant BASF, Mitsubishi Chemicals, DSM, Owens Corning, Arkema, Jabil, Lehmann&Voss&Co, Dupont, Polymaker, among many others. For more information, visit the official Marketplace page.
On the whole, Ultimaker has a history of constructing a global community of numerous and devoted users helping each other with experiential learning and troubleshooting while remaining in sync with an extremely reliable support service.
Versatile and Easy to Use
Ultimaker, in its humble beginnings, produced DIY kits, but those days are far gone. Nowadays, every printer is ready and easy to preset out of the box. With a keen focus on product usability, developing products to maximise uptimes and save effort is a top priority for the dutch company. So, where do we observe that? Chiefly, the pre-configured print profiles in the Ultimaker Marketplace is a big part of it. Every manufacturer tests each of its available profiles in Ultimaker printers first, so end-users can print without dealing with complex configurations.
But what about their hardware design? How do they incorporate ease of use into a printer’s components? Well, there are many features involved. First, a smart spool holder with a built-in NFC reader which clips on to the back of the machine. After loading a spool onto the holder, the printer recognises the Ultimaker material type and automatically selects optimum printer settings. Then we have the high-precision auto-levelling build plate system. Having this automated solution saves lots of time for users and consolidates high print qualities from the very first layer. Moreover, the touchscreen interfaces were conceptualised to be friendly and intuitive. Remarkably, the touchscreen in and of itself won an award, the Fi Design Award 2019 for the S3 model.
Finally, one of this company’s major innovations is their modular design approach for their printer’s printheads is their swappable print core system. This allows users to rapidly change nozzle diameters, undertake agile maintenances, and adapt the machine to support materials (BB Cores) and abrasive composites (CC Cores). Engineered to streamline the printing process as much as possible, Ultimaker’s printers are extremely versatile in use and maintenance.
Ready for Industry 4.0 Productivity
In its quest to extend its ecosystem with further integration of its workflows, Ultimaker is fully aware of the importance of Industry 4.0 practices in 3D printing. Everything must start with a robust connectivity system by offering a high-speed Wi-Fi and LAN connectivity built directly into the printers to make this possible. As a result, regular firmware updates, with new features and improvements, enable enhancing overall capabilities over time.
With this infrastructure steadily established, both users and 3D printers can access the powerful Ultimaker cloud platform. Within the cloud system, stakeholders can make the best use of both the Marketplace and the Digital Factory. And, what’s the Digital Factory? The Digital Factory is a management system that works through a remote and scalable network of users and machines seamlessly. This system notifies you when any print job is ready and when a printer needs special attention or maintenance. It also gives you insights, history reports and data analysis into any queued print jobs and allows you to monitor progress via the printer’s integrated camera.
Ultimaker seems never to stop innovating, and they are currently announcing their upcoming virtual Transformation Summit. It will take place from the 20th to the 23rd of April, and we’re excited to hear about their newest innovations. For more information, click here.