The ultimate maker? The Ultimaker!

Hi there, my name is Thomas Beck and I am the owner of Plasmasolutions. We as a company are doing 3D animations, architectural pre-visualisations, offering web design and custom programming services all around the world…and we got a new kid: the Ultimaker 🙂

Finally, we're done - But will the printing work / Endlich fertig - aber wird er auch drucken?
Finally, we’re done – But will the printing work / Endlich fertig – aber wird er auch drucken?

So here I am now…a proud father of a 3D printer, newest child in the Plasmasolutions family. To be honest: all existing family members were critical at first… they heard from 3D printers already, but thought they are polluting the space by smelling and powder or don’t have the precision they we’re going for. And all of us including me were amazed after the first print! But let’s start one by one..

I must confess that I registered an account at Ultimakers store a good while ago…on September 20, 2012. Since that time I visited the site again and again to lay a brandnew Ultimaker into my basket …. and deleted it again – everytime. Maybe you are familiar with all those questions that were bothering me at that time:

  • What would I do with it and do I really need one (silly question – sure! 😉 )
  • Will my beloved wife continue to life with me if I’ll let R2D2 into our living room?
  • It’s a good handful of money…should I really spend it (see “the open source idea” for my answer) ?

To make a long story short: I bought it at March 12th – not knowing if this would stress my relationship with my wife 😉

The long wait

I paid via Paypal and had a short look at my door bell – I didn’t want to miss the postman – and then the waiting started… and it lasted and lasted ….. and …. lasted!

Do you know when you’re awaiting a package and it simply … does … not … arrive?! It’s a torture! To be fair I have to state that Ultimaker announced in the shop that it will last 4 weeks to ship my item. But hope dies last… and on 4th April, big news were arriving in my mailbox: “Shipment for your order xxxx”! Countless visits on the DHL tracking page later I was sure: On Saturday, all will be good 🙂 But no, cruel fortune! The postman waited until I was a tiny second out of my flat at Saturday to put a notice in my box “Your item was here, you were not!”

The painting

On Monday, I received it … finally. And now the real fun started: The paint! I wanted to have an Ultimaker with personality that fits the Plasmasolutions corporate design. I waited this long that I could wait some more days for the final assembly. At this point, I have to thank Roland R. for his dedicated work with me on the project – he came up with the stripes idea and helped a lot – Thanks Roland!

The primer / Grundierung
The primer / Grundierung

I felt like a kid on christmas as I lifted the first parts of my new Toy 😉 I was totally amazed at the precision nowadays laser cutter can cut through the plywood.. it’s really impressive.

All white parts / alle Teile in weiß
All white parts / alle Teile in weiß

What was really clever from Ultimaker Ltd. was,they didn’t paint all the markings onto the wood but instead lasered it. This way, I had fewer problems with the assembly after the paint. And a quick tip for all those, that like to paint their Ultimaker too: There are some wooden parts hidden in some of those little plastic bags, so open them an have a look. After everything was painted I had to repaint 6 parts because I overlooked them – this was silly and has not to happen to you 😉

Spray paint in silver / Angesprayed in Silber
Spray paint in silver / Angesprayed in Silber

At the beginning, I sanded all the parts and bought several colours in a local hardware store. They were spray paints with a cool metallic effect and fit perfectly into my corporate design.
The next steps are exactly how I painted my Ultimaker with spray cans. It worked perfectly and as I’ve found pretty few instructions on how you should paint your Ultimaker this is my gift to you:

  1. Spray the grounding layer two times from both sides. Wait until it’s dry, you won’t regret that!
  2. Sand your parts to erase all splinters that erode while grounding
  3. Spray your colour layer two times and try to avoid the edges of the parts. You’re causing several effects that are not wanted: Dripping on the other side of the part and “noses” because your spray nozzle is not fine enough to canalize the spray on the edges only.
  4. Let it dry … then, when everything is dry wait an hour or two more, it’s really important that it is completely dry!
  5. Finalize your Ultimaker parts with your design. Cut out your logo or whatever stripes or shapes you like and mask your already sprayed parts with a bunch of layered newspapers. Beware that spray paint is very tricky and can easily get beneath the paper onto your finished parts – so take care you didn’t ruin it on the last meters.
    To fixate the papers I used a blue tape from my local hardware store that is water repellent – this was the key for clean edges on the white stripes.
    For my company logo I took an adhesive folie – again, one side has to be water repellent, one has to stick to the surface very firmly to let no colour in the masked out area.
  6. Clear coat your parts. Please note that with every layer you spray, your parts are getting bigger and bigger – they will stick together very tight, but it could be hard to even get to this point.

After your coating, let your parts rest a little… after this many layers of spray paint your parts are tired and need a rest. In my case (lousy weather and high humidity) 3 full days!

Applying the design / Das Design aufbringen
Applying the design / Das Design aufbringen
Finally! Our design is on it / Endlich ist unser Design fertig
Finally! Our design is on it / Endlich ist unser Design fertig
Finished Parts / Fertige Teile
Finished Parts / Fertige Teile
Finished Parts / Fertige Teile
Finished Parts / Fertige Teile

The assembly

The assembly went pretty smooth – if you’re considering the fact that I didn’t wait enough to let my parts dry 🙂 I couldn’t proceed as quick as I wanted but found help on every topic in the wiki and in the countless comments under each page .. this was really a helpful source for some steps.

Pre assembly / Vor dem Aufbau
Pre assembly / Vor dem Aufbau

Another big help was that you could enlarge all your images to a size where you really can see what’s going on. That was one of the benefits of NOT having a printed manual and using a wiki. In my opinion, the wiki would need a kind of “edit with approval” feature where you can add your information and problems you faced but they show up only after approval or moderation. This way some cliffs could be taken with ease.

Overall, all went pretty good and fluent – I was following the instructions step for step and managed to build all parts as intended. I made a mistake two times, but I saw and fixed it pretty fast.

I would recommend that you take your time for the assembly – it is absolutely no good idea to rush trough the instructions. You should read them previously, then take all your corresponding parts and follow the instructions step by step. Click on the images if some corners are hard to see – they are collected on flickr, so you can access the original resolution easily. Take your time and you’ll succeed.

The first print

After 20 hours everything was built up and ready for testing…and the Ultimaker robot delivered with Cura was the first model (did some user try to print some other model as the first print? Does that even work? 😉 )

So: I started Cura, leveled the bed and waited for Cura to print a small rectangle. The on screen display showed: Heating … 24°C … 22°C … 20°C … 18°C… huuh?! At this point, I stopped the operation with a slight amount of panic in my eyes and reflected my building process. Didn’t I read something about the temperature sensor in the comments? And yes, I read that the wires were switched in the instructions – so I corrected them previously – that was my error 😉 The instructions were correct – I was wrong and happy that I found the error so fast 🙂

Not bad for the first print - not good either / Nicht schlecht für den ersten Druck, gut allerdings auch nicht!
Not bad for the first print – not good either / Nicht schlecht für den ersten Druck, gut allerdings auch nicht!

After switching the temperature sensor wiring back to the original instructions, the first print went smooth but was quality wise not at the level I wanted it to have…so I was investigating the parameters (I didn’t change them previously at all). It seemed as if 220 degree celsius was simply too hot for this model, after lowering it to 195 degree it was perfect.

The “Cute Octopus” was the next one – and my wonderful wife totally amazed 🙂

This is MUCH better - lowering temp was the key! / So siehts doch gleich besser aus - die Temperatur runterregeln war der Schlüssel!
This is MUCH better – lowering temp was the key! / So siehts doch gleich besser aus – die Temperatur runterregeln war der Schlüssel!

Since then, we had several visitors that want to have a look at our companys baby … and all were really astonished about the quality we got here.

The open source idea…

I don’t know if you know… but Ultimaker Ltd. is a very open company. They are putting all files online that are needed to improve or build the Ultimaker. All part specifications are open and distributed freely on the web.

In retrospect, this simple fact (despite of the printing speed) led me to buy it – there are quite a few competitors already and they are getting more and more as you read this article…but if a company is open to users that should be honored imho! With articles, tips or simply with an appropriate payment.

I knew that there are copies of the Ultimaker in China that are sold at a third of the price but really, that is very short thought. Do you think that those copies will improve our printing tools (printer and software)? If you’ve watched Erik de Bruijn (one of the Ultimaker founders) and saw how many years of work and improvements he has put into the open source RepRep community, you would want to give him something back – at least I do. Being a Blender 3D dev and therefore really close to the open source spirit as a whole this “ethical” thinking is very familiar with me – and rooted deep in Plasmasolutions. We are relying on a foundation of open source software packages – and we contribute back whenever we can.

As a bonus, Daid is employed at Ultimaker Ltd since last year. He is the developer of Cura, your easy to use tool to print all kind of stuff – it’s open sourced too. Don’t you feel good by supporting the open source idea by buying the Ultimaker? I do.

Customer Service

Unfortunately, after doing the first prints, my Ultimaker was getting ill – as every child is from time to time in the first years 😉 So I went straight to the customer support and requested help. My first problem was that I had absolutely no feeling how strong I should tension the belts and my second that a stepper was not working anymore. I got help really fast: First, there was a tip from Sander (customer support) how to increase the belts tension and how much the shorter ones may lengthen themselfes while pushing them to be ok (3mm) and then he helped me on getting the replacement for my stepper fast and without any problems!

So absolutely no bad news here, I like!

Post Scriptum

Btw… finally we found a task for the Ultimaker too: Print miniaturized homes for our architectural clients – now they are getting 3D renderings, animations and 3D prints from one hand…so Plasmasolutions is a full service 3D provider nowadays and we thank the guys at Ultimaker Ltd. for making our vision real with their products. And as a last word: We are not affiliated to them, just excited about the product they offer 🙂

More 3D printing posts to follow – have fun,

Thomas Beck

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