Ultimaker quality FAQ is like porn for 3D printers

Do you think it’s not really possible to get amazing resolution from extruder-based 3D printers? You’re wrong, and this post about the attainable quality of prints on the Ultimaker proves it. The Yoda bust seen above was printed with a layer thickness of 0.02mm. This is a hack in itself because this process actually used two different layer thicknesses. The interior of the print, which you can’t see, but serves as a support mechanism for the object was printed at 0.04mm, with just the visible perimeter printed in the smaller thickness. That trickery is just fine with us if this is the result.

[Dave Durrant] discusses the press the Ultimaker has received, which mostly focused on the relatively fast printing process this hardware uses. But he didn’t think the story of the quality you can get with the device was being told. So he put out a call on the mailing list to send in pictures of high-quality 3D prints and he wasn’t disappointed by the response. You’ll see images of busts, bodies, gears, animals, and art pieces. There’s information about how they were printed, but even those not interested in the particulars will appreciate the macro photography that gives you an up-close look at how far we’ve come with these table-top rapid prototyping machines.

[Thanks Taylor]

Comments

  1. CoolMod says:

    Weird title from Mike… Awesome printer, though…

  2. Jriddles says:

    I was mislead here by the title.

  3. alan says:

    3D printers and porn? Now there is an idea for a billion dollar industry…

  4. Neckbeard says:

    Keeping a very close eye on this one…

    • Konrad44 says:

      I have UM for a few months now. It is quite a fun to put it together IKEA style and then to climb the learning curve. Once calibrated aside from quality and speed it is far more reliable than I expected. You can use it continously for weeks without any need of maintenance.

      I think that out of blue companies producing industrial grade 3d printers have an unexpected competition.

      Happy printing!

  5. Aaron says:

    XKCD did it: http://xkcd.com/924/

  6. zuul says:

    that’s pretty amazing

  7. Chris says:

    Very impressive! I’m just wondering:

    1) Is this type of performance repeatable by the average user? Or just something a few experts can manage, when the phase of the moon is just right, given a dozen tries?

    2) What size filament was used for these prints?

    • oodain says:

      i would like to know that as well.

      they are a bit more expensive but the printing speed of the sprinter is amazing.

      • Hackerspacer says:

        The speed at which the heads moves is impressive. However it is raster scanning EACH line at 0.02 mm resolution. PER LAYER. This isn’t a “fast” machine in terms of actual build speed.

      • Dave Durant says:

        > The speed at which the heads moves is
        > impressive. However it is raster scanning
        > EACH line at 0.02 mm resolution. PER LAYER.
        > This isn’t a “fast” machine in terms of actual
        > build speed.

        Kinda sorta but not exactly.

        For one, you can control the fill density of objects and that has a huge impact on print time. If you need something solid & strong then yeah, it’ll take longer. If not, print with a sparse infill and have it go faster. The phrase “raster scanning EACH line” just isn’t quite right.

        Also, since Ultimakers cruise at speeds anywhere from 2x to 5x faster than most other machines without losing any quality (and can go a lot faster than that, if you want a quick prototype) you can print at “normal” resolution far faster than other machines. Or at 2-5x the resolution in about the same amount of time. You don’t HAVE to print at ultra high resolution…

        With new releases of skeinforge (which also have the 1/2 height perimeter stuff), you just tell it how big your filament is, how fast you want it to move and what resolution you want. That ease-of-use is coming to netfabb too, hopefully soon.

      • Dave Durant says:

        http://www.ultimaker.com , ejonesss!

        It’s €1,194 which (per the exchange rate right now) is US$1,645. Mine with shipping to the Boston area was a little under $1,900, IIRC.

        Well worth it, IMO.

    • Konrad44 says:

      It’s not like you get the parcel with UM, put it together and have perfect quality prints same evening. But after running some calibration prints and playing with it for a few evenings you’d happily print at 0,04 mm per layer without thinking much about it. There is an excellent FAQ on quality improvement here http://techwall.net/analyzing-your-first-print

    • Luis says:

      They use 3mm filament but a commercial slicer called netfabb so its half open-source and half commercial = amazing quality!

      • Taylor Alexander says:

        There is also a completely open source path using replicatorg, but the print quality apparently isn’t as good. I’ve heard they both have their strengths and weaknesses, but that Netfabb is easier to get repeatable high quality prints.

      • Dave Durant says:

        (damn.. clicked Report instead of Reply – false alarm, mods!)

        @Chris: sure, it’s repeatable by anybody but none of the machines in this market are like buying something at the local superstore in terms of plug-and-play. Certainly doable but takes a little patience. Again: true for *all machines*.

        Like Luis said: 3mm feedstock, almost definitely all 4043D PLA, too. I’ve seen some reports of printing with ABS but most people avoid it.

        I think skeinforge is capable of generating similar high-quality gcode. It’s just a matter of sitting down and plugging in the right numbers. I’ve printed around 0.075mm with SF – not as nice as Screal but getting down there..

        @alan: they do make “soft PLA” which is sorta rubbery..

      • Chris says:

        @Dave Durant: Thanks! I can understand the need for an extended learning curve, some good software, and a lot of experimentation to get really good results. Garbage in, garbage out as always. Just wanted to get some idea of how temperamental these machines might be on top of that.

  8. Taylor Alexander says:

    Yay! Something I tipped *and* contributed to is on Hackaday!

    Couple fun things – I didn’t even know about the Ultimaker until I saw it mentioned in the comments on this site just about a month ago, and two weeks ago I placed an order for my own!

    I always saw pictures of crappy prints coming off maker bots, and I thought that was just the best the DIY 3D printer crowd could get. I had no idea that similar hardware was coming away with such crazy quality (even a month ago, before this call for quality prints started, I saw some impressive Ultimaker prints). I joined the mailing list and got to watch with excitement every morning as the posts about improving quality (from what I was already impressed with) came pouring in.

    I’ve got 2-4 more weeks till my Ultimaker shows up and I can’t wait!

    Oh, and don’t forget the machine has an 8.2″ cube build volume, which is almost 9 times the build volume of a maker bot. The speed, quality, and build volume of the Ultimaker completely changed my idea of DIY 3D printing!

    -Taylor

    • Daid says:

      I ordered one after it showed up on HackADay. Took me only 8 hours to assemble.

      I’m not getting the quality prints as shown here, but I’m not aiming for quality per say. These quality prints take a LONG time to print. Many hours.

      I think the Yoda takes something like 10 hours to print at that quality. I print at 0.28mm layers, which is a lot faster, but less detailed.

      This is one of my first prints:

      It looks a bit “blobby”, that’s because I was printing at a to high temperature.

      http://daid2.mine.nu/~daid/IMG_20110929_235158.small.jpeg this is one of my higher quality prints, only 10 days later. (And I don’t spend every evening playing with my machine)
      It took 3 hours to print because I lowered the speed while trying to figure out what was wrong with my machine. Which was a case of extruder bolt slipping, all fixed now and I get about the same quality at double the speed.

      Ultra quality as shown in the FAQ requires some tweaking, but even for a simple man like me you can print things that don’t look like ugly blobs.

      Oh, and all my prints are done with OpenSource software (skeinforge), so, no. You don’t need commercial software.

  9. sneakypoo says:

    Mmmm… yeah, take my money please.

    (if this is actually repeatable by mortals and you don’t have to spend 200 hours tweaking the thing to produce these results)

    • Julius says:

      If you are good with a screwdriver and dont mind tinkering in the settings, you can reproduce these prints. If you can get the settings from someone else, try it, change some values to account for the fact that your machine is not perfect, then yes… Mortals can do it in a day.

      • sneakypoo says:

        Thanks, sounds good. I certainly don’t mind working on it a bit but I’m not willing to dedicate weekends upon weekends just to get repeatable good results (like it seems you have to do with some other printers). I’m going to have to have a good think about this, it might become my christmas gift to myself.

  10. Regulus says:

    Ewwww NetFabb. Not terrible, but I don’t want to see DIY 3D printers rely on commercial and proprietary software to get good looking prints.
    Makes nice surfaces though, sure beats the heck out of good ‘ol Skeinforge.
    I hope MakerBot and RepRap stands up to this competition!

    • Dave Durant says:

      Hey, now.. The netfabb stuff has some very nice features – features that skeinforge doesn’t have.

      That said, I have no doubt that skeinforge (which has features netfabb doesn’t) is capable of doing this sort of quality, too.

  11. Josef Prusa says:

    Guys I don’t want to troll but these kind of setting when you abuse 0.4mm nozzle to print 0.04mm layers YOU CANT PRINT BRIDGES.

    Also true quality is not only in layer height. If line width is more then 2 times bigger then its height, you loose sharp edges.

    For example here you have print comparable to actual Fortus professional machine prints http://www.flickr.com/photos/prusajr/6047617389/in/photostream
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/prusajr/6048211970/in/photostream/ This one was printed on Prusa Mendel and even tho that the print has twice as high layers, it has much more detail.

    So don’t get fooled guys by few pretty vases and prints, if these settings cant even print proper RepRap/other-complex parts ;-)

    Jo Prusa
    RepRap core dev

    • Florian says:

      Absolutely right Josef! Would you please tell me the magic formula behind this stunning print? Which nozzle size were you using?

      Thanks,
      Florian

    • Marn says:

      Big fan, anything new? Been a while since you did anything big.

      • Marn says:

        I think it looks like you modded the x axis carriage so the motor moves with the z axis instead of with the extruder. Is this for

        1. Pushed the timing belt closer to middle of triangle to gain a few more steps upwards.

        2. Keeps weight consistent on Z axis so one side doesn’t have better torque on the assembly, and allows smoothe0r/faster movement of extruder with less inertia?

    • sneakypoo says:

      But does the fact that they are printing with layers this thin mean that they cannot make it print thicker layers as well? Surely you can? And if so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a good thing to have both options?

    • Daid says:

      But at 0.28mm layer height it prints bridges and overhang that most printers won’t handle at all.

      There is also this thing called “easy to assemble”. It took me 8 hours to assemble, and these where the results after that:

      The next day I found the problem that was causing the bad prints, and so I printed this:

      Compared too, day 31 of a raprap:

      • Marn says:

        I don’t think you can compare a kit you assemble and tweak in a few days to a kit someone else builds and can’t figure out for a month. I’m sure that Josef can show you prints he made that are better than a stratasys quality kit that someone poorly threw together.

        • Florian says:

          What is this about? Bottom line is that open source (and Ultimaker is open source ;)) printers kick asses of some very expensive comercial machines.

          This is a community effort. There wouldn’t be an Ultimaker without RepRap, but that doesn’t make the kit any worse.

          @Josef: Please tell us more on your mini Yoda to keep the crowd peaceful ;)

          Cheers, Florian

    • Dave Durant says:

      > ..when you abuse 0.4mm nozzle to print
      > 0.04mm layers …

      Wha? How is this in ANY way abusing the nozzle???

      > YOU CANT PRINT BRIDGES.

      You’re right – bridges do get harder to print as the width/height increases. And this is true for ALL machines.

      You can, of course, just change the print specs to decrease the w/t. Or you can print support structures.

      For those wondering what ‘bridges’ are, picture printing the letter H standing up. A bridge layer would be the bottom layer of the ‘-‘ in the middle of the H. This differs from overhangs that join in that a bridge is *one* layer that has to span a gap, and overhangs that join do it in small increments. Think of that then go back and look at the pictures again..

      > For example here you have print comparable to
      > actual Fortus professional machine prints

      Er. With a 0.15mm nozzle. How’s that nozzle working out for you, speed-wise? (for others, in case he doesn’t answer: it’s slow and more finiky, which is why pretty mcuh nobody uses them)

      If somebody dropped a $10, 0.15mm nozzle on an Ultimaker, is there ANY reason that they couldn’t do the exact same thing? Any reason at all??

      > Also true quality is not only in layer height.
      > If line width is more then 2 times bigger then
      > its height, you loose sharp edges.

      You’re saying that the pictures aren’t of high quality prints?

      And you’re again bringing up a software issue that’s common to all machines in this area – bridges and sharp edges are easiER with lower w/t values. So what? Not everybody uses the printer to just make more printers, ya know.. :P

      Also, people worried about the sharp edges at high resolution should take another look at http://www.flickr.com/photos/66753090@N08/6225667667/ . Horrible, right?

      > So don’t get fooled guys by few pretty vases
      > and prints, if these settings cant even print
      > proper RepRap/other-complex parts ;-)

      Maybe I’m being defensive but you’re sorta implying that my blog was out to fool people or that Ultimaker machines aren’t as good as they appear. That’s complete BS and I’m pretty sure you know it.

      > Guys I don’t want to troll

      Really? You sure did a good job of it anyway.

      • Florian says:

        Dave, now I think you gave Josef exactly what he was hoping for :D

        When I remember right he saw Ultimakers first person at Maker Faire this year… he will most likely remember the superior hardware design of this machine ;)

        I like his photos so much, that I’m really eager to put some tiny tiny nozzles on my UM…

    • Blue Bot says:

      Thought I’d have a quick shot at using the Ultra Quality setting on my Ultimaker to print a bridged item.

      Quick bridge test. Printed with the Ultra Quality Ultimaker Profile. Thingiverse item 7461 on Ultimaker

      kind regards

      Paul

    • You should try nylon618.

      http://www.taulman3d.com/buy-618-3mm.html

      Nylon being having higher viscosity should go through your 1.5 mm nozzle. And this particular nylon is designed for 3D printer extrudders.

  12. Blue Bot says:

    The good news is that the Ultra Quality profile myself and Florian produced for the Netfabb version of Ultimaker already includes the 0.04 mm or 40 micron layer height and will soon include the exhibited 0.02mm or 20 micron as the Ultimate Quality profile.

    So to answer the question yes, when using the Ultimaker these layer heights are available to the average user without ‘100s of hours’ of tuning. Infact both myself and Florian started our 3d printing experience this July.

    Interestingly both the 40 and 20 micron profiles started in beta as printing the entire model at the smallest layer heights (it’s so easy to start that way).

    Then we added the thicker layers to increase the printing speed. So the thicker layers used internally took hard work to achieve, rather than being a hack to achieve the smaller layers.

    The Ultimaker continues to surpass my expectations. It has to be the best purchase I have ever made.

    Kind regards

    Paul

  13. joris says:

    porn != art
    i like to make art… http://tinyurl.com/5wj6cmn

    cheers\joris
    facebook.com/europerminutedesign

  14. ejonesss says:

    where can we get one and now much?

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      Ultimaker.com

      1,200 Euro plus shipping. Came out to about $1900 even for me. But at about 9x the build volume of the $1300 Makerbot, it was a clear winner. Thats not even considering quality and speed.

  15. Peter says:

    Very good prints, but on the other hand, it should also be mentioned that the “golden Yoda” printing process took about 14 hours. Also, “The Bradley’s Slotted bowl” took 24 hours to complete!!!

    Nice stuff anyway. It’s a shame that Netfabb is so expensive software and it’s not open.

  16. Drew says:

    This thing blew my mind. I looked up the specs- and I don’t see wax. Has anyone modified one of these to print with waxes? I could direct print stuff and lost wax cast metal parts with insane accuracy with one of these if I could print with wax…

    Also, any chance the build volume could be made bigger, if you got longer rods? I’m thinking I could print a base for a milling machine with a 14″ cubed build volume. A super rigid one with hollow honeycomb interior in wax, and send it out to be investment cast in steel.

    It even works in Linux! But what sort of files do you use to make parts? stl.? What program do you create files with?

    The possibilities of this machine are endless. I want one now!

    • mackadoo says:

      I was just wondering the same thing – on the ultimaker home page a jeweler did lost “wax ” casting straight from PLA!

    • Julius says:

      Its STL format, and the high quality prints are made in netfabb.

      If you happen to know a supplier for 3mm wax rods, you can just put them in the machine, and it will do the rest for you. But you need to make sure that the wax stays soft, not fluid, else it will just drip out of your machine.

    • Daid says:

      The slicers expect STL files. But STL files are so simple that you can export them from almost anything.

      The ultimaker wiki lists a few options:

      http://wiki.ultimaker.com/3D_design_tips

      3D studio max is missing from that list, which also exports STL files, but is more then twice as expensive as the machine. So not an option for most people.

      For larger build volume, there is the experimental Ultimaker+ http://blog.ultimaker.com/2011/09/19/ultimaker/
      Not buyable, but the plans for the normal machine are quite open (the lazercut parts are on thingiverse) so you could take the design and doublesize it.

      As for the wax, I’ve seen a design that uses a hot needle to melt away wax. It’s more like a CNC, but it works I guess.
      And there are experiments with printing chocolate (yummy) not sure how wax properties relate to chocolate.

  17. Physics_Dude says:

    q: Will my stock MakerBot +Mk7 eventually print in this quality with software improvements, or is it more of a hardware thing?

  18. Daid says:

    For anyone wondering if they should get one of these 3D printers.

    The wonder of designing something and having it in your hands just an hour later is really special.

    This Ultimaker is all it’s saying to be. I got a kit, and 8 hours of assembly later I had my first print. Without ever seen a 3D printer before (just online pictures)

    So I say, sell you firstborn son! And get one ;-) (Ok, don’t do that, you might end up in jail, but still, this machine is a wonder in your house)

  19. Peter says:

    Guyz, check this out:

    http://hackaday.com/2011/06/11/3d-printer-looks-factory-made/

    http://www.indiegogo.com/SUMPOD-3D-Printer-and-Mini-CNC-Round-3

    Smaller brother of Ultimaker.
    Similar tech spec, smaller build area, the same electronics and software, mini CNC machine option, LCD.
    $775 full kit, not bad I guess.

    And this is another Ultimaker clone (printable one).

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:7659

    • Dave Durant says:

      The SUMPOD looks interesting but it’s very, very new. Like, pictures of unboxing serial number #1 were just posted yesterday.

      Like any big purchase, doing research first is a really good idea!

      > Smaller brother of Ultimaker

      It looks like the build platform moves on X and Z and the extruder moves on Y so it’s more like a MakerGear Mosaic or UP! sorta design.

      • Peter says:

        Yeah Dave, You’re right.
        The Sumpod is a little different design and it’s quite new.
        But still (I hope) the Sumpod is CNC capable, like drilling PCB, milling and so on.
        AFAIK the Mosaic has only one steel Y-axis rod and all motors are Nema 14.
        The Ultimaker uses Nema 17 motors, and two 8 mm crossed X-Y axis rods. No doubts, these are deflectable.
        The SUMPOD has 2 parallel Y-axis rods, and all rods (incl. Z)are 10 mm. And also all stepper motors are Nema 17.
        I might be wrong , but I doubt that Mosaic or even Ultimaker can ever handle drilling/milling tasks, but who knows.
        Anyway, I’m a big fan of multi-tasking machines, so, looking forward to developing some good, cheap CNC&3DP open source stuff. All-in-One is needed :)
        The Ultimaker is a very good mach, and fast as hell anyway.
        BTW, that’s very promising , isn’t it?

      • Dave Durant says:

        > The Ultimaker uses … two 8 mm crossed X-Y
        > axis rods. No doubts, these are deflectable.

        There’s actually a total 6 rods (not including Z) on the Ultimaker setup: 3 for X and 3 for Y. Each axis has 2 rods on opposite sides of the machine which hold the 3rd rod that goes through the extruder block.

        It’s a hard to explain (and, TBH, I had to stare at it for about 5 minutes before I figured out just how the hell it worked, the first time I saw one) but I think the chances of the X/Y stage being knocked/pushed non-orthogonal are reeeealy low – it’s a very tight setup and you’d snap a Dremel bit long before that happened..

        > Anyway, I’m a big fan of multi-tasking machines

        Me too! I’m about 1/2 done with a pen mount for my Ultimaker. Not horribly useful but it’s a cheap & safe 1st step towards a Dremel mount.. :)

        See also: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:12430 :D

      • tjb1 says:

        So sure that you would snap a dremel bit before the rods deflected? What if you are cutting right at the collet. Ever wonder why everyone isnt using a dremel on almost any of the 3D printers? First off…dremels suck. There is a not a good way to mount them, they arent accurate, and wont last long in a CNC use situation. Second, none of the reprap/3d printer designs/makerbots are strong enough to use any type of machine that requires force. You may get away with drilling but the only milling you are going to do is .001 DOC at 5ipm.

    • Konrad44 says:

      SUMPOD (I like the name!) looks good. Ultimaker is shipped with a case made of plywood but there is no reason why you can’t laser it (it’s open source so drawings available) are out something else. Some guys do it with acrylic http://www.flickr.com/photos/protospace/6237800978/

      • Peter says:

        >There’s actually a total 6 rods (not including Z) >on the Ultimaker setup: 3 for X and 3 for Y. Each >axis has 2 rods on opposite sides of the machine >which hold the 3rd rod that goes through the >extruder block.

        Yea, that’s why I said that those were deflectable. The mechanic design is well-thought-out, intended for good quality and fast printing, and this 6-rods setup works perfectly for this kind of application. It operates well with a really light toolhead.

        >See also: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:12430 :D
        That’s cool :)
        I hope You’re still working on print quality, so You will beat another world record the other day.

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