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I've got one of the very early Ultimaker Originals. It's had a few tweaks and tucks here and there, but let's assume it's pretty much as sold. The one exception is that I do have a heated bed (3rd party Alu sheet + glass top). I haven't used it in a couple of years, but am looking to get back to 3D printing. My experience was that I could get some good stuff out of it, but that I needed to fiddle with it quite a bit to keep it running smoothly and to 'optimise' prints.


Let's assume limitless budget... what upgrades, tweaks or customisations should I look into? I'm really looking to make it as low-maintenance as possible, to get maximum printing quality and reliability from it. After that, it's all about showing off!


(truthfully, the budget isn't limitless and probably won't spring to another printer, but let's see... ? )


To start the conversation off, I know there's been a lot of work done on the hot ends. Should I get a new one? There's also a move away from having to plug my computer into the printer by USB. Should I look to something there? The feeder was always a conversation point too, is that worth replacing?

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The heated bed is probably the best upgrade you could have done to your UMO.  Keeping it simple, I would upgrade the fan shroud to the "tapir" one you can find on YouMagine by nhfoley.  I tested a few different ones on my UMO+ and found that this one works well.  I felt there were too many "gotchas" with going to a dual fan setup like the UM2, but you could look into those too.




There is an upgraded feeder by bertho available on Thingiverse, if yours has the old style.  The upgrade has adjustable spring tension, so you might want to look into that.




There are many more mods you could do such as GT2 belt upgrade, etc., but the two above are the important ones, in my opinion.

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It's a great printer with that heated bed.  It's more important to know what you want to do with it.  If you really want to print Nylon or other higher temp material then covering the sides, front and top is a must.


If you want dual filament printing then look at the mark2 project on this forum (use google to search for mark2 within the ultimaker.com domain).


But really instead of concentrating on the printer, find some nice projects.  Look for needs.  Maybe a better soap dish, or a replacement knob.  Walk around your house or work or church or whatever looking for needs.  Then think about solutions.  Then think about the printer as the last step.

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Great advice - thanks very much. In terms of use, I've got a couple of ABS prints in mind (some stuff that'll go outside, so PLA won't cut it), but nothing too complicated.


After that, PLA is probably the weapon of choice for most jobs I'll end up doing. One day I'd like to try and get a Team UnLimbited arm out of it (http://www.teamunlimbited.org/) - something for my kids and their school to learn about.


My fan shroud is actually printed, although it looks a bit melted, so I think it's time for a new one! I actually do have a Bertho feeder mod, and a couple of things to stop the feeder tube popping out of the hot end.


I guess my main aim is that whenever anyone asks, I can say "sure, let's print something right now" - which hasn't really been my experience, generally I've had to say "er... okay, let's see if I can get it going". I've had some good success with it, but a lot of failures for various reasons too. Since you're not saying to do anything major, I guess I really just need to spend some time getting it all working as well as possible and fix up any minor niggles.


Thanks folks - appreciate the advice ?


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What kind of issues do you have when wanting / trying to print something?

Just go ahead and tackle every symptom you experience and after a few rounds of doing so your printer will be plug & play.

For most issues you will find resolution paths here in the forum.

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I've just had some extrusion problem. By the looks of it, the filament got thickened up in the hot end and then blocked the extruder. Not terrible to fix, but obviously means a failed print and a bit of tugging filament out of the hot end.


However... I guess what I really wanted to know is if there were any developments in the last few years that could help me - and by the sounds of it, there haven't really been. I wondered if maybe the electronics had grown in power and complexity, or if the feeder had had a few redesigns (I see a few on Youmagine, some including different stepper motors, which reminds me I should probably calibrate my feeder at some point).


I've been roped into doing a 'demo' of my printer at the kids school - wish me luck!

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The UMO feeder is actually very powerful.  Its biggest drawback is the retraction noise.  I like the fact that it is easy to move it by hand (rotate the large wood gear) to load filament and force out clogs.


For the extruder/hotend, if you are getting clogs, you may need to replace your teflon coupler (get a TFT one from gr5) or your nozzle could be clogged.  Try the ""cold pull" method first.


If all you are printing is PLA, the coupler and nozzle should last a long time.

Edited by rowiac

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Hmm... definitely worth thinking about. I'm in the UK, and found this: https://3dgbire.com/collections/spare-parts/products/hot-end-pack


I can't remember ever having a teflon part - I've got a PEEK part, but from memory, the Bowden pushes straight into it (there also seems to be an additional brass part I don't have). I believe in mine it goes Bowden -> PEEK -> (alu block) -> nozzle.

By the looks of things, there's been a bit of a design adjustment that could help me out - I'll bash the credit card ?


The saga of printing continues - I tried to print a 7.5 hour print over night, and it failed because the Y motor had moved a little bit, making the small belt slack enough that it could skip on the teeth. A load of grease on the bars and a bit of adjustment has got it back working again. It's been printing a few things today, so I've just kicked off a repeat of last night's job.


Elsewhere I'm trying to print a box that can hold a couple of Buck Converters. I figure I can use the 24V supply for the bed (which is a whopper) and drop it down to 19 for the main electronics, drop it to 12 for the 12V stuff (so no need of the regulator) and possibly drop it to 5V to run a raspberry pi as well. I'm already getting fed up of having to leave my laptop tethered to the printer for hours on end, so would prefer the Pi sent the gcode for me. That's probably an area that needs a whole load of looking into in itself, regardless of the state of my printer though.


Thanks for the hotend tip - I'll get a new one in and see where it gets me. Last time I tried I couldn't get the heater or thermocouple out of the alu block, but I' sure there's a way!




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Make sure to heat up the hotend before you try taking it apart.  I don't know how to get the heater element and thermocouple out of the block without destroying them.  I probably should have used some anti-sieze compound when I assembled it--should have known with sparkplugs getting stuck in aluminum cylinder heads on VWs.

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The link you posted looks exactly like what my UMO+ has in the hotend.


Also, you may want to try the printable belt tensioners if you continue to have problems with the belts skipping teeth.  And the newer UMOs (including UMO+s) have the UltiController added on, which allows you to print from an SD card.  A cheaper option could be the RepRap Discount Full Graphics Controller.

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I am still running my UMO.  It has been very reliable for quite a while.  I have made a lot of improvements to get there. 


an Ulticontroller or equivalent is a must have.


For me, the first upgrade I needed to make, and the most beneficial was replacing the hot end.  Mine originally was an early version that had a threaded brass tube, the bowden had to be cut just right to create a seal and the brass tube was very prone to clogging.  My solution was a home built hot end that requires special parts or a lathe.  Today, I would replace with one of the several commercially available that offer nozzle exchanging.


The second thing I did was replace the extruder drive.  The original was temperamental keeping the proper tension, prone to clogging and stripping the filament with high retraction counts.  My solution was the Geo Hagen extruder which may still be viable with some self sourced parts.  Very happy with it, but again, if I were to do it today I would look to one of the many commercial extruder drives.


To get the Z level to be repeatable in squareness and position I did a couple things.  First was to mount the Z home switch on a threaded adjustable mount so the switch can be shifted with the turn of a single screw like this one


Next I made a very effective improvement to the Z stage by using an UM2 metal platform.  It drops in pretty easy with the same shaft centers as the UMO, and fits the same guide shafts.  You also have to supply new bearings of a different type and adapt your Z nut.  This change removed much of the variability of the Z stage height due to the wooden platform flexing causing near constant re-leveling and Z switch fiddling.


Lastly, I self sourced a heated bed.  Mine is constructed with 1/4" MIC6 aluminum plate which is very flat.  It's controlled with the UMO 1.5.7 bed outputs triggering an SSR relay, switching 120VAC and 250W silicone heater.  I clip normal window pane glass on top to print on.  It is very cheap allowing multiple spares.  If they fail I just replace for a few $.  I found the thickness very constant, not affecting Z height when changing.  Using hair spray and printing ABS, a large print can easily pull the glass surface away.  Each piece can be used until both surfaces are chipped.  If your patient for the cooling, the parts usually pop off with no trouble.


A simple thing to keep in mind on all print bed upgrades, always defer to 3 point leveling systems over 4 point.

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If you are in the UK and looking into other hotend options, have a look at E3D... they are UK based and make quality stuff...
If you are still using the original electronics, you could look into replacing those to give you a good base for expansions... I still run my UMO as well, and got tired of the 19V original electronics a long time ago... 
I went with a RUMBA board and a big 24V power supply mounted under the printer which runs both the printer itself, LED lights and a 3rd party heatbed.
Swap your stepper drivers with the silent stepstick types as well at least on the x/y axis... I run TMC2100, I know they now have a TMC2130 model... They are a bit expensive, but it is by far the most noise reducing upgrade you can make and is pretty simple plug and play.
Here is a few pictures of my printer from its major rebuild some years back:










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Wow folks - thanks so much! I'm loving those pictures. It makes me wonder if I should paint my printer!?


I had no idea changing a stepper driver could reduce the noise of the stepper, although now I think of it, it makes sense. I'll look into getting some of those in.


An Ulticontroller does look like a good idea - I seem to remember it being a bit too expensive way-back-whenever, which is what lead me down the path of using a Raspberry Pi instead (my plan there was to run CUPS and make my Ultimaker look like a regular printer on the network - way back, I wrote a gcode sender as part of this: https://github.com/coofercat/bytetrain). If I can source an ulticontroller, I think I'll get one in and save me a job or two though (or failing that look into Octoprint or something).


As for more physical things, I like the idea of a new z-stage and at the very least a 3-point level (versus the 4 point I have). I have a threaded switch arrangement, so that side of things works quite well, but I do find the bed does seem to change angle a bit here and there (which causes the brims to either be too thin or blobby as the backlog of filament comes out). By the looks of things I have a similar heated bed as @tommyph1208, in my case a bit of borosilicate glass on top - although I can never get my butterfly clips on as fully as in those pictures without getting in the way of printing.


The Geo Hagen extruder looks interesting - I find my Bertho extruder mod needs something to hold the white 'stick' in place otherwise it moves upwards and the 'squeeze' on the filament is lost. I'm using an elastic band at the moment, but I feel like I should be able to print my way out of this problem.


Lastly the electronics... I'm not sure if I want to replace them or not. As there isn't a obvious upgrade path, maybe I'll leave that one to another time. New stepper drivers and power supplies would be quite a change on its own, so I should probably do that before I look at anything more serious, but it's an area I think I need to 'invest' in sometime.


Just to summarise everything in this thread (and a few other bits) so far (just in case anyone else is in the same situation as me), here's an approximately prioritised list of 'big items':

  1. Heated bed
  2. Hot end upgrade/replacement to UMO+ standard
  3. Bertho or Geo Hagen extruder modification/replacement
  4. Ulticontroller or similar to 'untether' the computer from the printer
  5. Upgrade stepper motor drivers to TMC2130 stepstick
  6. Possibly switch out the electronics for something else

And for smaller (mostly printable) items:

  1. Make the z-limit switch screw-adjustable
  2. 3-point bed levelling
  3. Electronics fan replacement (as the supplied fan doesn't work for very long)
  4. Hot end fan shroud replacement (the fold-up thing isn't very good)

I'd also add an "Owen Clamp" onto the bowden tube, but I suspect the newer hot end negates the need for it.

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Just to say, my TMC2130s arrived, so I hurriedly tried to get them to work. They're not quite a 'drop in replacement' for the UMO's own drivers, although they're quite easy to get going if you want a bit of a project. The bulk of the work of getting the electronics sorted is nicely documented here:


The TMCs have a larger heatsink and are a little bit thicker than the originals, so they don't fit under the wooden electronics cover. To resolve this and complete the project, I did the following:


- Remove the top piece of the wooden electronics cover, whatever fan you have and the cardboard fold-up thingy

- Drill some holes and fit a 70mm fan onto the bigger (bottom) sheet of the electronics cover. I used the rubber washers that came with my fan to get it another millimetre or two away from the electronics.

- Dremelled off the tops of the higher heatsinks so that they fit under the fan


This then means that the electronics + fan sandwich is too tall to fit under the ultimaker. You'll need some feet to lift your UMO up by about 15-20mm. I used some wooden blocks to get going, but am printing up some feet to do a more permanent job. On a more positive note, the bigger fan blows so much air, so directly that everything runs really cool, which means no missed steps and no 12V issues.


I also found firmware a bit of a problem. The robotfuzz site seems to be down, so I used https://bultimaker.bulles.eu/. It's easy to make a firmware that reverses the X/Y/E/Z motion. You can't fiddle with the steps-per-mm for the Z-stage on there though, so your Z will move about half of distance its supposed to. I had a crack at compiling up Marlin from source, but didn't get anything working properly. Until I can work that out, I've put the original stepper driver back in for the Z axis. That's a shame because it sounds like it's moving by compressed air (a sort of 'pfff' sound) when it's driven by a TMC.


After all that, I've got to say the TMCs are almost magical. They cut the noise your printer makes by so much it's almost difficult to know your printer is actually running. It's really amazing how effective they are. Thanks for the tip - it was well worth doing this.


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