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garnet

Should I buy an Ultimaker?

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Hello, I know no one can really answer that for me, but I'm hoping to get some insight into what's involved, the problems and the output quality to get a better idea as to whether I want to get one or not.

I require rapid prototyping for the design work I do (i.e. not for fun, even though it looks very cool). I work on a variety of items like camera cases and laptop type assemblies and other less refined items. I've been using output bureaus and have found some that are fairly inexpensive (around $100 for the aforementioned camera case-7 small pieces) and do good quality. Given the number of projects I work on and the number of revisions we go through it would speed things up and ultimately save money to be able to do it in house.

My main concern is sort of twofold; would the printer produce the quality and intricacy of prints I require (since we can't really change the print to suit the printer), and if it could, would it take so much to get it working at that level that it would be more time consuming/distracting than it's worth. (btw I like mechanicals, so I'm happy to build it, but don't want to mess much with software, aside from installing, ick).

From the pictures I've seen it looks like it's capable of great quality, but then I'll see some pretty rough looking prints and wonder what is the norm. Have the good ones gone through a lot of post print finishing or did the operator tweak things to get those results?

I also read about some of the problems people have and don't really want to deal with that too much. I understand there is calibrating etc., but some seem to have problems that are pretty hard to track down. I've built my own kit car so understand the process, but there are quality kits and shoddy kits, and this is for business not a hobby. How 'build and play' are these units?

I've been considering some of the more professional units as well, but they are quite a step up in price and in some cases the quality doesn't look any better. Building one also give the advantage of modifying in the future (again, I'm happy with the mechanical stuff, not so much with the software, buggy stuff).

Thanks very much for the input!

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Got a few pictures of stuff you might be printing? The biggest concern, IMO, is that you'll want to print things that FDM-type machines (aka: plastic extruders) have trouble with. These machines are just AWESOME for lots of stuff but some things take a bit more work to print than others.

 

there are quality kits and shoddy kits, and this is for business not a hobby. How 'build and play' are these units?

For the hardware, I think you'd it'd be very difficult to find better made machine in this price range. When I built mine, I was quite impressed by how well it all went together and how there was just nothing that seemed like it was there because a certain part was cheaper or what they happened to have on hand. It's really a nice box..

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I was quite impressed by how well it all went together and how there was just nothing that seemed like it was there because a certain part was cheaper or what they happened to have on hand. It's really a nice box..
I got hex nuts instead of square nuts ;-)

The software requires a bit of getting to know, some setting tweaks, but it's not that hard. You don't need programming experience or anything. And if you don't know which setting to tweak, then you can just ask, because everyone is more then happy to help here. But one rule is pretty easy, the slower the print the higher the quality.

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Thanks for the replies. Here is a shot of one of the items, this is quite small, could easily fit into the palm of your hand (5cm x 2.5cm x 2.5cm). As you can see nothing too difficult, just some overhangs etc. I'm more concerned that the Ultimaker, or something else like a Reprap, could produce something of prototype quality, with the two halves fitting together(this piece has been refined with a step where the two halves mate etc.) and the finish looking professional.

Thanks again.

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That's actually a good size and amount of detail to print. If you did it using Netfabb on Ultra Quality style the quality should come out quite good.

The tricky bit will be mating plugs into holes. Holes through a horizontal surface come out small so you have to drill them after or make them bigger in your stl file.

It is consistent and repeatable so once you work out your sizes you should get good results.

For what you want to do the trick would be to get it working reliably and if you're able to print at the cooler end of the scale you'll get less stringing.

Then you need to calibrate and then you should be right to go.

I think a lot of us here have the 3D printing as a hobby and are in a cycle of

Improve the Quality, Make it go faster, Make it more reliable, Repeat.

and print something useful now and again. This wouldn't suit you.

Hope this helps.

Owen.

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If you want real quality, I would recommend getting a zcorp instead of a machine like the ultimaker. They can deal with overhangs and print really good quality prints (I heard that they can print stuff with accuracy of 0.01mm), or use a company like shapeways (if you cant afford to buy a zcorp).

The ultimaker can print out pretty decent prints, but they are only good for testruns (where you have something static in your hand and see how it will finally look like), not for a final print that you can show to your customers. Like owen said, the quality achieved by most people here is by constantly trying and tinkering with their machine. I do believe that you can get a fairly quality print out of a stock ultimaker, but from experience I found out that the quality you see on the websites can only be achieved after you spent several hours tinkering with it.

I had difficulty printing a simple whistle when I first started up the ultimaker, and it took me another hour to figure out that i had to slow down the connection between the ultimaker and the pc in order to make it work. If you are totally inexperienced with ultimakers, and dont have any technical background that could be of assistance when experiencing trouble, I wouldnt recommend using the ultimaker or a similar piece of hardware, but go straight for the commercial zcorp or similar.

Ultimaker (together with a LOT of other similar companies) are producing more "experimental" models than actual products that can compete with zcorp machines. Think of the ultimaker as an DIY kit that you can buy. Something like a HAM radio that you can build yourself, but it wont give you that really good reception from commercial products, unless you spend hours tinkering on the soft-/hardware. It purely depends on what you like to have and what your intentions are with the machine. For experimentation I would certainly recommend the ultimaker, but if you want to show your customers your products, I would go with the zcorp. They can produce better quality prints but at a higher cost than the ultimaker. Its all about what you want to do and how much you are willing to spend on the product.

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If you want real quality, I would recommend getting a zcorp instead of a machine like the ultimaker. They can deal with overhangs and print really good quality prints (I heard that they can print stuff with accuracy of 0.01mm), or use a company like shapeways (if you cant afford to buy a zcorp).

I'm not sure I agree with this.. If the point is to quickly iterrate through a bunch of designs before sending a part off to a big & expensive printer or injection molding machine, it seems like a pretty good deal. And I think UM can print fine to show a prototype/mock-up to a customer.

 

but from experience I found out that the quality you see on the websites can only be achieved after you spent several hours tinkering with it.

Again, I don't really agree.. Eventually, the software we use will be able to analyze the object to be printed and automatically rotate so it sits in the best position and adjusts the settings to deal with bridges and overhangs and areas that need support and all that. We don't have that now so we have to learn some stuff about the software and the physical processes and adjust the settings ourselves.

There is no print profile that will work perfeclty for all prints - I look at every object I want to print and poke the settings for every print. This isn't overly hard - it takes minutes, not hours, once you learn how things work.

 

Ultimaker (together with a LOT of other similar companies) are producing more "experimental" models than actual products that can compete with zcorp machines.

Yeah, well, zcorp machines cost a little bit more. I'm sure the material isn't the $10-15/pound like we get, too..

No, it's not a box you can just plug in and start printing amazing-quality stuff right away with. You need to think about how the physical stuff works and understand the what the software settings do. If you go into it know that, it's not hard. If you go into it thinking it's like a microwave or something you can start using right away without knowing anything new, you're going to be frustrated.

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Thanks very much for the replies. Seems like it's not an open and shut case. Not sure what the next step is. I spoke with Bits From Bytes and they are sending me a sample print from their machines, but it would seem with so much variation based on the set up it doesn't mean someone else could replicate it unless they knew what they were doing and had calibrated their printer properly.

I'll likely continue using the service bureau and keep on eye on things here, improvements seem to be coming rapidly so I'll wait for a project gap in my work and take on building and mastering using one then.

Thanks again!

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i think you sit down with your ulltimaker alone.

make lots of coffee and have a big bar of chocolate ready.

then hit print, make lots of mistakes for a day or two and then GUESS WHAT... you start realising, oh if i do this or that, its better.

then you come and chat with us and we shoot you some more ideas.

the thing i love about this is, i always just modeled 3d in the computer.

But now i have the chance to make my ideas, actually resting in my hand.

the other cool thing is, with ultimaker, the community of users will just get bigger and stronger and as that happens, improvments and tips will just get better and faster.

so enjoy the ride.

Ian :D

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i've seen him posting before and wondered about why he had such a different experience and was so negative.. It makes a lot more sense now.

mr_seeker, you should disclose info like that. Not doing that was really.. er.. I'm having a hard time coming up with words that allowed here.

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You're right, didnt knew that it was such old machine until i saw the post. With the prints that I made and the prints that I see online, its quite the improvement for a company that is around for a year.

I didnt really know much about Zcorp and the fact that they are expensive and fragile. Seems that it is only worth for visual prototypes.

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