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Cutting an Ultimaker frame

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For the past month or so I have been gearing up to cut my own Ultimaker frame. Drawings are found easily enough, but when I want to start executing the plans I have some questions and deliberations that I would like to run by people like you. I am hoping you can help me with those. I want to build a frame that is at least as good as a normal Ultimaker, but am also somewhat budget concious. If money needs to be spent I will spend it, but I would obviously rather not.

 

  • Ultimaker frames are cut from 5 ply birch multiplex, for as far as I can tell. The predominant thickness seems to be 6 mm. Is this correct and are there any pieces that come in a different thickness or with different requirements?
    A: The material is birch and the frame comes in 4 and 6 mm thickness's. The drawings and which part is which can be found http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:54027/#files.
     
  • In relation to my first question: is there anything I need to take into account when buying plywood? I will probably look for birch through and through, with as few obvious imperfections and knots as possible. Do I need to get a certain grade or quality?
     
  • My experience with laser cutters tells me there is a bit of variance in how the dimensions of the pieces end up, depending on your exact laser settings, materials and other factors. What is the most size critical part I can use to calibrate this? Typically you would use the longest part for this, since that would make the deviation the smallest, but I guess that exact frame size is not the most size critical item in an Ultimaker.
     
  • Am I right in thinking I need under a square meter, since the drawing dimensions are roughly 72 centimeter times 112 centimeter, making a total of just .81 m2 needed?
     
  • I am thinking of altering a couple of things, among which closing up the sides in Ultimaker 2 style. This should not only aid structural and thermal stability, I also hope it helps keeping some of the dust out. I can see a couple of problems with head interference though. Are there any good reasons not to do this?
     
  • Do you know of any other adaptations I might want to integrate? Now is my chance to get it all done.
     
  • Are there other things that are useful to know when cutting a frame or pitfalls I really need to know about?

I am pretty sure there is a wealth of information and experience amongst enthusiast Ultimaker tinkerers out there, so I hope to share some of that knowledge here :)

 

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I wouldn't close the sides completely. It is helpful to be able to get your hands in there when taking the plate in and out. I would add a door to close then off. One option would be to make the openings small enough that you could print a door on the UM

 

Cutting a door from ply or acrylic would probably have my preference when I would go that route, rather than printing the whole thing. Though you remind me of some worries I had about being able to reach all the nuts and bolts with closed sides. I remember having some issues with that even with open sides, which I solved by applying some Ulti yoga. It's hard to judge how much of an issue that would become with closed sides.

Maybe something like removable panels might be a solution. Something to think about.

 

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The absolute most important thing when buying sheet material for laser cutting is that the sheet material is perfectly flat. Even a slight warp in your starting material will make the cutting process a nightmare and the resulting parts deformed in ways you do not want to have to deal with.

UM birch ply is very high quality - dense wood, low rate of imperfections, very thoroughly glued plies. This is also critical in sourcing your material, as varying material properties lead to varying cut depths and kerf widths when lasering. Also something you don't want to deal with.

I would use a particle board material before I would use low or medium quality birch ply when making a UM frame. The frame is very stiff by design, so you don't need a ton of material strength - you just need uniform, flat material. Melamine faced MDF or normal MDF could be preferable to anything but high quality birch ply.

 

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The absolute most important thing when buying sheet material for laser cutting is that the sheet material is perfectly flat. Even a slight warp in your starting material will make the cutting process a nightmare and the resulting parts deformed in ways you do not want to have to deal with.

UM birch ply is very high quality - dense wood, low rate of imperfections, very thoroughly glued plies. This is also critical in sourcing your material, as varying material properties lead to varying cut depths and kerf widths when lasering. Also something you don't want to deal with.

I would use a particle board material before I would use low or medium quality birch ply when making a UM frame. The frame is very stiff by design, so you don't need a ton of material strength - you just need uniform, flat material. Melamine faced MDF or normal MDF could be preferable to anything but high quality birch ply.

 

What about plastic?

I do remember looking into high quality aircraft grade birch ply a year ago and it was certainly a lot pricier than your typical hardware store ply.

 

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I would use a particle board material before I would use low or medium quality birch ply when making a UM frame. The frame is very stiff by design, so you don't need a ton of material strength - you just need uniform, flat material. Melamine faced MDF or normal MDF could be preferable to anything but high quality birch ply.

 

I am not a big fan of MDF, except as a low grade material to experiment with or maybe make quick molds out of. Moisture resistance is terrible and it is a bit too easy to ding up, though both those issues should be somewhat mitigated by any surface coating. You do have a point though, I am mostly trying to strike a good balance between price and quality.

I have looked into aircraft grade ply, but I know the aircraft business well enough to know that I would be paying for quality that is hardly used in a printer frame. Importantly, it also does not seem to line up with what Ultimaker uses. Still, it probably does pay to get some proper quality birch. I would also not necessarily be opposed to some other form of coated wood - as long as it's a bit more qualitative than MDF. The first thing that comes to mind is HPL, a nicely robust material and somewhat affordable.

Ideally the frame material would be good enough to work and work properly, but cheap enough to replace if I ever need to for some reason. Ultimaker did not make a terrible choice to begin with when they opted for birch in the first place :)

 

What about plastic?

 

I looked at Dibond, since the UM2 is predominantly quieter because of it. Costs seem to be a bit excessive though, and I am not sure the final product would be that much better.

Lastly, it just came to mind that both HPL and Dibond are possibly problematic to laser cut, at least locally.

 

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You could get them CNC Routered.

 

Access to a router is not a problem, but I feel that the radii that is going to create will probably cause more problems than I am prepared to deal with. I am not eliminating it as a possibility completely, but I would rather go with a straightforward and tried and true method rather than fixing something that does not entirely work with something else that does not entirely work. I am a bit scared that doing something relatively simple will end up becoming another complex project again. I have enough of those already :D

 

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The radii just depends on the cutter size you use. Not sure what's on the drawings though. The um2 must have used a router and I have cut 6mm polycarbonate with 1.5mm radii

 

The major cuts will probably be fine, but I am worried about things like the nut and bolt traps (link). Those m3 nuts are tiny compared to a 3 mm cutter or even one half that size. The same goes for the slotting frame parts around the edges that need to be somewhat snug, but will never be without probably quite a bit of sanding, filing or other post processing. Looking at the drawings there are probably also going to be nesting issues due to the increased cutter sized compared to laser cutting.

None of these issues is a huge problem on its own, but it is all adding up. If I can make HPL work with some ease it seems an interesting option as it is a very solid material, but right now I feel I am solving one problem by causing another if I go that route.

I will ponder over it a bit, maybe I will have a revelation on how to make it work easily. For now, tried and true birch ply seems the more obvious solution. If I manage to find a decent quality ply, the rest should be doable.

 

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Most panels are 6mm ply. And there are pieces of 4mm ply (mostly small pieces) so you need 2 different thicknesses of wood.

Also, CNC routing can be done, but you'll have to adjust the drawings, as radii is an issue. The UM2 drawings where adjusted quite a bit for CNC routing. (For DIY, I recommend the UMO drawings)

If you want something simpler then cutting it yourself, get the kit ;-)

 

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Most panels are 6mm ply. And there are pieces of 4mm ply (mostly small pieces) so you need 2 different thicknesses of wood.

 

Is there some place I can see which parts are which thickness?

 

If you want something simpler then cutting it yourself, get the kit :wink:

 

I hoped buying one would be enough ;) A little or maybe actually pretty big mishap happened to the frame, so I need to replace it. Most of the rest seems fine, luckily.

Though I must admit I never asked Ultimaker whether they can and will replace it and what that would cost. I would not need the wooden platform parts since I was hoping to install the new heated bed too, so that is making things a little bit easier.

 

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hi,

i am working on scratch building a UM2 ... been looking at Routing the files as per the Git ...

the specs say 5mm and 6mm ... i was planning on using Polycarbonate sheets of 5 mm and 6mm and for the second machine machine i was planning on using Aluminum sheets to for the frame

is it 4mm and 6mm or there are other thicknesses ?

chX

 

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Contact with Ultimaker made clear they cannot provide a spare frame. This has something to do with supply lines and not having them in stock, so cutting seems to be the only option.

 

hi,

i am working on scratch building a UM2 ... been looking at Routing the files as per the Git ...

the specs say 5mm and 6mm ... i was planning on using Polycarbonate sheets of 5 mm and 6mm and for the second machine machine i was planning on using Aluminum sheets to for the frame

is it 4mm and 6mm or there are other thicknesses ?

chX

 

The 4 and 6 mm numbers are from the Ultimaker Original. I am not too sure about what they are supposed to be for the UM2.

 

Best would be to grab the illustrator files. As those are already put into panels, and specify the thickness per panel.

 

It's probable I am overlooking the obvious, but where do I find those? GitHub appears to only have .pdf and .step-files.

 

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Looking at my machine, the sides top and bottom are all nominally 6 mm (my right side panel is 5.8 mm. I am not sure if that is a defect or intentional. Either way, it doesn't seem to be a problem.)

The panel that includes the piece labeled "Back E" is 4 mm. IIRC, there is only one 4 mm panel.

 

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You could also use acrylic... It should be fairly easy to get a hold of in good quality, and even a number of colors... Should also be very competitive to, or even a lot cheaper than, the alternatives... Ive seen a few UMs made this way and it seems to work fine...

Only thing you have to be careful about is over tightening the bolts that lock into the nut-traps, as you can crack the acrylic.

If you don't like the transparent look, you could sand it very lightly for a very UM2 inspired frosted look...

I did this with a Tantillus frame, and I think it looks great :)

The iOS version of the forums don't seem to have the "My media" button for embedding images in posts, but here is a link to an image of the result: http://umforum.ultimaker.com/index.php?/gallery/image/7241-lasercut-acrylic-case/

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Looking at my machine, the sides top and bottom are all nominally 6 mm (my right side panel is 5.8 mm. I am not sure if that is a defect or intentional. Either way, it doesn't seem to be a problem.)

 

I have measured several larger frame panels on an UMO in multiple places and found a rather consistent thickness of roughly 5,8-5,9mm. I don't think I measured the full 6mm a single time. Admittedly, that was just a single Ultimaker.

 

You could also use acrylic... It should be fairly easy to get a hold of in good quality, and even a number of colors... Should also be very competitive to, or even a lot cheaper than, the alternatives... Ive seen a few UMs made this way and it seems to work fine...

Only thing you have to be careful about is over tightening the bolts that lock into the nut-traps, as you can crack the acrylic.

 

Acrylic is rather fragile. I prototyped something in acrylic a while ago and was not really impressed by the mechanical properties, though the ability to chemically weld the stuff to itself is nice. It can be made to work, but has in my view no advantage over using fairly resilient plywood. The machine needs to be able to take at least a little abuse.

Maybe some other material might be a decent replacement, like POM, but I am not sure what I would have to gain. Other than having an unusual Ultimaker of course. I would be a bit worried to run into some unknown issue after spending a fair amount of money on it, as it looks it would be at least 200 to 300 dollar.

Thanks for the suggestion though :) Oh, and they even sell frosted acrylic if you ever need more!

 

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It looks like the transistor

 

I have measured several larger frame panels on an UMO in multiple places and found a rather consistent thickness of roughly 5,8-5,9mm. I don't think I measured the full 6mm a single time. Admittedly, that was just a single Ultimaker.

 

All of the panels on my machine accept the right side seem to measure that full 6 mm, at least in some spots.

Advantage of plastic is lower sensitivity to humidity. I know the plywood has the potential to warp (one of my panels warped before it even got to me. It was a pretty big pain to get it replaced.) In normal practice, I think this is mainly an issue of having to re-level the bed more regularly.

One idea to consider might be remaking the frame with a different but functionally identical design. Maybe using extruded aluminum and some smaller printed parts to hold the bearings and stuff.

 

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Advantage of plastic is lower sensitivity to humidity. I know the plywood has the potential to warp (one of my panels warped before it even got to me. It was a pretty big pain to get it replaced.) In normal practice, I think this is mainly an issue of having to re-level the bed more regularly.

One idea to consider might be remaking the frame with a different but functionally identical design. Maybe using extruded aluminum and some smaller printed parts to hold the bearings and stuff.

 

Fair point on the moisture remark. I am a bit worried to replace one weakness with another, as new materials might very well introduce new and different problems. Suggestions are welcome though, despite my slightly sceptic attitude.

Building a different frame sounds like a great project, but right now I am looking for something fairly plug and play. Enough projects as it is :D I want to build this thing properly and get it up and running. I am planning to build a couple of other CNC machines later on and I am sure I am going to get my fill of custom frame building by that time :)

 

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I have measured several larger frame panels on an UMO in multiple places and found a rather consistent thickness of roughly 5,8-5,9mm. I don't think I measured the full 6mm a single time. Admittedly, that was just a single Ultimaker.

Acrylic is rather fragile. I prototyped something in acrylic a while ago and was not really impressed by the mechanical properties, though the ability to chemically weld the stuff to itself is nice. It can be made to work, but has in my view no advantage over using fairly resilient plywood. The machine needs to be able to take at least a little abuse.

Maybe some other material might be a decent replacement, like POM, but I am not sure what I would have to gain. Other than having an unusual Ultimaker of course. I would be a bit worried to run into some unknown issue after spending a fair amount of money on it, as it looks it would be at least 200 to 300 dollar.

Thanks for the suggestion though :) Oh, and they even sell frosted acrylic if you ever need more!

 

Yeah I agree about the fragility, AND it would really suck to break something while assembling the printer...

Though I'm not sure it matters THAT much once it IS assembled, as the parts will probably tend to strengthen each other, and as I said, I did see a few UMs made from this, so its definitely possible...

Anyways, np, it your UM :)

- About the frosted Acrylic: I did see that it exists, but was unsure if it cuts in the same way as clear, I also think it is more expensive?

Moreover, I didn't cut my Tantillus panels myself, but bought a pre-cut frame (have one in wood as well), and the only option was clear acrylic...

Using one of those electric vibration sanders it didn't take long to sand though, and the result is very even, with a nice matte surface texture.

Looking forward to what you end up with... If it is wood, I can strongly encurage painting/dying it before assembly, The end printer just looks so much better! And I actually think mine gained some stability (especially in the Z-stage) from the thin layer of spray paint I applied to mine... (I had it assembled without paint first, then took it apart, painted all wood parts, and put it back together).

It was a very tight fit to get it back together, but everything also stays in place nicely

(I'm not even sure I need the bolts and nut-traps anymore, but they are of course still there :))

 

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