We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
Ultimaker has announced and shown two new 3D printers at CES 2015, these are the compact Ultimaker 2 Go and the larger Ultimaker 2 Extended that will complement the already available mid-size Ultimaker 2 3D printer. It seems that the company is following what MakerBot did last year by introducing three different sizes of devices that would better cover the needs and requirements of different users. The two new devices will be available for pre-order starting March and should start shipping in April 2015, so you are still not able to order them now. The recommended end user price of the compact Ultimaker 2 Go is set at €1195 EURO or $1450 USD without VAT and the price of the larger Ultimaker 2 Extended is set at €2495 EURO or $3030 USD without VAT.
There are still no complete specifications of the two new 3D printers, but most likely they will have the same features like the original Ultimaker 2, but come with a more portable size and limited build space for the Go version and larger size and build volume for the Extended model. Unfortunately Ultimaker is still not releasing a dual-extruder model, though there is some work being done on an unofficial dual-extruder upgrade for the Ultimaker. No guarantees however that this upgrade will ever be released, so if you were hoping to see a dual extruder official upgrade or a new device with two extruders from Ultimaker you might be disappointed from the lack of such.
The Ultimaker is a very popular 3D printer, however there is still no version of the device that has dual extruders as an alternative to the single extruder Ultimaker or Ultimaker 2. The newer Ultimaker 2 is really a well built and very functional device, giving you a large build volume, high maximum printing speed and very good level of detail. The thing that is important to be aware of with the Ultimaker 3D printers is that they use 3mm (2.85mm) filament instead of the thinner 1.75mm and the thicker filament may not be as widely available as the thinner one. All over the world people are using the Ultimaker 3D printers in their current form, but they also want to be able to have a version with dual extruders in order to be able to take advantage of easier multi-color printing or printing with different dissolvable support material for example.
While waiting for Ultimaker to release a new model or at least an upgrade kit to with dual extruders, an Italian startup called Creatr has come up with their own dual-extrusion upgrade kit for the Ultimaker – both the original one and the new Ultimaker 2 model. The dual extruder upgrade kit from Creatr will use stock parts like the fans and replaces others, it will also come with a guide on how to upload the modified firmware and an upgraded feeder mechanism. The upgrade kit is still in a prototype stage, so at least a few more weeks before it is available for order and while there is no yet a price announced we hear that the whole thing including everything you need should cost around 250 Euro. Not a bad upgrade if it works well and allows you to take advantage of using dual extruder printing on your Ultimaker.
When we have decided that we wanted to get a 3D Printer to test and experiment with we were faced with the hard task of choosing the make and model and believe us this is not an easy thing do to with so many available options. There are already quite a lot of cheap Chinese made 3D printers available, however looking for support and information as well as replacement or upgrade parts could be a problem with these and many users are often reporting reliability problems. Then there are of course some very expensive printers as well as there are a few different types of technologies available for 3D printing, though the most accessible and easy to use is the fused deposition modeling (FDM) where the 3D printed part is produced by extruding heated thermoplastic filament material which hardens immediately to form layers. The thermoplastic materials used as filament for 3D printers can vary, but they are all a type of plastic which becomes moldable when heated to a specific temperature and then returns to a solid state when cooled down. Such thermoplastic materials used by 3D printers that rely on the FDM principle are for example ABS, PLA and others.
When we were choosing our first 3D printer we had a few important requirements – reliable hardware, larger user base, support for more common filament types, wider software support and not too high price. Obviously the low price was not among the most important things we wanted, we preferred to go for a more expensive and proven to be reliable hardware, but not too expensive as this was our first 3D printer and we did not want to invest too much in hardware that we might end up not very happy with. We did not want to go for a just released new model of 3D Printer as although these can be quite attractive specifications wise, you usually cannot find a lot of user feedback about them and they could have various issues that need to be fixed before they are really working well. So after reading various user opinions and checking around the most recommended models we have settled to go for a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer as being available already for quite some time. It is one of the most recommended choices for a first 3D printer, though it might still need some extra work and is far from perfect, but being often recommended as a good choice and it pretty much covered our requirements, so we’ve settled for the Replicator 2. After using it for a while already and trying and learning a lot of things on the go while printing various things we still consider it as a good option for a first 3D printer, even though MakerBot already has some new more advanced models available, the Replicator 2 is still a good starting point.
So do have that in mind when you are considering what 3D Printer to go for, though there are other alternatives that you may want to check as well that may be more interesting for your needs like the Ultimaker 2 3D printer or the 3D Systems Cube series of 3D printers or the Leapfrog Creatr. Do note that probably not only the Replicator 2 3D Printer has its drawbacks, the same could probably be said for the others mentioned models as well, though we are already very familiar with what you can expect from the MakerBot product and we are going to be talking sharing a lot of information along with tips about it, so stay tuned for more…