Having your very own 3D printer opens up a world of awesome printing possibilities. What’s great is that the potential of 3D printing hasn’t been fully realized, and yet you can already create more objects than you can imagine, and have fun times with them! If you’re up for some serious 3D printing, or have just started in the 3D printing world, then you can’t go wrong with a high quality model. In this Ultimaker 2 3D printer review we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the leading models for schools, small businesses and enthusiast makers.
This versatile unit does the job well with the wealth of printing features provided. The large build sizes, top-notch printing quality, robust software and useful accessories you simply can’t do without catapults the Ultimaker 2 3D printer on pole position in our Top 3D Printer Reviews.
Easy to operate, very reliable printing and designed with the user in mind, the Ultimaker 2 has a cutting-edge .4mm extruder capable of producing some very detailed 20 micron layer resolution. Tech heads, listen up; the Ultimaker 2 is the one you should buy because it is the best 3D printer currently out in the market.
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Ultimaker 2 3D Printer Series
As of the moment, the Ultimaker Series is made up of 3 models.
Print resolution varies per model, from standard 600 layer prints to the top-end 20 micron resolution. All of Ultimaker utilize a 2.85mm PLA filament, and all of them have removable glass printbeds for ease of operation and cleaning time. The Ultimaker 2 has a special, 22.3 x 22.3 x 20.5 cm heated print bed that expands the materials used for 3D printing.
The Extended version is much like the Ultimaker 2, but there’s an added 10cm to the printing height. As such, the Extended version is better than the Ultimaker 2, even though it only has a 10cm print increase. The GO is the most portable machine out of the bunch, a 12 x 12 x 11.5cm wonder, but lacking the heated print bed and limited to only the PLA filament. It is a great starting 3D printer for those looking to get their feet wet in the 3D printing world.
ALL Ultimaker 3D Printer Series Features
- Unmatched 3D printing resolution at 20 micron layer resolution and speed up to 300mm/s.
- Large build volume packed in a small footprint product.
- Stylish design makes it a welcome addition to any office, classroom or workshop
- Premium construction materials.
- A heated bed (2+ and Extended+ models only) optimized for ABS printing and reduced print failures.
- Build Volume: 223 x 223 x 205 mm (8.8in x 8.8in x 8in)
- LED Control Screen
- Single Extruder
- XY Positioning Precision: 12 microns
- Z Positioning Precision: 5 microns
- Best 3d Printer for: Artists or engineers who need quick, rough prints and slower, higher-quality prints in both small and large sizes.
- Build Volume: 223mm x 223mm x 305mm (8.8in x 8.8in x 12in)
- LCD Control Screen
- Single Extruder
- XY Positioning Precision: 12.5 microns
- Z Positioning Precision: 5 microns
- Best 3d Printer for: Makers, designers, educators, classrooms and small businesses
- Build Volume: 120x120x115mm (4.72 x 4.72 x 4.53 in)
- LCD Control Screen
- Single Extruder
- XY Positioning Precision: 12 microns
- Z Positioning Precision: 5 microns
- No heated print bed and restricted to PLA filament.
- Best 3d printer for: Beginners, consumers and enthusiasts
- FFF, or Fused Filament Fabrication technology
- Supports ABS, PLA, and U-PET filaments
- 223 x 223 x 205 mm Build Volume
- 30 mm/x to 300 mm/s print speed
- Support for up to 20 micron layer resolution
- Performance and Speed in one package
- Compact 357 x 342 x 388 mm dimensions
- Power Supply
- USB connecting cable (for firmware updates)
- 0.75kg filament
- SD card
- Glass Plate
- Hex wrenches
- Glue stick
- Spool holder
- User Manual
Features and Benefits
Reputation precedes the Ultimaker 2 as the best and the most recommended 3D printer in the world. The exceptionally high 20 micron resolution alone makes it a high-precision 3D printer. It is easy to see why many educators, engineers, enthusiasts and beginners all go for the Ultimaker 2 family of printers.
The 3D printer supports FFF, or Fused Filament Fabrication, a process that melts the plastic, then deposits it into a heated (non-heated with the GO model) glass plate when in additive mode. Speed is not an issue when printing with the Ultimaker 2, as it features an impressive speed range from 30 to 300 max mm per second of operation, giving you the option to print out the things you need in a hurry or to take it slow and steady. Printing resolution per layer is around .02 mm (20 microns), or about the size of a cardstock paper. Should you notice right from the start that the print is imperfect, you can stop operation, fiddle with the settings, then hit resume without ruining the current print or starting over.
Despite its relatively compact size, the Ultimaker 2 can print at any reasonable size without any issues. Most other 3D printers for home use can only print small objects, but this mean machine is made for both home and office use, and as such, can print large creations up to 9x9x8 inches, or about the size of a medium-sized toaster. This alone puts it on top as compared to other 3D printers out there. In comparison the MakerGear M2, another highly decorated 3d printer, features an 8x8x10 build volume that enthusiasts agree is plenty large!
A 2.85mm filament with a special Bowden extruder is what separates the Ultimaker 2 from the small fish 3D printers. Other 3D printer brands such as Leapfrog, Cube, Dremel, and Makerbot make use of a common direct drive extruder, from which the filament-fed motor is attached to an X-Y gantry. Ultimaker 2 is of the Bowden type, where the extruder is found at the back and the filament is fed through a tube, and not the motor’s end. What’s the difference, you ask? A lot. The print head’s mass is reduced, which allows a significantly faster printing process.
3D printer experts know the downside of a Bowden tube extruder is that is takes a while to set up. Loading and unloading is more extensive, and users will need a thicker 3mm filament instead of the more common 1.75mm filaments utilized in direct drive machines, as the Bowden feed starts from the back and feeds through to the print head. There may be some confusion here, because 2.85mm is the actual size, but this type of filament is more widely known as a 3mm filament. If it helps, the 2.85mm works fine with the Ultimaker 2 and is widely available.
Cartridges and Filaments
3D printer newbies should know that a filament is a type of quick-congealing, easy-to-melt plastic string that is molded via the print head’s main nozzle while you are 3D printing. Think like soft serve ice cream being extruded from the ice cream machine! You’ll find that filaments are not one-size-fits-all, and that there’s a wide variety of filaments ranging from material, colors and all that- after all, your 3D creations consist of different building blocks and colors, right?
Among the most popular plastic filaments are ABS and PLA. The Ultimaker 2’s heated bed improves adhesion and reduces print failures with a temperature ranging from 50 to 100C during operation. Its hot end was redesigned to reduce the chances of your filaments clogging and jamming, reducing wastage.
As mentioned, the product uses a 3mm open source filaments, but factory-made filaments are highly recommended to keep your Ultimaker 2 running smoothly over a long, long time. Ultimaker’s filaments also come in a variety of colors. U-PET filaments can also be used.
The Ultimaker 2’s glass and aluminum-made chassis is solid, stable and quiet. The machine makes a noise level of somewhere around 49 decibels, equal to the humming of your refrigerator while plugged in. There are no excess vibrations, and noise is kept at an absolute minimum. The heated platform feature is especially useful for ABS printing, as it keeps the design and print from warping during the print run. The Ultimaker 2’s LCD screen is easily one of the best features of this machine. You can use the wheel to navigate between modes, settings and print models, and change the settings to see what you are printing in an otherwise dark room.
Don’t let the compact size fool you- the Ultimaker 2 is lightweight, yet very powerful. It won’t occupy most of your desk, and its dimensions (14 x 13.4 x 15.3 in) crank up the 3D printing in volume.
Intuitive and Easy to Use
Those who cannot be bothered with assembling a 3D printing machine will find a lot to like in the Ultimaker 2. The unit is almost ready to plug in and print the moment you take it out of the box. Simply take off the protective packaging, place the glass print plate above the printing platform, put in the filament spool on the back, and voila! You’ll be ready for printing in about 15 minutes, or less.
Users who love a bit of a challenge can purchase the Ultimaker Original in its DIY 3D Printer Kit. The Ultimaker 2 does away with the assembly process, with the instructional sheet holding your hand throughout the installation. All the controls are handled by the LCD screen and the wheel. The Ultimaker 2 is easier than other competitor products such as the Cubify CubePRO or the Lulzbot TAZ 5.
What about when the print is finished and it’s time to mop up? The Ultimaker 2 has a removable plate that proves to be a big help after a particularly hefty or numerous printing jobs. Filament spools are of standard size, open source and easy to find. Keep in mind though that factory filaments are recommended for optimum print quality, reliability and to prevent clogging.
The Ultimaker 2’s Cura software handles everything on your computer. You may use the 3D printing unit as a USB-connected printer or insert an SD card slot for printing instructions. Cura works on all available platforms such as Linux, Mac OS and Windows-based systems such as XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8. Putting in the SD card automatically switches the software to SD saving mode, where you can see the remaining print time.
Firmware updates are handled by the included USB cable and prints are loaded through the SD card slot. You have the option to set the menu to display on the Ultimaker 2’s bright OLED screen, freeing up your monitor space for running programs and documents, and other things. Ran out of cool and useful things to print? Fear not, as you can visit Ultimaker’s website, called Youmagine, for more files and models. The printing community can print, modify, download, edit and share any of the files uploaded here. All you need is to save the G-code 3D model prints to the Cura software or direct to your SD card, then have the Ultimaker 2 read it. Then, you’re good to go!
Like most commercial 3D printers, the Ultimaker 2 provides almost everything you need from the get-go. All the parts and accessories for printing is included to save you the trouble of hunting for them on websites or in brick-and-mortar stores. The USB cable, SD card, power supply, starter PLA cartridge, and some maintenance tools are all here. You also get a spool holder, hex wrenches, grease and a glue stick for good measure.
Ultimaker is the flagship product of 3D printer company Geldermalsen, located in the Netherlands. It is quite easy to get a hold of support in case you encounter any issues with your Ultimaker product. There are 5 email addresses from which you can contact them for sales, tech support or for general information. Geldermalsen can also be contacted for support via their social media pages. Keep in mind that when purchasing the 3D printer direct from the company, you should allot around six to eight weeks for delivery time.
There’s a 90 day warranty that covers your Ultimaker 2 should anything go wrong with it. A rep will talk to you and walk you through the troubleshooting process. They can also help if you’re installing a new part and don’t know where to begin. If all else fails, they do the handling when it’s time to return and have a new one sent to you.
If you’re stuck midway through assembling the Ultimaker Original 3D Kit, then head on over to the website’s community forums to get help from someone who’s been there. The forum is a helpful resource packed with useful information such as tutorials, tips and videos to help you get over the assembly hurdle. There’s also the product manual and a quick FAQ page for references.
Ultimaker Pros and Cons
- The Ultimaker 2 boasts some of the fastest and the best-quality printing processes than most 3D printing machines in the commercial market.
- LCD screen controls are handled by an intuitive round click wheel. Think iPod, and you’ll have the idea down pat. You can see the SD card’s contents, view the material usage and print time here.
- Print settings can be changed instantly (retraction, speeds, temps and extrusions).
- User-friendly. The manual is just for back up.
- The glass build plate is removable and easy to clean.
- There’s a definite higher print quality and finish.
- The LCD can help users with a step-by-step process.
- The Ultimaker 2 is designed to be compact and very presentable.
- Unfortunately, no auto-calibration.
- Direct printing not supported. There’s no Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Noise issues are significant here- the fans whine and scream like a PC running 24/7. This continues even when the 3D printer is on standby, as the fans are designed to run constantly.
- No preheat function to speed up the print start cycle
Weekly maintenance is a must for sensitive equipment such as 3D printers in order for the print quality to be high. The Ultimaker 2 doesn’t come with auto bed levelling, a better feeder system, a dual extruder support, and a better software, so there’s still much room for improvement. You’ll have to make exclusive use of the SD card to get printing, as the USB connection is only good for firmware updates.
Though the Ultimaker 2 specs list the noise level as somewhat of a refrigerator motor running, it’s not uncommon for the 3D printer to produce a high-pitched whine and some buzzing while in operation. The feed filament system poses some issues on backloader mechanisms. You may encounter problems, especially when the spool is empty, or when the filaments are being loaded. Take careful inspection, as the feeder may not grip the filament enough to hold it correctly in place. The result may be nasty; the chewed-up filament blocks the tube, and you spend extra time undoing the damage and reading about the PTFE coupler fix Ultimaker put up on their website.
All things considered, the Ultimaker does have a robust discussion forum and a very active 3D printing community. There’s a wealth of relevant information to be had- tips, tricks, text and video walkthroughs, tutorials, mods and workarounds to the most common issues are here in plenty. There are 3D printer experts waiting to answer all your query, sometimes in real-time. Ultimaker as a company is also good at posting fixes and firmware updates, so there’s a lot of love here.
Ultimaker 2 VS Ultimaker 2+
In terms of physical aspects, the Ultimaker 2 and the 2+ are very similar-looking. Under the hood, though, they have some notable differences. Let’s see what made the plus in the Ultimaker 2+, shall we?
Users will notice first above all that the extruder assembly has a cooling fan that looks very different from the previous model. The shape is flatter, and the fans are now positioned beside the extruder as compared to the Ultimaker 2’s angular placement. How does the placement affect the quality? In a significant manner. The cooling air is now delivered to the print head; before, the fans were directly aimed towards it, which was only somewhat effective. The added fancaps now put the airflow just below the nozzle and on each side, allowing for better control and cooling consistency.
Now, take a quick look at the back, and the new material feeder has received a facelift. This improvement addressed Ultimaker 2’s pressing issue, where a failed print job happens because the 3D printing filament was prematurely stripped when moving forwards and backwards on the previous feeder mechanism. The teeth couldn’t quite get a good grip, and therefore the forward extruder assembly would have no filament on which to work with. This was one of the most common issue with Ultimaker 2, and one that the company addressed quickly and efficiently. The varying nozzles could now be switched easily according to your printing needs- lightning quick print speed or slower, more detailed 3D prints.
Last but not the least, the motor and fan noise the Ultimaker 2 was generating has also been addressed. From the sound of it, the stepper motors have been upgraded to produce less noise while still maintaining the ability to cool the machine. This was also a major improvement over the older model, as the fans and motors on the Ultimaker 2 Go was akin to about ten hairdryers all operating at the same time. Thank goodness for quick and timely updates and significant upgrades!
For ALL Skill Levels: The Ultimaker 2+
The Ultimaker 2 is the “ultimate” 3D printing machine, with premium printing features in an aesthetically-pleasing package. Beginners will have no trouble setting up the Ultimaker 2 and begin printing with it. High quality prints in large sizes is what the Ultimaker 2 does best.
Users should calibrate their Ultimaker print platform before using it. The platform’s surface must be in perfect alignment with the print nozzle to accurately reproduce the 3D model print. This finetuning is probably the most important thing there is, and depending on your skill level, it can take a few minutes up to several hours.
Novice printers can take advantage of how easy the Cura software is. They can change the overall quality, scale, and some other standard customizations before printing. They can also choose to make the printing hollow or solid, and how fast the print is completed. Cura will take care of auto-arranging, resizing, rotating and laying the models flat on the platform. Suffice to say, Cura is a balanced software that plays to both 3D printing beginners and experts.
The Bottom Line
Ultimaker 2 is the robust 3D printing solution you’ve been looking for all your life. It works as an amazing first 3D printer that produces some top-quality 3D prints very quickly! It is a very versatile machine that adapts to any print job you may have. Choose between fast 3D prints, or masterpieces that have some very fine details on them.
The compact design is another feature to write home about. The improved machines in the series manages to work at a fairly quiet operation, and the consumables are industry standard and easy to get ahold of. The large printing platform is a massive plus for those who want to print big objects in one go. The Cura software allows for some tweaks to accommodate both PLA and ABS filament prints.
All the features listed in this Ultimaker 2 Review show why the it is an exceptional choice and in many areas beats everything else on the market. The price tag can be a factor for some, but it is certainly justified by the number of features and reputation for quality and reliability. What else can we say? The Ultimaker 2 is fast, the 3D prints are superb, and it operates flawlessly once successfully set up.