Ultimaker: high-speed, low-cost 3D printer

MAKE:'s Jon Kalish looks in some depth at Ultimaker, a MakerBot-style 3D printer that runs at higher resolutions and speeds than current MakerBot models. The creators of Ultimaker come from the Dutch Center-for-Bits-and-Atoms-affiliated Fab Lab, and has "Dutch design" touches that are said to be a delight. MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis says, "They can move their machine around at a pretty amazing speed. There are some things they did that are pretty clever. This is what happens when you do something that's successful. Other people figure it out, too, and start businesses. More 3D printers are good."

The three partners all live in different cities in the Netherlands (De Bruijn is in Tilburg, Elserman in Geldermalsen, and Wijnia in Haarlem). Ultimaker started shipping its open source 3D printer in April. The machine costs about US$1700, and with next day shipping, the price approaches $1900. According to De Bruijn and Elserman, more than 120 printers have been sold and close to 70 have been shipped so far. It takes between four and six weeks between order and delivery. Half of the new printers have been sold in the Netherlands, thanks to exposure on a national TV program. Customers include a disabled Dutch woman whose Ultimaker has printed gripper hands for robotic arms that she uses to grasp small candies, something her previous gripper could not do.

Like MakerBot, Ultimaker can print with either ABS or PLA plastic, though the company says printing with the plant-based PLA makes for a faster and more stable build. The Ultimaker is getting high grades for its design. Unlike the MakerBot, which has a moving build platform, the Ultimaker has a print head that moves. It is compact and weighs considerably less than MakerBot's print head, and the Ultimaker's motors are mounted on the printer's frame, not on a moving part like MakerBot. This allows for bigger objects to be made (8.25″ cube for Ultimaker vs. 5″ cube for MakerBot) at higher speeds.

Ultimaker: There's a New 3D Printer in Town