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December 05 2012


Hello Ultimaker!

I recently gave in to that constant nagging in some weird part of my brain and bought a 3D printer for our household. I had already circled the Ultimaker since I had first heard about it (one year ago I guess?) but couldn't bring myself to spending so much money on something I don't actually need per se. Somehow my inner geek finally got the better of me though…

Anyway, I ordered the kit plus a spool each of blue and black PLA on November 9th with an estimated lead time of 14 days, but already got a shipment notification ten days later on November 19th. The package arrived safely two days later on November 21st – and I had to discover that the bottom plate of the frame was missing from my lasercut parts (instead I got the left side twice). Big thumbs up for the Ultimaker staff who resolved the issue by sending a replacement part immediately via Express on the next day (and thanks to Nils Hitze for “escalating” my problem ;-)). In the meantime I asked on G+ what parts I could safely assemble already without the missing plate, got helpful answers from both Florian Horsch and Erik de Bruijn (thanks again!) and started with extruder (wednesday evening), printhead (thursday evening), X/Y sliding blocks (friday afternoon) and the Z-stage (friday evening).

On saturday I already feared I would have to spend the weekend not finalizing the build but instead relaxing or something similar 8-o when the DHL Express guy finally rang our doorbell in the early afternoon – I haven't been this happy to receive a package in quite some time. So the saturday afternoon was spent with building the frame and attaching all the preassembled parts and when it was already dark outside the big moment arrived, I powered that whole thing on for the first time, connected it to my PC (I didn't bother with ReplicatorG as mentioned on the Ultimaker wiki but instead went directly with Cura), heated it up and – it printed! :-D

As suggested in the Ultimaker wiki, my first print was a 20mm box from a calibration set. That went rather well, so my next try was Ultimaker's mascot, the Ultimaker robot. That didn't turn out so well as starting with layer 20 or so the whole thing started to lean more and more to its right due to the layers not being stacked properly but with some offset. A bit of logical thinking lead to me checking the bolts on the pulleys of the x-axis which were to blame since one of them had come lose. Re-tightening with the supplied 2mm hex screwdriver did only help temporarily though, after another calibratiom print the next real printjob failed again with the same symptom. I decided to solve this after a good night's sleep, so on sunday morning I partially disassembled the x-axis again (the night before I had had issues to even properly reach the offending pulley as it was the one connecting the motor with the axis via the shortbelt, and that's a rather tight spot), tightened everything with a fitting Allen key I thankfully found after rummaging through my toolbox, reassembled the axis, tried the print again and finally everything worked! The result were some nice feet for the printer to which we attached felt pads (Phil's idea, helped greatly in dampening the vibrations).

Since then, I'm a happy owner of a 3D printer – and that thing really is addictive! I already ordered some more colors of filament and have some ideas for christmas presents. I also started on my first own creations since my mom needed a couple of things :-) All in all, I don't regret the investment in that printer at all =)


So, after that wall of text, here are some tips if you happen to build an Ultimaker yourself:

  • Read the whole assembly guide before starting with anything. Do it while waiting for your printer's delivery, this way you'll be able to start assembly as soon as it arrives but you'll know why you are doing what steps (and you'll recognize where to divert from the official guide for an easier assembly).
  • Insert the bearings in the axis mounts before assembling the frame. This way you can use more force to push them in, which you might need (I did and was happy about it, it would have been a real PITA having to push those bearings into an already assembled frame).
  • Check if the frame fits before assembly, take your time sanding if it doesn't. Same goes for the fittings of the linear bearings in the arms of the z-axis. I spent quite some time testing and sanding here to make sure everything fits snugly.
  • Be careful when attaching the fan to the print head. It was a tight fit on mine and I used too much force so that the fan chassis broke (nothing that can't be fixed with tape, but better if it can be avoided altogether).

Once you got it up and running, consider printing the following upgrades/tools:

I also plan to add the following upgrades:

  • The Ultimaker handle for easier transport (haven't come around to print it yet).
  • A replacement feeder gear, either this, this or this, as the wooden one will probably not hold up forever.
  • A Z-axis end-switch fine-adjuster because currently (re-)adjusting that endstop is a real PITA, and a mechanical Z endstop to make sure the nozzle will stay out of the printbed even if I happen to frack up the endstop position.
  • Some stepper tensioners for a finer and less fiddly adjustment of the positions of the x- and y-axis steppers.

So far I have exclusively used the green PLA that came with my printer for any upgrades – the printer is therefore slowly turning green ;-)


Finally, some pictures!

More pictures can be found on Picasa.

I also made a short video of the printer printing its own feed…

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… and played around with Cura's built in timelapse feature while printing a Minecraft creeper for a colleague.

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