Ultimaker Build

Posted by Alex R English on Jan 1st 2012

Below is a timelapse of our Ultimaker build.

Build Notes

Unboxing the Ultimaker reveals a familiar assortment of bags; sealed, zipped and rolled (affectionately called burritos). Laying everything out and heading to the assembly instructions one is greeted with a well laid out wiki, links to assembly steps, estimated work times and annotated photographs. Having assembled more than one printer recently with what could only be described as sparse documentation, I was very grateful for each of these. And so the build commenced.

I easily get lost in a build but there are a few things that stick out. The Ultimaker is by far the most thoroughly labeled 3d printer I have built; were this my first foray into printing this would have been a complete god send. For example, the limit switches have color coded wires and their placement is clearly labeled on the wood panels. The wiring for the electronics is also etched into the bottom panel clearly showing where every cord should be plugged.

Cable management is superb, with a canvas cloth slip in each corner guiding the wires and keeping them out of the way and looking very tidy.  Part quality is high; there are linear ball bearings where appropriate, stepper motors with braided wires for noise reduction, good hardware for attaching the Bowden cable, etc.

The laser-cut parts have clean cuts, identifying labels and are taped down, keeping them nice and organized. A few parts of the frame had a little difficulty fitting together and required a nervous thump or two with a rubber mallet (lets call it careful impact) but nothing to cause great concern. I have a 12" X 12" granite tile I keep around providing a solid plane for working or sanding on, you can see it in the time-lapse above during assembly of the Z-Stage and while assembling the X and Y runners. If you need to level something or perhaps apply your own careful impact, having a heavy, solid plane underneath what you're working on can be rather helpful. I would also recommend having some small empty boxes or bins (yellow in the time-lapse), as you unpackage they can help you organize the multitude of small bits and pieces desperately attempting to lose themselves on the floor.

For the most part, parts are packaged by step meaning you need less out at any given moment which is very helpful in this kind of build.

There were a few careful moments during the hotend assembly, if you haven't taken a break during your build I would recommend doing so BEFORE building the hotend and assembling the rod/pulley assembly. They are such a critical part of the machine and complex enough that if you're unfamiliar with them it's worth approaching with fresh eyes and mind. If at anytime you or something gets stuck, just go slow and don't force anything.

All throughout this build I was again and again impressed with the obvious fore-thought that went into this machine. There are details that, while not necessary for the printer to work, make the general use and presentation much simpler and safer. The extra mile was gone to provide features like min and max end-stops on each axis protecting your printer from tearing itself apart by a rogue or accidental command. Fan shrouds are provided for both the print-head and the electronics, producing better detail on printed objects, more reliable operation, and safer electronics (I have literally had flames shoot out of a 3d printer's electronics before from improper cooling, this stuff is important). In the rush to push a product to market and reduce the sale price, it is easy to leave some of these kinds of features out. From the build I would say Ultimaker did not take these shortcuts, lending to a smooth and confidence inspiring build.