The Ultimaker 3 comes fully assembled so there is little to no assembly required except the spool holder. Set up is very easy and the display walks you through loading the filament so you should be up and printing within 15-20 minutes.
Printer includes Wifi and wired Ethernet, standard USB port. Does not include a typical printer USB port or SD card slot. The printer comes equipped with NFC which helps the printer detect the material type and usage which the Ultimaker spools include.
Default is Ultimaker’s Cura software. Ultimaker has an app and a web interface you can monitor and interact with the printer as well.
The U3 has 2 bowden style extruders and 2 hotends, they call print cores. The printer ships with 3 print cores. The print cores come in 2 types – a build print core they label as AA for plastics such as ABS and PLA and the second type is a support print core they label as BB for support materials such as PVA. The standard nozzle size 0.4mm but there are other nozzle sizes available such as the 0.8mm AA print core that can be used in conjunction with the 0.4mm to speed up build times.
Print bed is heated and is a glass bed with metal clamps that hold it in place. There is nothing applied to the surface to help with bed adhesion though which is one of my initial disappointments with the printer – at this price there really should be some innovation here. Lulzbot and Prusa use PEI which is a fantastic bed surface so it’s a bummer that Ultimaker decided to ship this printer without anything.
U3 comes with a camera on board which is really nice to monitor your prints from the app, Cura, or the web interface. The LCD display is really good quality and quite often walks you through steps like changing the material, or print cores. 3rd party spools that do not include NFC will need to be manually selected and loaded using Cura or the LCD. The printer has lighting that it uses as intelligent cues to the user – so the main LED will strobe when the print is finished or the print cores will be either red or green depending on what is going on with it, these indicators in conjunction with the LCD work really well and just simply improve the overall user experience.
The print quality of the Ultimaker 3 is just fantastic. My print success ratio is very high and the quality was top notch right off the bat and this falls right in line with Ultimaker’s reputation for high quality and reliability. Printing over wifi and monitoring prints via the onboard camera are really convenient features. The Cura 3.0 update is really solid.
The spool holder system seems to be designed specifically for Ultimaker spools and not to really play nice with 3rd party spools. The size is simply too small and the filament guide just seems to not fit whatsoever with two 3rd party spools. The glass print surface is just not adequate, there really should have been some innovation done here, glues, tapes, or hairspray just should not be required for a printer at this price. They do, however, offer adhesion sheets as an optional purchase. The lack of a typical printer style USB port doesn’t allow me to use Simplify3D very conveniently, making me export gcode, though, thankfully it’s to a standard usb stick and not an SD card but still it’s a limiting factor. Finally for ABS prints the open front makes it less than ideal for managing warp and adhesion issues. These aren’t deal breakers for me but at the price having compromises is just a little disappointing. Here are a few solutions I came up with to deal with these mostly minor issues.
I ended up printing my own spool holders for my 3rd party spools as I certainly don’t intend on buying Ultimaker’s spools consistently. This is an acceptable option for now. I purchased a PEI sheet and adhered it to the print for more-or-less a hassle free print surface that just works. I have added a front panel to help manage the temperature inside the printer for ABS prints. Optionally, Ultimaker offers an advanced 3D printing kit that includes a front enclosure panel, 25 adhesion sheets, and an extra glass build plate for around $120.
So to wrap up this printer is quite frankly a phenomenal performer, I am really impressed with the build quality, print quality, overall reliability, the print core system, connectivity and features with some minor downfalls I am convinced this is going to be fantastic printer to own. If the printer is within your budget and you can deal with these minor issues this could be the printer to look at. I can see this being used in a professional setting for companies that don’t want to deal with constant tweaking or troubleshooting, an education setting for reliable prints and ease of use, or prosumer hobbyists that just want to get the job done.
Here are few other printers I would suggest for consideration as well at various price points and feature sets: Lulzbot Taz 6 (reliable workhorse), Prusa MK3 (loaded with sensors and innovation), Formlabs Form 2 (incredible SLA quality), Gearbest CR-10 (quality on a budget).