Today my Ultimaker 2 arrived. One part of me was really excited – another one simply tired and wasted, simply desperately hoping for a relief. What had happened?
As i started to put my nose into the field of 3D-Printing i found it quite astonishing that germany – my home country – although well known in the world for our engineering skills did not show up with any significant companies or products in the field of 3D-Printing. So i checked 3D Systems, Makerbot, Chinese models, Ultimaker etc. and tried to find a way through the stupid mess of fake-reviews, reviews and pr-shit. But then i accidentially stumbled upon a report about most succesful printers in terms of _printed objects_ and saw a model called “rep-rap” which was leading the ranking quite clearly. This was interesting as i did not read anything about such a printer in my studies before. So i did my research and found out that rep-rap is a family of open-source printers actually invented at a british university by Adrian Bowyer and distributed under open-source licence to the world, resulting in a wide range of variants, adoptions and further developments. What an exciting idea! One could have said the european had chosen open-source over capitalism and therefore did not appear on my research (or at CES) at first sight.
I had to order such a thing and build it by my own. And so i did. A few days later a big parcel arrived with tons of plastic bags, cables, computer parts, screws and other stuff inside. It took me roughly a week to really build it up because parts were missing or not really fitting, the manual was incomplete etc. – honestly not a real surprise with an open-source project to me and i wanted to go through it. But i had no clue how far from getting through i was at that time. The motors were not going ok, so i learned after nights on forums and posts from other people that the current of the motor-stepper-drivers might have to be adjusted, fine. Worked. One of the end-switches was broken and i ordered a new one on amazon. The 3D-printed Extruder (the whole idea of the rep-rap is to be “self-replicating” which means most of the parts i got were in fact 3D-prints) did not work as it should so i searched around and ordered a new one (funnily a “full metal” version…). Several times during endless test-prints that usually failed within the first couple of minutes the filament was stuck in the nozzle or somewhere in the extruder so that i had to stop and dissasemble the whole thing to clean it and get it to work again. I bought several different Extruders on ebay and special websites for printer-parts. I learned that the manual forgot to say anything about calibration and had to spend another night in working back to the point where calibration was meant to take place. It finally printed – sometimes. Most of the times the print did not stick to the platform or other things went wrong. One of the reasons obviously was the inappropriate leveling of the build-platform which is extremely important to get a stable result. But my build-platform was very hard to level as it did not offer any means to do fine-adjustments and save those. It was a nightmare – i spend several nights in front of the printer trying over and over again. Sometimes it worked, usually it didn’t. I started hating it.
Reading through these endless forums and blog-posts and reviews i figured that it had to be possible with less pain – obviously something was wrong with my build and my engineering skills…
In one of those nights i began reading reviews of other printers again and watched some unboxing videos on youtube, just to see whether all these other guys really do have such an easy time 3D-printing. Listening to product-guys from Makerbot at CES 14 i learned that they improved the leveling-support, the same applied to the new Ultimaker. Obviously leveling indeed was an issue to other users as well – otherwise Makerbot wouldn’t come with improvements on that side in it’s fifth generation…
And then – after watching this crazy unboxing video of the Ultimaker (yes marketing guys, unboxing videos do work) i came to the conclusion that i had to give it one more try and buy one of these well-engineered and carefully assembled printers to replace the crap i was trying to get to life. And so i did.
As said – today it arrived. It’s actually printing while i am writing, silent, fast, accurate. Leveling was easy and guided through the on-board LCD-menu. Prints do stick to the platform. Everything is great. And it should be said that this indeed has something to do with engineering and assembly etc. because the Ultimaker in fact is a rep-rap, at least it is based on the initial rep-rap design.
I really still believe that Open-Souce has the potential to change our world, even in hardware. But not for me, not for 3D-printing, i am sorry.
–> here you can see one of my first successful prints with the new guy