Today, we take a look at the Ultimaker 2+. Stylish and expensive, does it warrant its price tag and does it merit the accolades garnered from the press?
|Printing Speed||8, 16, 23, and 24 mm³/s|
|Supported Filament||PLA, ABS, CPE, CPE+, PC, Nylon, TPU 95A, and PP|
0.25mm, 0.4mm, 0.6 mm, 0.8 mm
The Ultimaker 2+ is a tweaked version of the seminal Ultimaker 2. The upgrades aren’t so much in the design of the machine – on the surface level, it looks identical to its predecessor – but instead in under the hood quality of life improvements.
The 3D printer is still very much geared towards a user-friendly experience where efficiency and all-around performance are paramount.
The Ultimaker 2+ features a cube semi-enclosed casing that offers a print area of 223x223x205mm, a generous amount of build volume by anyone’s estimation and ample space for the majority of projects. The cube design is made of acrylic supported by a metal frame, all hidden under sleek white plates embellished by a set of classy string LED lights.
The semi-open structure with an open front and top is more enclosed than other all-in-one solutions such as the 3D Systems Cube, adding an extra layer of security suited to younger users making use of the printer in an educational context.
The device relies on a single extruder to control the X and Y axes, while the glass heated print bed ensures movement on the Z axis, both of which move on a motorized carriage setup. The extruder has been rejigged for the 2+ with a brand new cooling system with side-positioned fan caps that channel air just under the nozzle and in a uniform pattern from both sides for vastly improved temperature control.
The Ultimaker 2+ offers an impressive range of resolutions from 20 microns all the way to a sizeable 600 microns, which it sets it apart as one of the most accurate fused deposition modeling printers on the market.
One of the biggest gripes with the original Ultimaker 2 was issues with how the feeder snaked filament from the spool to the extruder, which often mangled the material to the point that the feeder struggled to find sufficient purchase and funnel the filament thread all the way to the extruder.
On the Ultimaker 2+, a geared feeder sentences the mangling problem to the past through better pressure control for the feeder teeth as it eases the filament towards the extruders. Incidentally, the upgrade also includes a more straightforward filament swapping procedure, which now only necessitates gently feeding the end of a fresh batch of the material through the entry point of the spool.
The Ultimaker 2+ supports PLA, ABS, CPE, CPE+, PC, Nylon, TPU 95A, and PP materials. Unlike numerous competitors that claim to offer such material versatility, the Ultimaker 2+ genuinely supports all these materials for serious versatility. The printer supports 2.85mm filament and an open system meaning third-party materials work beautifully. The unit also includes onscreen instructions explaining how to load in a separate kind of filament from removing it from the extruder (done more or less automatically by the machine) all the way to installing the new material spool.
Among the best features of the Ultimaker 2+ is the Olsson Block Kit. A set of four different extruder nozzle diameters ranging from 0.25, 0.4, 0.6, and 0.8mm, the kit allows you to interchange nozzles easily thanks to a provided hex tool and screwdriver. The process is simple and involves heating the extruder to remove any filament, then using the hex to remove and replace the nozzle. The variety means you can alternate between high detail prints and more substantial, less precise creations seamlessly.
The menu system is a small display screen located at the bottom of the front panel navigated via a click wheel. The controls are intuitive and straightforward, providing useful instructions as well.
Adjacent to this is the SD card slot, the only connectivity option for the Ultimaker 2+, one of the very few issues we have for this model. There’s no direct PC to printer option through Wi-Fi for example, which may irk some users. We found it less of an inconvenience than we expected, and there’s a certain reassurance in not having to worry about a USB cable.
Ultimaker does ship its free proprietary print slicing and preparation software called Ultimaker Cura with the device, which supports macOS, Windows, and Linux as well as a host of file types (STL, OBJ, X3D, 3MF, BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG). The software isn’t as advanced or options-oriented as other open source equivalents, but we found it versatile enough for most prints. Cura did an excellent job of converting 3D models into the required .gcode file.
On the back of the printer is a USB port used only for firmware updates, not to be confused as a link between PC and printer for printing purposes.
Using the Ultimaker 2+ is among the most satisfying, easy, and results driven printing experiences on the market today. The quality of the prints, regardless of size or complexity, is high with few errors or inconsistencies. As with any printer, prolonged use leads to the occasional problem, but nothing that jeopardized an entire project or resulted in a web of filament destined for the trash can.
The different nozzle diameters work equally well. The same goes for the mixed layer resolutions from finely detailed prints to more slapdash tests. The speed of the printing is also worth noting, and the 30 to 300 mm per second print head travel speed is nothing short of remarkable if we consider the level of quality. It may not rival the speed of other high tier printers but is more than respectable.
We were baffled by the simplicity of the process from switching on the machine, inserting the SD card, choosing a print, and letting the Ultimaker 2+ do its thing.
Compared to the Ultimaker 2 and even other similarly priced models, the Ultimaker 2+ is an unbelievably quiet 3D printer. It makes a reasonable racket, but it’s bearable, and we found that being in the same room for prolonged stints during a print was more than okay.
Overall, the botched jobs we encountered are too few to rate the printer quality as anything short of exceptional.
The Ultimaker 2+ arrives pre-assembled and is well packaged. The box includes a quick start guide, marketing documentation, one spool of PLA filament, a spool holding attachment, the printer, 4GB SD card, PSU, power cord, grease, Olsson Block Kit, calibration card, glue, sample print, lube, USB cable, and tools.
The quick start guide is clear and concise, making it possible to have the machine set up within 20 minutes or less.
The setup involves removing the protective packaging and snapping the protective ties holding down the axes before installing and securing the glass build plate via metal clamps and attaching the filament cartridge to the back of the device.
Although the Ultimaker 2+ doesn’t include bed auto-calibration, it does feature an assisted bed leveling system for manual calibration. The user levels the bed manually by moving the extruder to three points at 1mm distance (measured thanks to the calibration card) from the plate by adjusting the corner dial screws but gets a healthy dose of assistance from the Ultimaker 2+.
The process centers on ease of use and the on-screen instructions are clear and concise. You’d be hard pressed to find a manual calibration system that is as easy to use as the one seen on this machine.
Under normal circumstances, a seasoned maker is best equipped to perform a manual calibration, but in the case of the Ultimaker 2+, a novice is more than capable of doing so successfully without assistance.
From here, feed the filament into the feeder when prompted and then start the first test print. Feeding the filament requires finesse and not feeding it too far into the feeder. Push too far, and the feeder is likely to jam, but feeding it gently until it’s gripped then letting the machine do the rest completely negates any jamming issues.
Ultimaker offers a comprehensive 12-month warranty that covers defects in material, design, and workmanship. From what we understand, Ultimaker stands by the quality of their product and are quick to offer repairs and replacements in the case of issues. Specific vendors may provide additional refund/exchange options.
Ultimaker also offers lifetime expert support through a rich archive of troubleshooting guides, articles, tips and tricks, print ideas, forums, and manuals, as well as a dedicated email, live chat, and telephone support team. The company’s support services are renowned for the quality of their work.
Dutch manufacturer Ultimaker markets the Ultimaker 2+ as a workhouse device, and we’d be hard-pressed to disagree. It’s reliable, versatile, and produces quality prints day in, day out. It does come at an expensive price ($2500 range) and isn’t for the entry-level buyer, but then again quality always comes at a price.
The only real negatives are the standalone SD card connectivity, the sometimes delicate filament feeding procedure, and the manual calibration, albeit an assisted one. We must note that for most other models these would be a minor inconvenience, that’s how good the Ultimaker 2+ is.
Ultimaker 2+ Review
Overall - 9/10
The Ultimaker 2+ is a top of the line 3D printer with all the quality, consistency, and features this entails. We'd be hard pressed to find a better all-in-one printer regardless of the significant price tag.
After spending his youth hanging out at his local hardware shop, it was no wonder Justin decided to become a computer engineer. When he’s not working, he enjoys riding his Honda across the picturesque Montana farmlands.