Which Ultimaker 3D Printer is Right for Me?
Ultimaker has been in the desktop 3D printing industry for a long time. They’ve aimed to be an answer to every part of the 3D printing process, from filament, to their free slicing software Cura, to polished and high quality 3D printers. The latest models from Ultimaker are a force to be reckoned with, from the single extrusion Ultimaker 2+ Connect to the dual extrusion Ultimaker S3 or Ultimaker S5. Without knowing what to look for, it can be hard to compare different models and know which one is best for you, luckily you have the Pros at MatterHackers to help you on your journey.
Let's jump into it-
Ultimaker 3D Printers at a Glance
- Build Volume: The Ultimaker S5 is the largest of them all, with the Ultimaker S3 and Ultimaker 2+ Connect having virtually identical sizes.
- Extrusion: While you won’t see improvements in the already excellent print quality, the S3 and S5 are dual extrusion 3D printers.
- Hotend Hardware: Simply unlatching and replacing the Print Core is all it takes to change the hotend in an S3 or S5, but a nozzle wrench and a properly sized nozzle is what you need for an Ultimaker 2+ Connect.
- Temperatures: The “S” Series printers can reach 140°C on the bed and 280°C on the nozzle, but the 2+ Connect maxes out at 110°C on the bed and 260°C on he nozzle.
- Filtration: Additional accessories like the Air Manager is available to filter the air quality or control airflow of the Ultimaker 2+ Connect or the Ultimaker S5, but no such add-on is made by Ultimaker for the S3
- Price: As the features differ so greatly between each model it’s hard to truly compare, but objectively, the Ultimaker 2+ Connect is the most inexpensive of the Ultimaker line of 3D printers.
- Material Station: To fully unlock the potential of a print farm using Ultimaker machines, the smart material swapping and humidity controlled Material Station is a powerful add-on only available for the Ultimaker S5.
Between the three Ultimaker models, there are really only two size classes. The Ultimaker 2+ Connect and Ultimaker S3, while not having exactly the same build volume dimensions will in practice be virtually identical: the 2+ Connect has a build volume of 223mm wide x 220mm deep x 205mm tall, and the S3 has a build volume of 230mm wide x 190mm deep x 200mm tall. In contrast, the Ultimaker S5 is considerably larger than both with a build volume 330mm wide x 240mm deep x 300mm tall. The tradeoff between the Ultimaker S3 and 2+ Connect is more or less the slightly shallower build volume in exchange for dual extrusion. If both are an important factor for your success, then the Ultimaker S5 pulls no punches and is the build volume champion.
Number of Extruders
Other than size, the most obvious difference between these Ultimaker 3D printers is that the Ultimaker 2+ Connect is single extrusion and the Ultimaker S3 and S5 are dual extrusion. In the case of the 2+ Connect, you are limited to 3D printing in only one material (or color) at a time. Support structures will have to be extruded in the same material as your build material, which is perfectly serviceable, you will just need to take the time to chip and clip away at the supports to reveal your 3D print underneath. With the S3 and S5, you have two nozzles, with the second lifting and lowering when needed to prevent smearing of material. You are able to use two colors or materials in the same 3D print, which allows you to use dissolvable support materials so you can toss your finished 3D print in a tub of water and simply wait for the supports to dissolve away, or you can print unique models in two colors to show off specific features.
What really sets the Ultimaker S3 and Ultimaker S5 apart from other 3D printers is how they incorporate their hotend components. Where the Ultimaker 2+ Connect has the heatsink, heatbreak, heater block, and nozzle all rigidly mounted to the printhead, the S3 and S5 use “Print Cores.” These are components that feature everything needed to make a hotend in one easily removable package, so you can swap out the entire Print Core if you want a new nozzle size, new nozzle material, or if you want to remove it for regular maintenance. Simply follow the wizard to remove material, lower the fan bracket, pinch and remove a core, insert the new one, and get ready for printing. And because each Print Core has a built-in PCB, the Ultimaker will remember the offsets for the nozzle’s position so you don’t need to completely recalibrate the printer after swapping Print Cores. With the Ultimaker 2+ Connect, it’s a more traditional setup with a nozzle that needs a hex wrench to remove. This has its benefits in that you aren’t restricted to the Print Cores that Ulitmaker offers and can instead use basically any M6 threaded nozzle, like the Olsson Ruby or NozzleX on the Ultimaker 2+ Connect, giving you the freedom to experiment as you need.
The temperatures that your 3D printer can reach dictate what materials you can and can’t work with. In the case of the Ultimaker 2+ Connect, its maximum bed temperature is 110° and the Ultimaker S3 and Ultimaker S5 have a maximum bed temperature of 140°C, so you can rest easy knowing the bed will not be your limiting factor as it can reach the ideal temperature for even the most extreme materials like ABS or Polycarbonate. Additionally, they differ in the temperatures that the nozzle can reach; because the Ultimaker S3 and S5 both utilize Print Cores, the maximum printing temperature is 280°C which should allow for the use of most materials that you can 3D print with. On the other hand, because of its construction, the Ultimaker 2+ Connect is limited to 260°C, which is enough for any Ultimaker materials, but may prove difficult for other brands of filament that need higher temperatures.
For any 3D printer, having a build surface as flat as possible is essential for consistently smooth first layers. By using “float glass” - a specific type of glass designed to be very flat - in every Ultimaker 3D printer, you can be confident that the first layer will be flat. Among the 3 Ultimaker models available, each use a three-point leveling system to adjust the plane the bed sits in: tighten or loosen each thumbwheel under the bed and the entire build plate tilts to more closely match the plane the nozzle moves in. However, the Ultimaker S3 and Ultimaker S5 take a step further and utilize a sensor built into the bed and printhead to gauge the true shape of the glass, creating a mesh to automatically fine tune the nozzle’s distance from the glass so it can always be the same distance, thereby ensuring you don’t have areas of the build plate that introduce adhesion problems.
Air Filtration and Control
If you know you’re going to be printing with some of the stinkier 3D printing materials like ABS or Polycarbonate, having built in filtration to clean the air of the printer is a worthwhile investment. The Ultimaker 2+ Connect and Ultimaker S5 have the Air Manager add-on that you can purchase that simply plug into the back of the Ultimaker, snap onto the top, and provide full control of the air surrounding the 3D print. In the case of the Ultimaker S3, there isn’t a filtration option available from Ultimaker.
It can be hard to compare pricing for machines that are so similar and yet have some pretty significant differences. While the Ultimaker 2+ Connect and Ultimaker S3 have comparable build volumes, the 2+ Connect is quite a bit cheaper than the S3 at the cost of being only single extrusion. Between the Ultimaker S3 and S5, the overall difference is their build volume and the add-ons that are available; the Ultimaker S5 is the largest Ultimaker available so if you plan on producing larger 3D prints then this is your option, and it’s the only “S” series printer to have any add-ons.
To really step up the Ultimaker S5’s abilities, the Ultimaker Material Station is designed to manage all of your materials at once without any user intervention. With six different material bays, you can keep multiple materials or colors loaded and at the ready (although you can only use 2 materials per print job). The main purpose of this is to fully utilize the Ultimaker Cloud to send, for example, a Yellow PLA with PVA print to your cloud-synced print farm and have the Ultimaker S5 automatically unload filament and load in the desired materials to get started. Paired with a sensor in every bay to determine if they’ve run out of material before the job is done, and you can have a nearly completely hands-free print job from start to finish, save for the print removal.
Ultimaker has established itself as an all-encompassing 3D printer manufacturer with an answer for every step of the printing process. Hopefully things are a bit clearer now and you have the right idea of which Ultimaker 3D printer will be the printer for you. To learn more and order your Ultimaker today, check out the.
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