Ultimaker FAQ: but what about the quality of prints?

A lot of the press that Ultimaker has gotten has been about the crazy speeds these machines can print at. That press is pretty well-deserved, IMO, because they can indeed move very, very fast. Scary fast.

That kind of press is usually accompanied by several questions in the comments, wondering about the quality of prints. Can something that moves at such speeds actually produce high-quality prints or is Ultimaker just about speed?

The answer is yes, an Ultimaker can absolutely produce prints of amazing quality.

A few weeks or so ago, I posted in the Ultimaker google group about this and asked for pictures of really nice prints folks have done on their Ultimaker. This blog post, which is a bit later than I wanted (life and such sometimes gets in the way of play.. annoying..), is some of my favorites. As you look at these pictures, keep in mind that Ultimaker just started shipping a few months ago – these are pictures of what the early, rev 1 machines are doing…

I’ve tried to hotlink all the pictures to their sources and include links to the people who originally did them. If you spot something wrong/missing or are the person who printed it and have something to correct/add, please post in the comments and I’ll happily update things.. .

Bucking the tradition of working up to it, I have to start with the most impressive print I’ve seen, done by Paul “Screal” Candler. Paul’s one of the masters at configuring netfabb, a software package that slices and now acts as host software, and he laughs (probably laughs insanely) at other FMD high-resolution prints.

Here’s his copy of Yoda at a 0.02mm perimeter layer height:

Yoda by Screal

That’s not a typo, either: 0.02mm. 20 microns.  0.000787 inches. Holy crap, Paul!!

This was done using the 1/2 layer feature of netfabb, which is similar to the new Skin module in skeinforge 42+. It causes the infill of the object to be done as normal but prints two perimeters, each at 1/2 the normal layer height. For those of you thinking that Skin is somehow cheating, the infill is still at a big, fat 0.04mm… which is still frickin’ amazing and still definitely ‘holy crap, Paul!’

And a couple more from Paul.. One’s the “spinnyJiggyVase” again at 0.02mm, in a nicely artsy pose:


And, ’tis the season for scary, the DevilHead, at 0.04mm perimeter height:

Devil Head

Yoda seems to be the new calibration cube with the Ultimaker crowd.. Here’s another one, this time from Bill Culverhouse. I don’t have details on the print but it looks pretty cool with the lighting (though he needs to shave his ears). Looking at it closely, I’d guess this is down around 0.075mm or so layer height: (edit: it’s 0.08mm layer height)

A copy of Beethoven Bust from Thingiverse user Fabberworld at 0.12mm layer height. The slicing code in netfabb really shows its stuff in this one..

I almost didn’t include this one from Joel “Misguided” Chia because I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.. 🙂 It’s a copy of the “Faerie Bottle or Bud Vase” – after you take a look at this picture, go look at the Thing then look at the picture again.. It’s really pretty cool. Next time include a reference object, Joel!

Here’s another from Paul Candler, a spiral bevel gear. I’m not sure if this is a 0.02mm or a 0.04mm perimeter but, either way, check out the quality of the infill on top – nice!

Bradley, who I got to meet at MakerFaire NYC a few weeks ago, sent these pictures of the Pink Panther Woman (the other Ultimaker calibration cube) along. Not sure on the print details are here but he says it’s his first print with netfabb…Pink Panther Woman by Bradley

Back to Yoda! This time from Hrvoje Čop. He says this was printed at 60% scale which, if you look closely at the detail here and think about the misery of tiny prints (if you have a 3D printer, that is.. if not, know that tiny prints are notoriously painful), is pretty darn good:

Florian “flouSH” Horsch is another wizard with netfabb – cohort of Screal.. Here’s his print of Jordan Millers High Resolution Stanford Bunny, printed with 0.08mm infill and 0.04mm perimeter, fresh off (er.. actually still on) the printer with just a little cleanup to do: (netfabb doesn’t have Comb, which is one of my favorite Skeinforge things). Check out the bottom of the ears – overhang central, there..

High Resolution Stanford Bunny

And what looks like another copy of a spiral bevel gear. Not sure of the settings on this one but probably similar to the bunney above. Again, beautiful infill on this. Florian’s got a whole album of stuff, too much for me to copy here, that you should check out, too..

Spiral Bevel Gear

Here’s more from Bradley. I wish this was a higher resolution picture but for those people that think the Bowden setup kills the Ultimakers usability, I think Bradley might disagree. This one’s via netfabb with 0.06mm perimeters:

Slotted bowl with lid

He’s also got a copy of “Elvis, the Printable(?) Skull“. Er.. I’m not going ANYWHERE near why this is named Elvis.. Again at 0.06mm on the perimeter:

Elvis, the Printable(?) Skull

And another from Hrvoje Čop. Don’t have print details here but it looks pretty cool..

 "Random Vase V2"

From Jordan Miller, not a print but a picture of a print. He stole a copy of Yoda off the Ultimaker table at MakerFaire:NYC and put it under a microscope. I’ll just quote Jordan here:

… You can see with the scale bar… we have 162 pixels = 1 mm. The average layer height in that pic is around 12 pixels, or 0.074 mm (That is 74 microns). And that orangey low res looking thing on the left? That’s not a print… that’s my finger.  …

Jordans finger, hanging out with Yoda

See all those blobs? And the way the layers don’t really line up nicely? Neither do I. Check out the Hive76 article he wrote about this, too.

Bernhard Kubicek‘s been doing tons of work on firmware improvements. I think he’s the one that got us all off the stock “5D” firmware and onto Sprinter and lately he (and others!) have been kicking ass getting Marlin all happy.

Here’s Bernhards copy of the OK Hand, done at 0.09mm layer height. This was done during his Marlin testing – you can see some X or Y skips futher down the finger but the detail toward the fingertips is pretty impressive:


I almost passed over this one of the nautilus from Bernhard but then realized that’s an M3 bolt sitting next to the object, which sorta puts it into a different perspective (and I’m sure that’s why he included it..) He notes that the ripples are caused by acceleration so I’m guessing this was early in his Marlin testing – I think those issues have been fixed..


Last, Taylor Alexander got ahold of a Stratasys demo object. I’m going to end this post.. this post that seems to have taken a year to write (and probably read.. sorry!) with his picture of this and a couple prints that Ultimakers have done of this, since the STL showed up on Thingiverse..

The Stratasys print, which Taylor measured at around 0.25mm layers, is pretty damn nice. In particular, the infill is very impressive..

Demo object

 Screal, of course, jumped on this STL, though he toned things down to only 0.04mm on the perimeter.. Take a really close look at the top of this print – if he’d done this in white, I have no doubt it’d be hard to tell from the commercially-made version:

Demo object

And one more from Bradley, at 0.06mm perimeter:

Demo object

Wow.. Epically long post (for me, anyway) but now, the next time you hear somebody say “sure Ultimaker’s psychotically fast but what’s the print quality like?” you know exactly what to say…

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59 Responses to Ultimaker FAQ: but what about the quality of prints?

  1. Brian S. says:

    Silence…. Mouth hanging open. Drool drip dropping from corner of mouth. Eyes wide. Not blinking.
    Shaking head to clear thoughts.

    Soooo, where ate your pictures

  2. Florian says:

    Incredible summary, Dave. Really nice to see all these high quality print results in one place!

    Minor misspelling in my name as well as in my nickname though – no big deal: Florian Horsch aka flouSH

    Cheers 😉

  3. Pingback: Ultimaker creates some of the best 3D prints we’ve ever seen « BuildLounge

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  5. Jason says:

    Wow I have wanted a 3d printer for a while but the quality never really impressed me
    Until now, I am blown away

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  7. Ryan Volpi says:

    Beautiful, I would love to own one of those!

  8. Bill Bohan says:

    Inexpensive 3D printers have come a long way.

  9. Pingback: Ultimaker quality FAQ is like porn for 3D printers | The Depot of Talk

  10. I reposted your blog entry to my soup.
    greetings, and PARTY!

  11. Richard says:

    Wow ! Great post and what an amazing collection of quality objects.
    Speed and Quality – that’s really good stuff. – Makes me want an Ultimaker even more…


    Rich (RichRap)

  12. Bo Palmblad says:

    All this looks well, but the truth is not rely the same.
    The basic setup with the machine is a joke!
    The sparepart followup does not exist!
    The possibility to get an answer to E-mails is NIL.

    I am not impressed and I have one of this.

    • Dave Durant says:

      Wow.. Have you posted in the Ultimaker google group, Bo?

      There are many people there who wouldn’t call my blog post a lie. They’re printing just fine (see, for example, the blog post above) and would probably be happy to help…

      • Bo Palmblad says:

        I would never call your posts lies!
        I just reflect from my own experiences, that is what I have!

      • Dave Durant says:

        I was just responding to the “but the truth is not rely the same” bit, Bo..

        Again, you should go to the Ultimaker google group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/ultimaker .

      • luke says:

        Going to Plus 1 Dave here. It doesn’t take much longer than a few clicks of the mouse to realize how bleeding edge these machines/software/firmware/toolchain are. The fact that this machine was released at all is like a scene from Field of Dreams; “If you build it, crazy ambitious people will come and take it places you can’t imagine.” One of the ways these brilliant ideas are able to get to people in the first place is the distributing of R&D and Customer Support to the owners and operators of the product. Dave isn’t kidding when he says the people behind these prints are happy to help. My kit came with a couple bent rods, and while I will still contact Ultimaker to see if they can help me out; one post in the group about it had numerous people tracking down alternative suppliers and even offering to cut a nonstandard rod to length and send it to me. My guess is that if Ultimaker the Company were obligated to perform the incredible amount of work done happily and freely by those who use their product (Spare Part supply, Printer Support, Tutorial Creation, Software, Firmware, etc.) they simply would never have been able to
        form. It seems like the option is to have incredibly new technology at incredible prices,
        free support from people who love what they do, free and unfettered access to EVERY bit and piece that makes it run (Thank you Open Source), or nothing at all. It’s a different business model to be sure, and more than a little frustrating if it isn’t what your expecting. The machine works, this is proof, ease of use will come from those who use it pushing the software further and further.

    • fabberworld says:

      The basic setup of the Ultimaker is better than any Makerbot… When you buy an Ultimaker and the Netfabb license you will print immediately like in this pictures! Just load the profiles from Paul and Florian…

      It is possible that the Ultimaker team will take some time to answer your emails. They have a lot to do at this time. -Thats because they sell the best DIY 3D printer at this time… 😉


      • Bo Palmblad says:

        I do in deed respect your view and I am happy that you see things this way!
        But it is in my book NOT the best DIY printer at all, there are competition!

        The profiles from Paul and Florian would interest me more that anything, I
        have tried to get this thing workng, but it is stil FAR from what I want and expect!
        I have tried other printers with much, much better setup as well as result!

  13. Eric Albert says:

    Maybe Bo should purchase a SUMPOD! 😉 Sorry, had to do that — I’m caught up with the Nth shipping delay, first-round folks and saw your posts to the reprap forums… But more on topic, I think the up! printer, despite not being worth the price IMHO, makes some pretty awesome prints as well. And in any case, machines at this level are still not completely “appliances” that work in a consistent manner.

    • Bo Palmblad says:

      I guess you where whitty, but I have no idea what your SUMPOD is
      so the slap was in deed only flow of air. But maby it would be an imporvment
      to what is right now standing here like a dissapointment and almost retired.

      Witch I hope will change!

      • Dave Durant says:

        There’s a SUMPOD discussion over on the reprap forums, Bo – it’s a different kind of machine. They had a number of problems getting batch #1 shipped so, if you had ordered a SUMPOD instead, you’d probably still be waiting for it!

        (apparently people started getting them yesterday so SUMPOD is finally shipping)

      • Eric Albert says:

        Well maybe one or two or perhaps a half dozen, but the rest of us just got a “more delays” email this morning… sigh!

  14. Dave,

    I have a CupCake CNC, which I am almost ready to gut and rebuild out of frustration of print quality and resolution… any pointers on where to go from the CupCake core to up my resolution to .. say Ultimaker?

    • Dave Durant says:

      I’ve also got a Cupcake! it’s sorta retired now.. :\

      Best bet is probably to hit up the makerbot google group and ask there – I think I’ve seen some similar discussions recently.. There’s some nice mostly-printable upgrades from Aaron Double (twotimes on thingiverse) that can be done and Rob Giseburt’s PSMD stepper drivers will get you a HUGE improvement in noise if you’re running the stock gen3 drivers now.

      My number one upgrade would be a stepper extruder, if you don’t already have one. MakerGear makes a pretty nice one (actually, everything they make is pretty nice) and MBI has some options, too.

      I’ve sorta dropped off the discussion in this area but if you can get these things and get up to gear that lets to do “volumetric 5d” you’re going to be a lot happier..

      All that said I had my DC-extruder cupcake printing at a 0.1mm layer height over a year ago. It wasn’t overly happy about it and ABS seems to be a lot harder to do than PLA at under 0.15mm but you can get some decent prints even with a stock cupcake, with some care and work. The big advantage of the Ultimaker is that it’s waaaaaay easier to get to that point.

  15. After some research, I am headed in the direction of an ultimaker. What is volumetric 5d if you mind me asking? Also, what do you think I can salvage from the makerbot to use in the ultimaker build?

    • Dave Durant says:

      Congrats! Hope you enjoy it as much as most others have!

      Volumetric 5D sorta refers to the way the extruder is controlled in the gcode. The short, short story is that with volumetric 5D, you just tell skeinforge what your filament diameter is and it figures out the right flow rate for you. Put whatever layer height or thread width you want in there and it’ll do the math – (almost) no calibrating at all. It’s quite nice.

      The Ultimaker kit should include everything you need to get up and printing. I’ve been thinking about partsing the cupcake and using some parts to make a polargraph, which seems like a cool toy. See posts from John Abella (https://plus.google.com/u/0/117753663884433442337/about#117753663884433442337/posts) for info on the one he’s making (you might have to Add him to see the posts)..

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  18. chopmeister says:

    Great post Dave! Btw. my vase was printed with the Standard Vase profile and spooled from printrun using BK-Marlin.

    PS. I think you should grease up the Z axis of your blog because it squashed my vase along the Z. 🙂

  19. Dub says:

    Hi, amazing prints! Do you know if netfabb will create support, like the post you did a while back printing a 3d T kind of shape with skeinforge?


    • Dave Durant says:

      It does indeed (or they say they do, anyway) though I’ve never seen it..

    • Luke says:

      It does, pretty good looking support as well. Currently however, stringing combines with the speed at which it moves can make keeping delicate scaffolding intact a little hit and miss, literally.

      • chopmeister says:

        I find netfabb support lacking at the moment, due to what Luke said. I found I get much better results by modelling my own support structures which I later cut off or sand or whatever.

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  21. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It truly helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to provide something again and help others like you helped me.

  22. Your blog, this page specifically, was one of the main factors in my ordering an Ultimaker.

    4 to 6 weeks, I can hardly stand to wait! ;’)

  23. Reblogged this on eclipsiumrasa and commented:
    Woah. I did not know that the tolerances for affordable 3d printers were in the microns. This is going to be a good year.

  24. polarblair says:

    *fap* *fap* *fap* *fapfapfapfapfapfapfap*
    Saving up for one of these now. Just imagining high Res grasshopper/rhino generated lattice for crazy roof and wall structures. I can finally model the things I design!

    Absolutely gorgeous work guys.

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  27. Very interesting studies.

  28. We are developing a sla 3DP based on visible light through an LCD display. for in house use only. The question is, we rely on resin used by already producing this type of 3DP.
    – junior veloso
    – Perfactory
    – Sedgwick3D
    – b9creator
    – alvaro m. fogasaa
    – rapidshape. of
    – and others.
    or try to develop our resins?
    how we can buy these resins of these producers to test?

  29. captaindyson says:

    Hello, I have just finished building the ultimaker and am beginning calibration, what do i need to do to get quality like this? i don’t have netfab, (should i invest?) so i am currently running cura, what else do i need to calibrate/change? any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Dave Durant says:

      Netfabb has some cool features but it’s not really required. Personally, I still use plain ol’ skeinforge but Cura is quite popular – it wraps skeinforge and gives you about 20 settings instead of like 300.

      The Ultimaker google group is a good place to ask for help – lots of smart folks hanging out there.

      To get to really, really high resolution, I’d start at a easy resolution, say maybe 0.15mm layer height or so, and work at getting that as good as you can make it. Take your time, take notes, try different prints speeds and settings and make sure you’ve got a good feel for how to do the easy stuff. Once you’re comfortable with that, move down to 0.1mm layers and repeat the process – it should go a lot quicker. Once you get 0.1mm down, move to an even higher resolution.

      In other words: start with easy goals to get a feel for how things work and what all the terms mean. Once you get that down, it should be easy to start exploring the limits of the machine..

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