In a crowded field, the Ultimaker 2 Extended is one of the highest resolution desktop 3D printers available. It's larger footprint means it can also print larger, more complex projects than many of its brethren. Gizmag tried out this jumbo making machine to size up what it can do.
At over 30 cm (12 in) tall, this printer can take up a lot of desktop space, but it pays the rent by offering more space and flexibility for larger, more detailed objects. It's no slouch when it comes to the small details, though. Last year we saw one maker use its smaller relative, the Ultimaker 2, to create the world's smallest working cordless drill and a companion tiny circular saw.
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The Ultimaker 2 Extended is claimed to be able to print at resolutions up to 20 microns, matching or exceeding the capabilities of most other competitors. The MakerBot Replicator line, for example, prints at just 100 microns.
We tested out our review loaner by printing several relatively basic projects to start, including a medium-sized cup, a Jenga-like puzzle, some small figurines and a handful of rings and other pieces of jewelry. All of these objects came out relatively nicely, with the exception of one piece of jewelry that caused the nozzle to clog on multiple attempts, leading it to print a large blob each time before we finally aborted the print.
It seemed as though the problem must be with the actual print design data file itself, although this is odd since this is one of the files that came with the printer on a preloaded SD card from the company.
As for the quality level, we would describe it as not quite perfect with detectable imperfections, but impressive nonetheless. Setting the printer to the highest quality level certainly reduces these imperfections, but it also increases the total print time, and it sometimes felt as though our sacrificed waiting time was not in line with the increase in quality we saw in return.
To really put the printer to the test, we downloaded a design for a complicated, working shower head in the shape of a tyrannosaurus rex skull from the Ultimaker online community and let it print overnight. We set it to print at a medium quality setting to speed things up, expecting we would need to print a final version later at the highest setting to get the resolution needed for all the details in the skull to show up and for the threading on the shower head to be usable.
As it turns out, there was no need to print two for a comparison, as even the medium-quality print created a functioning shower head that freaks out the whole family at the same time.
Setting up and using the Ultimaker system is straightforward and simple enough that someone with no 3D printing experience can easily get it up and running in a short time. It runs through a calibration the first time that only takes a few minutes and it operates off of an SD card slot in front that's used to load design files for printing.
The printer uses PLA or ABS plastic laid down on a heated build platform that allows projects to be easily separated when cooled. The Ultimaker 2 Extended retails for €2,495 / US$3,030.
The video below gives an overview of the Ultimaker 2 models.
Product page: Ultimaker