I've had my Ultimaker printer for nearly two years now. It was around now in 2012 that I ordered it, and the kit took around 6 weeks to arrive as they were very popular.
I've had a lot of fun with Una the Ultimaker. I've replaced her drive mechanism, print head, pulleys and print bed supports and added end caps and a bunch of other things. And I've printed one or two items as well. I like Una very much and most of the time she rewards me with good looking output.
This week our departmental 3D printer arrived. They asked me what to get and of course I said we should get an Ultimaker. But I suggested we get an Ultimaker 2 as this is pre-built and looks to have moved the field on a bit. It took around 6 weeks to arrive as they are very popular, so some things haven't changed I suppose.
I set the new printer up in my office and had it working within half an hour or so of opening the box. It is fundamentally the same as Una, but is much more of an appliance. It has lost a lot of the "home spun charm" of the original, but replaced this with a slickness that would make it much more viable as a printer that you get because you want to print stuff, rather than tinker with the printer itself.
Some design changes took me by surprise. You now set things like print temperature on the printer rather than in the slicing program. This actually makes a lot of sense, in that you will need to customise your printing for different kinds of fibre and you don't want to re-slice the model every time. The integration with Cura, the program that converts your designs ready for printing, is impressive and once I'd fed the fibre into the machine (the only tricky part of the setup) I was turning out prints that were at least as good as ones from Una. The only real problem for me was that the heated bed was set to a temperature which was much higher than it should be for the PLA plastic I was printing. I turned the temperature down to 60 degrees and things got a lot better.
I do miss the sense of control that I have with Una. The print display on the Ultimaker 2 just tells you how much time is left on the print, rather than the other useful metrics that I get. However I'd be much happier leaving the new one to print on its own, something that I'm not keen to do with my printer.
One major improvement with the Ultimaker 2 is the fan arrangement around the print head, which blows cooling air from both sides onto the object being printed, so that there is a better chance of the next print layer being put down onto solid plastic.
I really liked this, so I had a look around to see if I could find something similar for Una. I found this design and so tonight I spent a happy couple of hours installing some new fan ducts along with a pair of very posh fans that are completely silent in operation. I reckon this has made quite a difference to the printed output, the definition on both sides of my owl test piece is now much better than before. Previously the right hand side of the owl face was a bit of a mess because it faces away from the fan. Now things are a lot more symmetrical.
The next step is to change the fan arrangement on Una to make her a bit quieter. The Ultimaker 2 is very quiet in operation and I want to get rid of the rattling fan that was supplied as part of my kit, and seems to be rattling even more now.
If you want to get a printer that represents state of the art in FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) printing then I reckon you'll do well with the Ultimaker 2. It produced some of the best prints I've ever seen right out of the box and is a very well presented package.