Refining Una the Ultimaker


I think you should know I endured a lot of pain to fit this part…

Just because I’m on holiday, doesn’t mean I don’t get to play with tech. I spent a big chunk of today fiddling with Una, my Ultimaker 3D printer. I don’t usually give my devices names, but since I’ve discovered that this particular device has moods I thought a name would be appropriate. The great thing for me about 3D printers is that they don’t work all the time and you can always persuade yourself that there are things you can do to make them better. Perfect for a tinkerer like me, who was brought up on Meccano.

Today I convinced myself that by replacing the wooden end bearing caps with adjustable plastic ones I could probably improve print quality. I could certainly cut down on the banging and crashing that I was getting during printing, when the print head changes direction and the rods it slides on are pushed into the side of the case. I’d already made one change earlier in the week, when I upgraded the fibre feed mechanism that pushes plastic into the machine. That had improved print quality a bit and so I figured I was on a roll with this.

So I set to and printed all the parts (finding a matching colour for the case, which was nice) and then I had to fit them. This was where the fun started. I put the original fittings on as I was constructing Una, and then put lots of parts around them. This meant that the nuts holding the end caps in place were really hard to get to. I tried printing out a “nut calumet”, which sounds like a desert from a posh restaurant, but is really something you can use to put the nut on the back of the bolt. But eventually I found the best way to replace the fittings was just to jam my finger inside the machine behind each nut, so that it held it in place, undo the existing bolt and put the new one straight back in. This removes the need to put the nut in place, as it never goes anywhere, and leaving aside the pain involved in forcing your finger inside very tight spaces, worked very well.

I’m not sure if the print quality is that much better to be honest, although printing is a lot quieter and smoother than it used to be. I’m a bit worried that steel bolts in the end caps are going to grind chunks out of the steel rods they are rubbing against, so I’ve ordered some brass bolts (which cost the princely sum of 14 pence each) to replace them with. These should form a bearing against the steel and be a bit smoother.

If you have an Ultimaker then I think it is a worthwhile upgrade, just because it makes printing much quieter. If you are about to build one from a kit, I’d advise getting some end caps printed so that you can put them on during construction and save yourself a bit of pain later.