To open source or not to open source is a question that most 3D printer manufacturers are going to ask themselves at some point. I’ve heard compelling arguments both for and against, but at the end of the day it’s a business model that simply isn’t for every company. But whichever path a company chooses, it is important to make the choice wisely, because it isn’t an easy door to close once opened. Open source evangelists represent a pretty sizable population of the 3D printing consumer base, and while they may be okay with companies that choose to not be open source, then are less okay with companies that start open source – especially those that build on pre-existing open source technology – and then stop as soon as they find any sort of success.
For Dutch 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker, being open sourced has been part of who the company was since the very beginning, and their early success can easily be traced directly back to their loyal community of users. Their first 3D printer, the Ultimaker Original, was already a great 3D printer and remains (despite being four years old) one of the most reliable 3D printers available today. And from the very beginning Ultimaker has encouraged their community to help them make the Original better, and they certainly have. In fact, many of the improvements created by the community for their personal Originals were implemented into their next 3D printer, the Ultimaker 2 and the resulting Ultimaker 2 family of 3D printers.
Today Ultimaker is continuing their tradition of opening up their products to their community by releasing the blueprint files for the rest of the Ultimaker 2 family, the Ultimaker 2 Go and the Ultimaker 2 Extended. The Ultimaker 2 Go is the diminutive little sibling of the family, designed to be a gateway into 3D printing, while the Ultimaker 2 Extended is an over-sized monster of a printer that is targeted directly at the Prosumer market. Just as with the release of the files for the Original and the OG Ultimaker 2, the hope is that their loyal community of users can help them continue to evolve their printers.
“Ultimaker is committed to sharing new designs, functions and updates with our customers to give them the freedom to 3D print to the best of their ability. Being open source enables quick iterations and innovation which pushes the boundaries of the impossible every time. It means our innovations are community-powered and the focus lies not only on what we think is important, but also allow our users to grow and transform with us as we develop new technology,” explained the founder of Ultimaker, Siert Wijnia.
The real benefit to being open source in an emergent industry like 3D printing is free access to a remarkable community of knowledgeable enthusiasts. They often know quite a bit more about the technology and how to make it work better than most tech communities can offer and are probably one of the tech world’s biggest untapped resources. Larger tech companies spend piles of cash on R&D that isn’t half as comprehensive as the type of feedback that popular open source companies receive, and the rapid expansion of the 3D printing industry can be traced directly back to the maker and RepRap communities’ involvement in the evolution of that technology.
The Ultimaker 2 Go files can be downloaded here and the Ultimaker 2 Extended files can be downloaded here. And you can find out more about the entire family of Ultimaker 3D printers here. Let us know your thoughts on this release in the Ultimaker Open Source Files forum thread on 3DPB.com.