‘Professional 3D Printing Made Accessible’ — A Few Questions For: Ultimaker


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3dp_ultimaker_logoJust yesterday, Ultimaker, a company with an established reputation for excellence at the desktop, unveiled the now-available Ultimaker 3, the latest in their line of 3D printers. Set to build upon and enhance the offerings of their previous offerings, the Ultimaker 3 offers dual extrusion, swappable print cores, and additional features designed to set this printer at the forefront of desktop engineering, bringing industrial 3D printing to an accessible package. With a slogan of “Professional 3D printing made accessible,” the Ultimaker 3 promises an enhanced experience in 3D printing at the desktop.

We’ve been looking forward to this announcement for the company, and this week I had the opportunity to touch base with Ultimaker North America’s President, John Kawola, with A Few Questions For us to better understand what the Dutch company has up its sleeves.

You joined Ultimaker as the North American President in April; how has your personal experience led you to be the right person for this position as Ultimaker grows as a company, both globally and in North America?

John Kawola, President of Ultimaker North America.

John Kawola, President of Ultimaker North America.

I have been involved with 3D printing for the last 15 years, with a number of years at Z Corporation. In 2000, Z Corporation and a few others were looking to disrupt the industry, offering systems that were much easier to use and, at the time, a low price point of $50,000. This disruption has been happening again with desktop printers. I hope that I can bring some of those past experiences to Ultimaker to help our team grow our company and grow the market.

What drew you initially to 3D technologies? Specifically to Ultimaker’s team?

For me, the main appeal of working in 3D printing was the thought of developing and promoting tools that help companies design and engineer new products. The range of industries impacted by 3D printing is very large—from automotive to aerospace, medical, footwear, toys, and the list goes on and on. That diversity keeps things interesting. I was very impressed with the Ultimaker team from the start. They have had a unique, singular mission of leveraging the open source movement to create the best products possible. The company succeeds by being focused on creating compelling products, but just as importantly, on providing a reliable and solid platform with service and support for customers. Our team believes that we need to have hardware, software, materials and great service to be successful in this market.

It’s been less than a year since the Ultimaker 2+ and 2 Extended+ were released; what are the main differences in the just-announced Ultimaker 3?

um3-hardwareThe Ultimaker 3 brings a range of new features that we feel are critical for our platform to be fully adopted in the professional environment. These features include:

  • Dual extrusion.

  • WiFi and Ethernet connection capabilities.

  • Automation (automated bed leveling, NFC communication with materials to machine synchronization).

  • Swappable print cores.

What types of feedback proved most crucial to the development of the Ultimaker 3? What sorts of users/applications would most benefit from the latest 3D printer?

Our professional users were looking for automation and range of capability. These customers want to load a file, hit print and get their part. We now give them that.  Dual extrusion expands the range of complexity of parts that can be built through the ability to extrude a second, water soluble, support structure. Engineering materials like ABS, Nylon, and CPE give our users capability for multiple applications (visual modeling, functional testing, jigs and fixtures).

um3Desktop 3D printers offer portability, the ability to produce medical equipment, and stability; what other benefits can we expect from the newest in Ultimaker’s line?

The Ultimaker 3 begins to truly fulfill our vision of having a 3D printer on the engineer’s desk. The industry has been talking about this idea for a long time and now speed, low noise level and automation are bringing this vision to reality.

We’ve seen Ultimaker recently introduce new professional quality materials; will more be released to accompany the Ultimaker 3 and its updated capabilities?

Yes, we expect to offer a full range of professional-quality and engineering materials for the UM3.

Where does the Ultimaker 3 fit into the company’s vision for global growth?

The Ultimaker 3 is the second key platform for our company. We’ll continue to offer the Ultimaker 2+ line and expect that it will have significant demand. The new UM3 helps the company satisfy more needs from professional customers and we anticipate that it will play a large role in driving our growth.


What can we expect to see emerge from Ultimaker in 2017, following a very busy year in 2016?

We continue to listen to our customers.  We see a number of interesting extensions of the platform. More and more customers are pushing beyond prototyping into tooling and short run production. Those applications will require increasing levels of reliability, software integration and materials.

ultimaker-3-3What do you see as the place for desktop 3D printing in the overall 3D printing industry? What do you say to those who don’t take desktop 3D printers seriously?

The pace of improvement and change with desktop 3D printers has been much faster than historical technology growth in this industry. Part of this is due to volume (more customers) and part has been driven by the community and open source movement. A few years ago, most professional users would dismiss desktop printing.  Machine and part quality was mainly their reasoning, and they were mostly justified.  But, here in 2016, that has changed and we are already seeing signs of sub-$5,000 machines displacing systems that cost $25,000 and up.  

Do you have any forecasts for the next few years in 3D printing in general?

Technical capability (speed, reliability, materials) will continue to improve and cost will continue to decline.  For prototyping and production, there are always thresholds that users must reach to choose to 3D print.  Those thresholds are moving down quickly. For prototyping, the friction associated with printing will move toward zero.  For tooling and production, the crossover point where 3D printing is a better choice than conventional methods will continue to move out to larger and larger volumes.

um-3-and-extendedThe Ultimaker 3 and Ultimaker 3 Extended are now available. The Ultimaker 3, with a build volume of 215 x 215 x 200 mm, is set with an MSRP of $3495 (excluding VAT), while the Ultimaker 3 Extended, with a build volume of 215 x 215 x 300 mm, has an MSRP of $4295 (excluding VAT). For details, see the product page; see full specifications here.

Below is a video from Ultimaker explaining the features on their newest 3D printer:

Discuss in the Ultimaker forum at 3DPB.com.


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