Dutch company Ultimaker today released the S5 bundle meant to improve the results of its S5 printers and also its new S3 printer.
The S5 bundle includes the Ultimaker S5 Air Manager. This Air Manager encloses the printer and controls the air inside your printer. This improves the safety of your device and its environment. I really welcome this step since while printing TPU, carbon fiber and carbon nanotubes but also with the less exotic ABS toxic and even potentially carcinogenic particles can come off of your 3D printer. In addition to the safety benefits, this controlled air will improve your print results since it minimizes distortion from airflows from air conditioners and the like while also keeping humidity constant. I would expect similar packages or functionality to be added to all Pro printers in the future. Air filtration and safety coupled with better print results are an absolutely essential step if I want to have 3D printers in our homes, schools and offices.
The Ultimaker Material Station is also a welcome addition to any 3D Printer operator’s arsenal. The station lets you load six different material spools into your 3D printing bay where they will be kept in a low moisture environment. Silica gel will keep humidity below 40 percent relative humidity. This reduces breakage problems in PLA and can let you print with PA and other materials that suck up a lot of moisture. I’m skeptical that the pre-feeding will work well but again this is something that all Pro printers will have eventually. I’m also wondering how the silica gel’s performance will stack up to more active cooling solutions such as the industry-leading dryers from Mass Portal that let you condition and manage your filament temperature as well as humidity actively. Such a solution will be superior to the Ultimaker approach but the Material Station should be a tidy place to store filament and reduce breakage for most people.
DSM’s Hugo Da Silva is optimistic:
“The inclusion of the Ultimaker S5 Air Manager and Ultimaker S5 Material Station with the successful Ultimaker S5 is another step toward taking additive manufacturing into production environments. The additional functionality will allow engineering materials, such as those of DSM, to be printed more safely and consistently. This will bring additive manufacturing technology within reach of many more players and help us manufacture tomorrow.”
This is especially true for them since DSM makes a lot of PA and this has been problematic to print for most operators due to moisture filling the material in a matter of hours. The fact that the bundle costs 9.100 USD or 8.685 Euros indicates that Ultimaker is moving upmarket and towards higher-priced enterprise offerings. This is a smart move because there really isn’t much available between $1200 printers that work OK but require too much labor and enterprise like office systems that cost $20,000 or so. 10k or more is a fantastic price point for Ultimaker to operate at. If they were to up their game and obtain the same performance that Mini Factory, Intamsys and 3DGence have in 3D printing PEEK then access to ultra-high-performance polymers would let them sell a good enterprise solution for 20-25,000. As it stands the current bundle is probably a good deal for most businesses and has a great chance of becoming the default printer for most businesses.
For companies and individuals that are looking for less expensive solutions, Ultimaker has launched the S3. The S3 which costs 3.995 Euros or 4.395 USD.
The company touts its “heated build plate, advanced active leveling, a stiffer build platform, and accurate stepper drivers result in the highest print quality of a machine in this form factor. The dual filament flow sensors can detect empty filament spools in the Ultimaker S3 and will automatically pause print jobs so that users can immediately replenish materials and keep the machine running seamlessly.”
I’m not sure why businesses won’t just spring for the S5 bundle, and I suspect that specifically for air quality you’d want to do that in almost all cases. As for consumers and people on a budget, they could get 4 Prusa Originals for this? I could buy a Formlabs Form 3 and a Prusa Original i3 for this price? Would it be worth it? Whereas the S5 Bundle seems like a great product for many companies I’m not sure who the S3 is for exactly. To me, Ultimaker is really giving businesses what they need if they could just up their game to give the S5 the ability to print at 420C. Then they’d have an industry-leading solution. As it stands they have something that should work for many businesses. The S5 is a great printer and these additions should improve results but this launch has really given companies such as 3DGence and Minifactory a lot of breathing room to prosper for more demanding users.
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