Today, UltiMaker announced the release of the Method XL 3D printer. The XL features a 100°C heated chamber and heated build plate optimized for ABS and carbon fiber (CF) -ABS. With a build volume of 305 mm x 305 mm x 320 mm, the new system positioned as an entry level printer for industrial components. We’ve seen dental specific machines, but this is one specifically meant to make big ABS and ABS-CF parts. To learn ore about the Method XL and UltiMaker´s recent progress, we interviewed UltiMaker CEO Nadav Goshen.
The Method XL 3D Printer
The team has taken care to reduce warpage and increase dimensional accuracy of components, while also featuring both an activated carbon and HEPA filter. You can use UltiMaker´s RapidRinse tap water soluble ABS support if you wish, or use your own materials by relying on the LABS Experimental Extruder. Some previously tested materials on the LABS extruder are Jabil SEBS, a 95A shore elastomeric filament, Polymaker PolyMax PC and LEHVOSS PAHT 9891, a high-temp CF-PA material. The XL works with CloudPrint and is intended to be a very application-specific printer.
Goshen opined that the recently released UltiMaker S7 is a versatile professional 3D printer, especially if the user wants to experiment. He thinks of it as the machine used in the design department and for prototypes. Meanwhile, the XL is for more specialized departments and companies, as the machine is designed for engineering- and production-focused applications. According to him, this is due to the popularity of ABS and how close the XL can get to injection molding properties, making the machine appeal to this specific subset of users. ABS is the focus of the XL given its prevalence, strength and durability.
One big advantage of the Method XL has to do with UltiMaker’s considerable IP related to the isolated build chamber, the heated build chamber, and other IP acquired from Stratasys, Ultimaker, and Makerbot. The XL´s accuracy and part dimensional accuracy is key to obtaining the performance it has.
“We see customers making end-use parts or close to real end-use parts with the XL. Functional prototypes, later stages of prototyping and design, tooling, and things close to final products are things we expect to be made with the XL. Anywhere where people need dimensionally accurate components, especially those who need the durability that ABS brings,” Goshen said. “Imagine an engineer on the manufacturing line. She wants to have a dimensionally accurate and durable jig or fixture. She doesn’t want a printer that takes up a lot of space, but needs parts that are quite large. She wants to be able to use it in whatever environment she has. Also, for cases where customers want spare parts, not mass production.¨
The Progress of UltiMaker
It was in May 2022 that Ultimaker and MakerBot shocked the world by announcing a merger of the two competitors. Since then, the resulting company has had a subtle change of brand and released a new Ultimaker-style machine, the UltiMaker S7 mentioned above. Goshen was able to speak to the progress the firm has made since the merger took place.
¨We’re releasing machines under both of our brands, each for different customers and applications. We’re bringing the two companies together with the Makerbot brand focused on education, with hardware and a curriculum for teachers, and Ultimaker focused on the professional,” Nadav said. “The goal for us is to mature the market. We want to grow with the market, towards real applications. Others in the market are selling tools. We see a gap there. A tool doesn’t solve the customer’s problem. Our strategy is to develop different applications and workflows for the professional world. We want to solve for the full stack of problems. This includes the Digital Factory, the digital inventory, the library and many different workflows.¨
As well as the workflow specific-products, Nadav sees many improvements coming to Cura, with his company on the path to developing very robust solutions for more relevant products in a growing market.
The application specific-strategy seems to be a good idea. Companies are now slow to adopt additive and balk at the strange materials and new equipment. Application-specific, well-dialed-in solutions could be key in letting firms adopt 3D printing more quickly. UltiMaker is strong in software; it has an extensive materials library and materials knowledge compared to competitors. Application-specific, workflow-based strategies play to the firm’s established and recognized strengths. If the company can then effectively market directly, with its channel and by itself, then the tactic could be a winning one.
The risk is that, if not sufficiently differentiated, these application-specific offerings will confuse new clients and make the brand more diffuse. UltiMaker will also have to thin out product development efforts, focusing them on various workflows rather than the core product. Tactical sense could, therefore, lead to an overall weaker offering in due time.
Think of the beautiful differentiation done by Nokia before its fall. That firm had a phone for every single group of people and use, but the market didn’t understand this, leading to a confusing brand and shopping experience. Along came a man with a pair of New Balance shoes and a turtleneck pointing to one phone to rule them all and Nokia was wiped out. UltiMaker still has a strong installed base and a lead on those gunning for it. They have time to execute well on this strategy, make mistakes, and still pull out ahead, but the firm will have to keep innovating in its flagship printers to keep its lead.
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