If you recall back in August, we reported on an animal organization called ‘World Animal Protection‘ in the Netherlands. They had teamed with designer Joris van Tubergen to 3D print a life-sized elephant. To do so, they used five Ultimaker 3D printers, which Tubergen had modified in a very unique manner.
Tubergen expanded the z-axis height of each of these Ultimakers to an incredible 2.5 meters so that extremely large pieces of this elephant could be 3D printed at once.
“With a regular 3D printer it takes months to print large objects. By printing with five of these printers simultaneously in high columns, the print time is drastically shortened,” explained Tubergen at the time. “I am also very curious about the result.”
Now, seven months later, Tubergen is making his uniquely modified system of 3D printing available to anyone who owns an Ultimaker 3D printer. He has just launched a Kickstarter campaign for what he rightfully calls the ‘Z-Unlimited’. His innovative track system allows for the Ultimaker’s z-axis to be expanded to an unlimited height, thus allowing you to print objects as large as you want — at least on the z-axis. Check out the video explaining the Z-Unlimited product below.
The way it works, is that it basically flips the Ultimaker or Ultimaker Plus 3D printer upside down, rotating the print head 180 degrees and then adding in a secure wall mounting rail system and an additional build plate. Then the z-motor and end stop of the Ultimaker is switched out with the ones provided by the Z-Unlimited system. It only takes about 10 minutes to completely set up, and can easily be reverted back to the standard setup within minutes as well
One problem that many would suspect could arise with 3D printed objects that can literally be as tall as you want, is that eventually these prints will become so large that they will pop off the print bed under their own weight. However, Tubergen has a solution for that as well, with his unique support system.
“The unique support system works as follows,” explains Tubergen. “The (support) arms can be mounted on any height. Mount the arms on both side[s] while your 3D print is running, exactly on the height your object is at. Take yarn and create a mesh over the object. The plastic melts onto the yarn and secures the object. When the print is ready the yarn is easily pulled out without leaving any marks.”
This system literally means that objects can successfully be 3D printed as high as you want, or at least as high as you are able to construct a rail system for. Quite frankly, this is one of the most simplistic yet innovative add-ons that I have seen come to the desktop 3D printing space yet. People spend thousands of extra dollars in order to purchase 3D printer with large z-axis heights. With Z-Unlimited, in conjunction with an Ultimaker Original or Ultimaker Original Plus 3D printer, there is no need to spend all that extra money for a larger machine.
There are several options offered on Tubergen’s Kickstarter campaign. The Basic Set, which includes the ability to print with a z-axis height of 650mm, utilizing a 1200mm rail, along with 2 support arms, the print-bed and the carriage, is available to early bird backers for just €395 (€495 for later backers). The XXL set allows for printing with a z-axis height of 1850mm, and comes with 4 support arms for an early bird price of €495 (€595 for later backers). The Skyscaper set which allows you to print with an incredible z-axis height of 3050mm, and comes with 6 support arms, is available for just €595 (€695 for later backers).
Backers will also receive easy to install software and a firmware update which allows your Ultimaker to print with these extraordinary heights. Tubergen’s product is remaining open source with a Creative Commons (BY-NC) licence. If all goes as planned and Z-Unlimited is fully funded at their €15,000 goal, early backer rewards will be shipped in July, with all others shipping out in September.
If this can be done for the Ultimaker, there is no doubt that versions of the Z-Unlimited will also likely be created for other FFF-based 3D printers on the market. It should be interesting to see if some sort of trend emerges here.
What do you think of the Z-Unlimited? Will you be backing it? Discuss in the Z-Unlimited forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of Tubergen’s 3D printed elephant below.