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3D printer

By peteruithoven, niekwoo10, grraymond, sjoerdmulder, ghanssen, KoperTin. Last update on 6 jun 2017.

The FabLab owns an Ultimaker Original. You can use it to print 3D-structures out of different plastics, primarily PLA. It has a build volume of 210 x 210 x 205 mm

Important links


The Ultimaker is a build it yourself open-source 3D printer, a machine that allows you to build a shape layer-by-layer. It's comparable to a glue gun. While it moves, it gently extrudes glue. In stead of glue, the Ultimaker uses plastic, PLA to be precise. The plastic goes in like a plastic wire. The extruder pulls this wire and heats it. It comes out of the bottom as a very thin line. By moving this extruder head very gently along three axis, you can print an object.

The Ultimaker was invented by Erik, Martijn and Siert at the Protospace Utrecht. It's based on an earlier open-source project called the RepRap. There are many more DIY 3D printers, most of them are sold as seperate parts that you put together yourself. The one in the FabLab was built during a class at Protospace.

The process of 3D printing with the Ultimaker can be divided into three seperate parts:

  1. Design: making a drawing or downloading one from the internet.
  2. Converting: converting the drawing to a format the Ultimaker understands.
  3. Printing: The computer sends the converted drawing to the Ultimaker which prints it out.

1. Design

If you have little to no experience with 3D drawing on the computer, it might be sensible to download some drawings to study first, from websites like Thingiverse or Youmagine. Look for designs meant for 3D printing. When you've found something interesting, download the .STL file.

If you do want to design yourself, choose the right software to do it with. Good options are Blender and OpenSCAD. These are free and open-source 3D drawing packages. They're already installed on computers in the FabLab but you could also easily download and install it to your own computer. There are some other (paid/commercial) designing programs like 3DS Max and Maya. In theory, you could use every program you'd like that can export to an .STL file. Look at the software page for more information.

Extruding 2D to 3D

2. Converting

Please check the Cura manual for more and up to date info.

The STL file is a very simple file format in which a 3D drawing is sliced into little triangles that are connected to eachother. Despite the fact that it's simple the ultimaker has no idea what to do with it. It wants even simpler files with commands like 'Move x mm' to the right. These commands look like this: G1 X32.57 Y-0.2 E59.623. G1 stands for 'move'. X for the x-axis, Y for the y-axis and E for extrude.

The steps for converting is as follows:

  1. Download Cura
  2. Install: Make sure you choose the Ultimaker Original (press OK or Skip when possible, don't change any settings).
  3. Start Cura
  4. Use the Load model option to load your 3D model. If all goes well, you should see a preview of you drawing.
  5. Make sure your model has the right dimensions and lies well on the bottom. If not, you can scale, rotate or move it in Cura.
  6. Adjust to the right settings. The best information about these settings are in the tooltips. More info: Cura manual, Guide to better prints, Best printing practices.
  7. When all of the settings are right, you can convert your model to instructions for the printer. This is done with the Prepare Print button.

Cura tips
Tools > Switch to full settings enable you to adjust more settings, for beter or quicker printing.
In the top-right corner of the screen, you can see a button which is called 'view mode'. With View Mode you can see if there are risky area's in your 3d model (for example, the view setting 'Overhang').

You can extend Cura with plugins

3. Printing

Now that your drawing has been converted to a language the Ultimaker understands it's time to get printing.

Please check the Ultimaker Original manual for more and up to date info.

Follow these steps:

  1. Put the generated .gcode file on an SD card
  2. Check if the ultimaker's power supply is in the wall outlet
  3. Use the panel to navigate to the Card menu and select your design

4. Replacing printing material

If you are out of plastic or if you want to switch to another color, you can replace the material on the back of the Ultimater. Make sure the printer is heated, so that the plastic can easily be removed from the printer.
Check Installing filament and the spoolholder in Ultimaker Original manual.
The process of replacing the material in 7 steps:
  1. On the back, find the small lever
  2. Rotate it upwards, so that it's in a vertical postion

  3. Pull it upwards

  4. Pull out the panel

  5. Remove the plastic
  6. Insert the new plastic
  7. Reverse steps 4 - 1

More information and links