When Ultimaker started shipping its frst fused flament fabrication (FFF) printers in 2011, it was merely test- ing the waters in a fooded market of hundreds of 3D
printing companies. As the boxy Ultimaker concept matured,
the target user of the inexpensive printers was innovating in
fab labs or learning the basics in a college or high school.
That all changed with the Ultimaker 2+ in 2016, which
proved ready for prime-time industrial use, adding swappable
nozzles to increase speed or fne tune detail, upgraded feeder
to prevent print skipping and better airfow directed by fan-caps to create smoother prints. All this led to a more reliable
print, and if there’s one thing you need in manufacturing, it’s
that. By the end of the year, the dual extrusion Ultimaker 3
arrived, pushing the amount of geometric options to limits
passed even the most creative design engineer’s imagination. Automated protocols made operation easy for anyone,
and Wi-Fi connectivity made it possible to communicate with
We’ve described how companies such as Jabil use several
of these printers, which start at a few thousand dollars, to
quickly create prototypes piecemeal in less time than a large,
expensive 3D printer takes. In the last couple of years, some
manufacturers, including the long-sought after automotive
industry, recently began having success with a few end use
parts, giving hope that additive manufacturing will have more
than a tangential spot on the factory foor.
With the bigger S5, released in April, that position may be
front and center. The $6,000 3D printer scales up and adds
on to features that made the Ultimaker 3 already popular in
the carmaking sector. First off, it expands the build volume
from 215 x 215 x 200 mm to 330 x 240 x 300 mm. The dual
extrusion printer also offers swappable print cores for the
various robust materials, from Nylon to PVA to Tough PLA.
The printer also scans the build plate and immediately compensates for surface deviations, and a flament fow sensor
knows if the material is about to run out, pausing the print so
you can load more in.
Adding these new features, and improving on the user-friend-ly operation should increase the effciencies in time and money
delivered by the Ultimaker 3.
“In 2017, we estimated that we avoid around €325,000
($377,000) of costs by 3D printing multiple tool and fxtures with
Ultimaker 3D printers,” says Luis Reis, pilot plant engineer at
Volkswagen’s Portugal plant, where Ultimaker 3’s were primarily
used. “The enhanced feeder on the Ultimaker S5, designed
to print with advanced technical plastics such as composite
materials, allows us to print reliably with an even wider range
of industrial-grade materials, which is a great beneft for us.”
The printed fxtures were used to line up bolts to the wheel assemblies. They would often break or get lost, slowing production.
“It used to be if they wanted one of these parts, it would cost
$200 to get the part, and it would take a couple of weeks,”
says John Kawola, Ultimaker’s North American president.
“Now they can print it in a couple hours and cost $20.”
Renault and Ford have also used the previous printers
with success, and plan to bring the S5 in, which allows for
bigger components, such as exhaust manifold assemblies
and disk brakes.
Ultimaker used Bureau of Labor stats and automotive
revenue data to calculate that $420,706 is spent a minute
in car manufacturing. The savings shown by Volkswagen in
that one plant, which produces 100,000 cars a year, are not
just about money, but saving those minutes.
“If a company is a month late to launching their new car,
that’s a month’s worth of revenue,” Kawola says. “People
say, ‘Oh you’ll get it back.’ You don’t get it back.”
Kawola clarifes that moving 3d printers alone from the
“carpet to the concrete,” or offce environment to the factory
foor, won’t singlehandedly prevent a severe product delay,
but “you take all these productivity tools and collectively they
can make a huge impact,” he says.
And that’s why the S5 may represent a real-deal infection
point for the industry. It’s easy to use because of a helpful
touchscreen and a design process facilitated by the Cura
software, so you don’t need to be an experienced engineer
to use it. The people who see the problem frst hand can do
it on the spot.
“The fact that the Ultimaker S5 is even more intuitive and
delivers a perfect frst layer for every print means we spend
hardly any time setting up and checking on the 3D printers,”
says Rodrigues Dimitri, 3D Print Driver at Renault. “This frees
up our team more time to fully focus on the creation of new
innovations that help to improve and speed up our engine
For the full article, visit:
Super-sized 3D Printer Paves Road for
Factory Floor Use
The Ultimaker S5 improves on its already successful predecessors, enough to
provide the auto industry with the quick part fabrication to keep production moving.
by John Hitch
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