Learning How to Use the Ultimaker 2+

As a machine shop, 3D printing is an interesting concept. Most of our work involves removing material. With 3D printing, it’s the exact opposite.

We’ve had the Ultimaker 2+ for a few years, but never really got jobs for it. Most of what we printed were for ourselves, such as accessories for the 3D printer. It sat upstairs collecting dust for quite a while, but now it’s time to start using it again – and this time it’s for customers!

A customer recently came to us asking for a transmission gauge needle. The original, made in the 70’s, was obviously a cast. The shape of this part makes it very expensive to machine, so we thought it was a perfect time to put the 3D printer to use.

Step 1 – Make a solid

Making a solid wasn’t very difficult because we do it all the time. Kurtis, our lead machinist, asked me to get some measurements in the Micro-Vu. Once he had some decent measurements, he went to work making a 3D model of the part using GibbsCAM.

Step 2 – Choose the right material

Whenever starting a new print, it’s important to choose the right material for the job. Some materials are very solid but don’t bend, which can make them brittle. Other materials are soft and bend very easily.

For this job, we chose CPE because the part needed to be able to bend a little bit so that it can clip onto a transmission gauge. We already had white CPE in stock, which was perfect.

Step 3 – Import the solid to Cura

Ultimaker has a neat software called Cura. This software allows you to import the solid and scale it as necessary. It gives you a ton of options for making the 3D print just right. There’s so many options, in fact, that we were a little lost. Cura has been updated a lot since the last time we used the printer and there were a lot of new features we didn’t know about.

Screenshot of Ultimaker Cura at work.  3D Parts can be seen on the left and configuration options on the right.
Ultimaker Cura has many settings

In the picture above, only a few settings are available, but they’re very ni-depth. Fine tuning a program is critical to getting a good print with the Ultimaker 2+.

Step 4 – Export the program

This step is very straight-forward as Cura does all the work for you. In the program above, the estimated runtime was 30 hours! While still prototyping the part, we were only doing one at a time, which took about an hour or two. We made sure to get a few good parts before running the 30-hour program.

Step 5 – Run the part

The Ultimaker 2+ requires a bit of patience when starting a program. First it heats the plate, then it heats the nozzle. Each of which take a couple of minutes. The only problem is that we like to put the glue on the plate after it’s hot. My method was to let the machine heat up and start the part, and then I cancel the print job. While the plate is still hot, I apply the glue (just an elementary school glue stick). After this, I restart the program. Since everything is still hot, it’s all good to go.

Step 6 – Wrap it up

When the print is finished, it’s time to remove the parts from the printer. Initially, removing the parts was a big deal. We were using a razor blade to get the part off the glass (the glue worked really well). Removing one or two parts isn’t bad, but a plate of 25 gets a little time-consuming. Some of the parts were breaking as we’d remove them. Pro tip – the glue isn’t water-resistant! Just remove the plate from the printer and head over to the sink. The glue returns to it’s purple gooey state and the parts come right off! Unfortunately, we didn’t learn this until 2 full prints were done.

25 parts can be seen as they're almost done being printed.
The part with only a couple hours left

It’s definitely been a learning experience, but the Ultimaker 2+ gets the job done. We’ll be much better equipped for the next 3D printing job that comes our way!

Thanks for reading!