Ultimaker Releases Larger, More Automated S5 3D Printer

Engineering.com speaks to President of Ultimaker North America John Kawola about the company’s new S5 3D printer.

Just 18 months after the release of the Ultimaker 3, the Dutch 3D printer manufacturer has released a bigger and even more automated system that the company hopes further cements Ultimaker 3D printers in the professional space. To learn more about the new Ultimaker S5, engineering.com spoke to president of Ultimaker North America, John Kawola.

The Ultimaker S5 3D Printer

When we last spoke to Kawola, the company was prepping the release of the Ultimaker 3, the first entirely new machine from Ultimaker in years. The printer included a number of features that users had been demanding for sometime, including dual extrusion and automated bed leveling. According to Kawola, the S5 builds off of the Ultimaker 3 in a number of ways.

The Ultimaker S5 situated between two Ultimaker 3 3D printers. (Image courtesy of Ultimaker.)

The Ultimaker S5 situated between two Ultimaker 3 3D printers. (Image courtesy of Ultimaker.)

“The Ultimaker 3 was a big step forward,” Kawola said. “The Ultimaker S5 is just another step in that progression. It’s significantly larger than the Ultimaker 3. It has a number of different features in terms of the active bed leveling, a filament flow sensor, a front enclosed environment, and some advancements in software that we believe takes the S5 to the next level.”

The S5 has a robust build volume of 330mm x 240mm x 300mm, which is more than twice the size of its predecessor’s 215mm x 215mm x 200mm envelope. It maintains dual extrusion, active bed leveling and an RFID chip reader, meant to automatically detect Ultimaker-brand filaments and adjust print settings accordingly.

New features include a filament flow sensor that auto pauses and restarts when materials run out. The bed leveling has actually been “overhauled,” according to the company, so that it can probe more points on the print platform, create a more detailed height map of the bed, and compensate for any unevenness.

While tighter filament feeding makes it possible to print more effectively with soft materials like TPU, an improved feeder system uses a feeder gear made from tool steel, allowing much tougher materials to be used reliably by the system. This includes engineering-grade materials like polypropylene, polycarbonate, copolyester and the company’s new Tough PLA.

“In a lot of ways, PLA became the standard for desktop 3D printing, and it’s still the material that the majority of desktop 3D printing users, including our installed base, turn to. For lots of applications, PLA makes a great looking part. It’s easy to print with; your success at printing a great part is high,” Kawola said. “The shortcoming of PLA is that it doesn’t have the engineering properties that other engineering materials like ABS have. ABS is a little more finnicky and harder to get good results from with a desktop 3D printer, which isn’t enclosed and calibrated the way an industrial 3D printer would be. The intent with Tough PLA is to try to get the best of both worlds—the ease of use and printing and high quality of appearance that you get with PLA—but with some of the engineering properties that come with ABS.”

The S5 with parts made with Tough PLA. (Image courtesy of Ultimaker.)

The S5 with parts made with Tough PLA. (Image courtesy of Ultimaker.)

To better handle these materials, the S5 also has a closed front system that will improve temperature control. A silicone nozzle cover is meant to ensure consistent print head airflow, as well. From fall 2018, the S5 will also have an anodized aluminum build plate, which should help ensure quality material adhesion. To further improve material handling, Cura has been prepped with 200 material profiles that have been tested by the materials team.

The full-color touchscreen on the S5. (Image courtesy of Ultimaker.)

The full-color touchscreen on the S5. (Image courtesy of Ultimaker.)

Other features of the system include a full-color touchscreen and built-in Wi-Fi and LAN. These, along with a new Android and iOS app for monitoring prints remotely, are meant to improve the overall user experience.

The S5 will be available for purchase for $5,995 starting May 15.

From Hobbyist to Professional 3D Printing

Kawola explained that the Ultimaker 3 was the company’s big step toward professional 3D printing, with the S5 meant to take that progression further. Whereas the Ultimaker 2 was popular among 3D printing enthusiasts, both the market and the company have since been transitioning toward professional applications.

“It’s a feedback loop that continues to swirl around,” Kawola said.“Our first iteration of printers, the Ultimaker 2 and Ultimaker 2+, were pretty good. Then the market would ask for things like more materials and consistency and accuracy. We saw that there was a real opportunity there and guided our product development accordingly. The market has, in a lot of ways, pulled companies like Ultimaker into the professional space.”

For this reason, companies like Volkswagen Autoeuropa and Jabil have employed the company’s technology for use in industrial applications, particularly for fabricating jigs, fixtures and other manufacturing tools.

“Forward leaning companies like Volkswagen and Jabil had a hope and suspicion that the quality and consistency that would come off of a desktop printer like Ultimaker would suit their needs. They weren’t sure. The cost of trying was low, so they got one to try it,” Kawola said. “The payoff being that the cost is low. If they try and it works to meet their needs, it’s going to be much less expensive than they would otherwise do it today.”

With industrial customers specifying demands that guided product development, Kawola was able to nail down a few important criteria that distinguishes professional 3D printers from hobbyist machines. They include quality and reliability, automation features, and the ability to use engineering-grade materials.

The latest result is the S5. To learn more about the new printer, visit the Ultimaker blog.