Review: Ultimaker 2 Go

Introduction and design

Ultimaker has built its name on solidly designed 3D printers, competent software and a print quality that is still unrivalled at this consumer level. The Ultimaker 2 was the model which showed that Ultimaker was a serious contender in the 3D printing market, with a machine that was more consumer-friendly in its design and broke away from the build-it-yourself market where the company originated. Now Ultimaker is one of the forerunners in the competitive 3D printer market.

Following on from the success of the Ultimaker 2 the firm has released two new models, the Extended and Go. The Extended is a taller version of the printer enabling much larger prints, and the Go is a smaller more convenient model. Despite the changes in size the mechanics of these machines are near identical to the original Ultimaker 2, and these similarities are reflected in the looks, styling and software.

This is a small 3D printer, but a fairly heavy device still

The Ultimaker 2 Go hits the market as the entry-level machine yet still retails at a hefty £1079 ($1450 over in the US, which is around AU$2010). This seems a high price to pay when you now have the XYZprinting Junior at less than £400 ($400 Stateside, which is around AU$560) and the Lulzbot Mini at £1025 ($1250, which is around AU$1740).

Of course what you’re paying for is the Ultimaker print quality which despite the reduction in size and lack of heated bed, is essentially still the same as its larger siblings.

There's nothing small about the price tag, either

Design

The Ultimaker 2 Go might be compact but it certainly packs some weight. Without the filament loaded the machine weighs in at a massive 14kg yet only measures 258 x 520 x 287.5mm. This weight is both a good and a bad thing – bad if you need to lug it up and down several flights of stairs, but good when it comes to printing, because that added weight helps to stop the machine from wobbling during the print process (and wobble can be a major factor in the quality of your prints).

The print bed measures 120 x 120 x 115mm

The weight comes from the quality of the build, which uses the same tough outer material as the Ultimaker 2, and in every way the construction of the printer is solid.

The Ultimaker series all use a Bowden Fed hotend with the filament being fed from the backend. Joining the filament on the back is the on/off switch and a USB port for firmware upgrades rather than tethered printing.

Some kind of carrying handles on the side wouldn't have gone amiss

The design for the Ultimaker is tried and tested, and it works well for the two larger models, but here with the Go, as the name suggests, you feel that the small size should enable it to be carried easily, so some type of handle integration or grip would have been a worthwhile design addition. Unfortunately there is nothing like that here, and even the Lulzbot Mini has a small grip under the top of the frame to make it easy to carry. Instead the design really is just a shrunken Ultimaker 2.

Aside from size the other big difference is the print bed which unlike the rest of the range is unheated – this does limit the materials that you can use. However being restricted to PLA and other filaments that don’t require a heated base is really not a bad thing. The new print bed measures 120 x 120 x 115mm, so it’s small but still very usable. The design of the clips for the base remains the same, and while these hold the plate glass securely they can also be very dangerous to fingers.

You're restricted to PLA and other filaments that don't require a heated bed

Print models are loaded onto an SD card through the Cura software (the Ultimaker series isn’t locked to this application so you can use other software such as Slicer if you feel the need).

The Go is the smallest of the Ultimaker series and its small footprint fits nicely onto a work surface. It certainly isn’t as dominating as many other printers which is a big plus point.

Setup and printing

Getting started

There is very little in the setup process that would trouble the first-time 3D printer user. Once the packaging is removed and the plug inserted in the mains the printer is ready for the filament. To load the filament there is a small amount of assembly needed but this is restricted to popping the filament reel holder into the back of the machine and then popping the filament roll onto it.

Loading the filament is a simple enough task

The loading process with the Bowden system is relatively straightforward – you select the material through the menu and follow the instructions (note that it’s worth just smoothing off the filament end before inserting as a jagged end can sometimes get caught).

Once the machine is prepped it’s worth printing one of the models pre-installed on the machine’s SD card just to ensure that everything is working as it should be.

Prior to printing a bit of Pritt Stick or similar stick glue needs to be applied to the print bed – this is more essential with the Go than other Ultimakers due to the cold rather than heated bed.

The Ultimaker 2 Go offers high quality prints

Our test printed out well and at a very high quality. However, if over time the bed does require calibration there is a built-in calibration process that guides you through the steps required. This involves a piece of paper and adjusting the screws under the base and is again simple enough to complete.

As the print bed doesn’t heat you’re ready to remove the print seconds after the printing process has completed. As always you can have a fight on your hands if there’s a large surface area for the base of your model.

Printing

Cura is the software used to prepare and transfer 3D models from the computer to the printer, and it’s also maintained by Ultimaker. The process of loading and scaling models really couldn’t be simpler. If the model is the correct size then it will appear as yellow, if not it will appear grey and require a rescale. Cura also has several other options for quickly checking layers and overhangs which it highlights red if it thinks there’s likely to be an issue.

Some aspects of the design aren't ideal, and things are a bit cramped in places

Cura also enables you to adjust print settings either manually or there are four different automatic print quality settings. The difference between these modes is quite substantial and you can see the slower prints produce a much higher quality print.

After you become familiar with the modelling process these different quick settings are exceptionally useful enabling you to create a quick print to check that everything is working as it should, and then the normal print will usually suffice for most other common prints.

A really nice feature of the software is that you can select one of the automatic print quality settings and then switch to the advanced mode which gives you the option to carry over the auto settings and adjust as you see fit.

Once you’ve scaled your model in Cura and it’s all ready for printing, the SD card (that comes supplied with the printer) can be inserted into your computer, at which point the SD card symbol will appear in the top row of icons. Once clicked it will then copy the G-Code files required for printing.

The LCD and dial used to select options

Now the card can be ejected from the computer and inserted into the Ultimaker 2 Go. The model is then selected from the Print menu using the dial, again a simple process.

The time it took to print varied greatly depending on the model in question and was almost identical in time to the Ultimaker 2 – a normal quality printed bracket measuring 40 x 30 x 20mm took just under two hours.

Setting print quality to the highest setting of 20 micron is excellent and although you can see layering with matt PLA, with a bit of a clean-up to remove any strands of plastic the prints using the provided Silver PLA really needed little attention and looked good. The normal setting selected in Cura balanced print quality and speed well, but we found that with the latest Cura update the lowest quality setting required the print speed to be reduced by 50 in order to get a usable print.

There’s much to be said for the quality of parts used in the Ultimaker 2 Go as the noise generated by the machine is exceptionally low, especially compared with the XYZprinting Da Vinci.

Verdict

We liked

There’s so much to like about the Ultimaker 2 Go – the size is ideal and it’s the first 3D printer that actually sits neatly on the same desk we’re working at. The Cura software is quick and easy to use and the print quality and reliability of prints is exceptional.

The fact that the printer doesn’t have a heated bed initially seemed like a real issue restricting the types of filament that can be used, but purchasing some of ColorFabb’s PLA filament proved that exceptional fine quality prints can be achieved with materials other than ABS.

The standalone design makes sense and the SD card and LCD dial navigation system makes finding your way around the printer to print or adjust settings exceptionally easy. This convenience and small size really does make this a great choice for home use.

We disliked

The reduced size of the Ultimaker 2 Go is beneficial and if you’re buying this printer then you’ll be well aware of the restrictions on materials and the size of prints that you can produce. The heated bed could be seen as an issue but realistically the choice of PLA filament now on the market provides exceptional quality and options.

The downside however is that this Go variant is just a reduced scale Ultimaker 2 and this causes a few minor issues. Round the back the Bowden feed, power cable and filament are all squashed in and during the test there were a couple of occasions where the filament was jammed by either the power cable or electronics that run alongside the Bowden feed tube.

The other major issue for us was that we wanted the Go to be portable. While it’s small it is also weighty and slightly awkward to lift and manoeuvre easily, and crafting two hand holds in the side would have really helped finish off the design of this printer nicely.

Final verdict

The Ultimaker 2 Go follows in the footsteps of the larger Ultimaker 2. It is in essence the same machine just on a smaller scale, so print quality-wise it is evenly matched. For modellers, jewellers and hobbyists who need high quality on a small scale this printer is exceptional.

However, the scaling down of the design has caused a few minor issues due to the cramped nature of the positioning of filament and cables behind the printer. Our biggest issue is that of portability, as the name Go suggests you can easily shift this device around and print anywhere, but the simple fact is that the box design just doesn’t lend itself to easy transportation.

The bottom line is that the Ultimaker 2 Go will enable you to print fine quality models that are hard to match when compared with other consumer-level printers. For that quality, however, you are going to pay a premium.


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