Theis our winter 2018 pick for the "Best Dual Extruder 3D Printer". Check out our Ultimaker S5 review to find out why it is an excellent multi-material machine for small businesses.
Founded in 2011, the Dutch 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker has solidified itself as a pioneer in the open source 3D printing community. With a highly praised range of professional-grade 3D printers and one of the most popular 3D printing slicers in Cura, there’s no doubt that Ultimaker is one of the most influential players in the desktop 3D printing market.
In 2016, the company released the Ultimaker 3, a groundbreaking dual extrusion 3D printer that many still consider as the best professional machine that money can buy. Back in April, during the manufacturing technology trade show Hannover Messe 2018, Ultimaker unveiled the new Ultimaker S5 3D printer, a bigger and better model that would replace the beloved Ultimaker 3.
The company has recently started shipping its new machine to its first customers, so you can understand our excitement when a large Ultimaker-branded package arrived at the All3DP office. After cracking open the cardboard box, we were greeted with a sizable and sleek Ultimaker S5 3D printer. Here’s what we thought about it.
Let’s not beat around the bush; the Ultimaker S5 is definitely on the more expensive side of the desktop 3D printing spectrum. But don’t get it twisted; this machine is not for the novice or faint of heart. If you’re a designer, engineer, small business, or even a prosumer with some extra money to spend, the Ultimaker S5 is the ultimate piece of hardware.
What we noticed right off the bat with the S5 was the incredible print quality, intuitive guidance from print setup to part removal, and of course, the larger-than-life build volume. All of these factors make the Ultimaker S5 a worthy replacement for the highly coveted Ultimaker 3.
The Dutch manufacturer seems to have improved upon its previous model, and its range of open-source products have now taken an enormous step toward the professional, high-end market.
As with everything in life, the Ultimaker S5 is not quite perfect. Aside from the daunting $5,995 price tag, the printer is also relatively slow – both in setup and printing – and there are a few kinks to work out between Cura Connect and the hardware itself. However, these disadvantages are completely eclipsed by the S5’s ability to print with pristine quality.
We found that, whether it was a small or large print, the Ultimaker S5 passed with flying colors. The Ultimaker Tough PLA and the PVA support material included with the printer worked like a charm, producing a variety of objects with impeccable surface quality and complex geometries.
When we started printing with non-Ultimaker materials, our results were a bit mixed. We struggled to get a decent print with NinjaFlex, for instance, but that seems to be attributed to nozzle clogging issues. With PLA and other exotic filaments, like Wood filament, the Ultimaker S5 succeeded for the most part.
From our initial testing, we found the Ultimaker S5 to be exceptionally capable of multi-material printing, but not necessarily multi-color. When attempting to print with two different colored PLA filaments, the print quality had taken a slight, but noticeable dip. In fact, the 3D printer actually warned us that the Print Core BB was not designed for generic PLA.
Aside from those issues, the Ultimaker S5 was masterful with PLA and PVA, and even created one of the most impressive prints we’ve had a long while (check out our “Printing” section to learn more). The touchscreen interface and remote printing via Cura make it unbelievably easy to start and monitor print jobs.
Despite the hefty price tag, it’s abundantly clear that Ultimaker is not marketing the S5 towards consumers or makers on a budget. This 3D printer is designed for professionals, designers, small businesses, anyone looking for a machine that is reliable, efficient, intuitive, and most importantly, can produce a damn fine functional prototype or part.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of our hands-on experience with the Ultimaker S5, let’s briefly look over the various features and improvements that this new machine boasts.
The most compelling feature of the Ultimaker S5 is the 330 x 240 x 300 mm build volume, which is quite sizable compared to the 215 x 215 x 200 mm print area of the Ultimaker 3. The new 3D printer also includes dual extrusion capabilities, as well as an improved feeder system with a filament flow sensor that automatically pauses prints when filament runs out.
Not only does the Ultimaker S5 boast a generous build volume, it’s also been engineered to make the 3D printing process as reliable, efficient, and intuitive as possible. Using swappable print cores, the Ultimaker S5 is extremely versatile and effortless to use and maintain. Whether you’re seeking to print with speed or ultra-fine detail, the different nozzle sizes will allow you to achieve your prototyping and production goals.
The Ultimaker S5 will utilize two interchangeable build plates; a glass bed for general use and an ultra-flat anodized aluminum bed for advanced engineering materials, such as ABS and PC. Each build plate easily clips into place on top of an extra-stiff cast aluminum heated platform.
According to Ultimaker, this new ultra-flat anodized aluminum bed will be released in Fall 2018. Ultimaker has also integrated a full-color touchscreen display onto the front of the printer, allowing even the most novice user to seamlessly swipe through and adjust various settings.
With a Bowden extrusion system, the print head of the Ultimaker S5 is ultra-light, making the printing process exceptionally fast. The extruder is designed with a tight filament path that makes it easier to print with flexible materials like TPU. An extra-hard coating is added to prevent long-term wear on the tool steel feeder gear. Ultimaker has also redesigned the silicone nozzle cover for more consistent airflow and efficient material throughput.
The new built-in filament flow sensor is able to detect when material stops moving or the spool is running low, prompting the Ultimaker S5 to automatically pause and alert the user.
At the same time that Ultimaker announced the Ultimaker S5 3D printer, the company also pulled back the curtain to reveal its new Ultimaker Tough PLA.
Ultimaker Tough PLA is a technical material that is optimized for larger-scale prints, particularly functional prototypes, as well as tooling and manufacturing aids. Compared to Ultimaker ABS, the advanced PLA offers similar impact strength and even higher stiffness. We were happy to receive a spool of this new material packaged alongside our Ultimaker S5, and was the initial material we used to test the hardware.
Eager to get printing on our Ultimaker S5, we wasted no time tearing open the packaging and setting up our latest machine. This 3D printer comes tightly packed with protective foam and is pretty much ready to print straight out of the box.
Aside from the sleek, boxy Ultimaker S5, the packaging also comes with a large collection of accessories and replacement parts. Upon opening the box containing the Ultimaker S5, here’s what we found packaged alongside the 3D printer:
The Ultimaker S5 can be considered as a plug-and-play 3D printer, but there are a few preliminary steps to take before we got the machine up and running. Thankfully, these instructions are depicted on a compact “Quick Start Guide” that spans a single page (front and back).
Broken down into five sections, the Quick Start Guide begins with directions on how to properly remove the 3D printer from the highly protective packaging. Next, it shares images and descriptions on how to complete the assembly. First, we had to install the Bowden tubes by securing them with the removable clamp clips.
The spool holder also needs to be mounted onto the back of Ultimaker S5, which is designed to snap right into place. However, this part of the process wasn’t as easy as advertised since the spool holder was packaged in different pieces. Once snapped in, the spool holder cable must be connected into the NFC socket, allowing the filament to be detected.
The final step is to slide the glass plate into place, which is made easy thanks to the movable front build plate clamps. After this is done, all that’s left is to connect the power cable and power this baby up.
Once the Ultimaker S5 is up and running, the touchscreen leads you through the rest of the setup process. This includes selecting your language of choice, confirming that the glass build plate is properly mounted, inserting the second print core (only the first comes pre-installed), loading the print materials, setting up network connection and updating firmware (if necessary).
The final two steps in the Quick Start focus on starting a print via Ultimaker Cura and finishing a print once it’s complete. We’ll focus more on these topics in the following sections.
The Ultimaker S5 shares a similar design to the 3D printer’s that came before it. Like the Ultimaker 3, it takes on the appearance of a sleek box-shaped machine, branded with its iconic robot mascot on each side of the enclosure.
However, with the S5, the Ultimaker team decided to implement a change that most 3D printer manufacturers have mostly ignored up to this point. While a majority of new 3D printers on the market are expanding the Z-axis, the Ultimaker S5 is focused on providing more width to print on the X-axis.
Like the Ultimaker 3 Extended, the S5 is capable of printing objects as high as 300 mm. However, the width of the build platform has increased from 200 mm to 330 mm. This allows users to put more parts on a single print area or even to produce large-scale models with more width.
One area the Ultimaker seems to consistently beat out the competition is with its overall product design, which is almost akin to an Apple product. They’ve succeeded once again with the Ultimaker S5.
The interior of the machine is well lit, allowing both your eyes and the built-in camera to capture every aspect of the print process. In fact, every design feature implemented in the Ultimaker S5 is done with convenience and user-friendliness in mind.
For instance, the removable glass bed can be easily taken out of the printer for part removal and cleaning. The filament feeding system is controlled on the touchscreen interface and allows for quick material loading or unloading. With the filament spool mounted on the very back of the printer, the material stays out of the Ultimaker S5’s sight.
All in all, the design provides a clean and minimalistic look to the Ultimaker S5. It looks like hardware that belongs in the professional office setting and should be proudly displayed for all visitors to see.
Ultimaker has one of the most recognizable and refined 3D printer design on the market, and they continue to hit the mark with the Ultimaker S5. This 3D printer is the biggest and boldest to join the Dutch company’s product range, but it still retains that classic Ultimaker aesthetic.
As per usual, we kicked off our Ultimaker S5 review process with the one and only 3DBenchy, a popular torture test typically used to judge the quality of a printer and its settings. Although we have two nozzles to work with, we decided to keep things simple on this initial test.
The Ultimaker S5 is capable of printing at a 0.1mm layer height, and so we wanted to print our little boat in the finest resolution as possible. Of course, by selecting this low layer height, the print time nearly doubled compared to the standard 0.2mm layer height. But once this three-hour Benchy was finally finished, the difference in quality was immediately evident.
Printed in Ultimaker Tough PLA, our first print had an incredible surface quality, you could barely see the layering on the hull of the ship. There was some struggling with the overhangs toward the top of the boat, but for our very first print, we were altogether satisfied with the result.
But we couldn’t really judge the ability of the Ultimaker S5 without utilizing both nozzles. And so, we loaded up the PVA in our second nozzle and set out to find a model that required supports. The next print we settled on was a D&D Miniature by 3D-Mon, which is a wargame model that has a ton of detail, from the sheathed sword the flow of the warrior’s clothing.
Although it seems like SLA 3D printing would be better suited to tackle the complexity of this design, we thought it would be a perfect way to test the S5’s multi-material mechanism and layer resolution. The resulting print was blanketed in PVA support, and so we left it in a tub of water overnight.
The next morning, we returned to the office to find an impeccable D&D model floating in the water. After the PVA had shed away, we examined the 3D print with surprise. Using 0.1mm layer height once again, we found the warrior to be nearly flawless. Every detail is beautifully pronounced, and the surface quality was jaw-dropping, to say the least. There was still some PVA guck leftover on the model, but a simple wipe or two was sufficient enough to remove it.
So far so good, but we hadn’t really utilized the large build volume of the Ultimaker S5 just yet. The next model we selected was the complex “To Make or not to Make” Human Skull by LeFabShop.
This was yet another model that would be impossible to print without supports. Switching now to a 0.2mm layer height, this skull still came out with pristine detail. In fact, this was probably the most impressive prints we’ve achieved on the Ultimaker S5.
The printer does a miraculous job laying down PVA support around the main model, and once we washed the material away, we were left with an incredibly realistic human skull model. Even at the hard-to-print sections of the model, such as the jaw area, the finished model had no stringing or questionable overhangs.
After we finished our first batch of prints with the Tough PLA and PVA material, we wanted to try and experiment with multi-color printing. Unfortunately, the Ultimaker S5 seems less adept for this task than it is with multi-material printing. We loaded up two different colored PLA filaments from Filamentum and attempted to print the 2-Color Tree Frog from Nervous System.
Now, this particular print has quite the complex design, with twisting lines weaving throughout the amphibian’s body. Although the Ultimaker S5 was able to complete this print without much issue, the resulting object contained a hefty amount of stringing and surface quality problems.
The quality of this print was a bit of a disappointment, but seeing as this professional 3D printer will likely to be used to produce support-laden and complex prototypes more often than colorful tree frogs, it wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker.
Alas, we’re planning to continue our testing on the Ultimaker S5, and will update you with more information as we experiment with different materials and models. Thus far, we’ve found that the printer is exceptional when it comes to PLA and PVA prints, but is less effective with multi-color printing.
A major benefit to using an Ultimaker 3D printer is the compatibility it has with Ultimaker Cura. The Ultimaker S5 is certainly no exception to this advantage. In fact, this machine is fully optimized to work with the popular 3D printing slicer and Cura Connect, a complementary platform designed for 3D printer management.
By setting up the network setting at the start of our review, we were able to print on the Ultimaker S5 using wireless connectivity. Not only can you prepare a 3D model and printing settings and sent it over the network, users can also watch the print via live stream, prepare a queue for multiple print jobs, and even receive the exact time when the print will be completed.
All in all, the 3D printing experience was definitely enhanced and simplified by the Cura compatibility. The latest version of the slicing software fully supports the Ultimaker S5, making it easy to adjust settings and manage the 3D printer.
There were just a few bugs we experienced. For example, the camera would sometimes freeze or go black while we were monitoring a print. Other than that, the process of using Cura to control the Ultimaker S5 went swimmingly, showcasing yet another selling point on Ultimaker’s professional 3D printing ecosystem.
Around the same time when the Ultimaker S5 was first unveiled, the 3D printer manufacturer also released the new Ultimaker App, allowing users to remotely monitor and stay updated on their printing progress. This mobile phone and tablet app will notify Ultimaker users when their print job is ready or when the 3D printer requires special attention of maintenance.
The Ultimaker S5 3D printer is currently available through a handful of resellers, such as Matterhackers. According to Ultimaker, the new machine is currently available through the company’s global partner network.
Priced at $5,995, the Ultimaker S5 is an expensive, yet extremely versatile and high-performance 3D printer designed for professionals and small-to-medium businesses.
License: The text of "2018 Ultimaker S5 Review – Best Dual Extruder 3D Printer" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Subscribe to updates from All3DP
You are subscribed to updates from All3DP
You can’t subscribe to updates from All3DP. Learn more…