I had a chat with Ultimaker representatives to find out more about their mysterious new product, the S5 Pro Bundle.
To some this product seems a bit confusing, but the company has a definite marketing strategy for the Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle that we talked about earlier. As we explained in that article, Ultimaker has a rather sophisticated marketing approach to the enterprise that is reflected in the features of this product.
Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle Hardware
But let’s talk more about the S5 Pro Bundle itself, as it has some interesting characteristics that I did not realize until speaking directly with company representatives.
While the S5 “inside” the bundle is the same S5 we’ve come to know over the past year, there are two additional add-ons that make the bundle active.
Ultimaker Air Manager
The first element is the most visible, the Air Manager. This is the clear “lid” on the top of the S5, but it’s not just a lid. You’ll notice an unusually large component within the Air Manager, and this device is used to moderate the air quality.
What Ultimaker is doing here is a bit different from what you think.
3D Printer Enclosures and Heated Build Plates
Enclosures are considered important for 3D printers because the thermal conditions encountered during extrusion are critical to the print quality.
Ambient air temperature, for example, might be substantially different from the nozzle and build plate temperatures, providing plenty of opportunity for warping to occur. This is one reason 3D printers started to include heated build plates.
The problem with heated build plates is that the desired temperature occurs only near the build plate, and not the rest of the print. This is exacerbated by tall 3D models. The general solution is to simply enclose the entire build chamber in some manner, and thus attempt to capture the heat generated by the build plate. This improves the situation somewhat, as the general temperatures within the enclosure are higher.
Intelligent Air Management
The problem is that they are uneven. They can even be too hot in some cases. Some systems include fans to blow out hot air in case that happens, but generally these are relatively crude solutions.
Ultimaker’s Air Manager turns out to be much more sophisticated. Rather than simply capturing heat, it actually maintains an ongoing air flow through the build chamber — while at the same time maintaining the proper build chamber ambient temperature.
The goal is to maintain standardized air quality, and that’s exactly what the Air Manager does. This essentially ensures the proper chamber temperature regardless of the room’s ambient air temperature — within reason, of course. In fact, the Air Manager can be programmed to assume the correct temperature for the material — it’s smart!
Ultimaker Air Safety
However, you might wonder what happens to all the nanoparticles generated by the new and upcoming engineering materials intended to be printed on this device. Will they be simply blown out by the Air Manager’s constant flow in to a room where you will breathe them in?
No, it turns out that Ultimaker spent considerable time examining the research on ultrafine particles generated by 3D printers, and have included appropriate filtration into the Air Manager to ensure safe air is blown through.
Ultimaker Material Station
Meanwhile, the other component to the bundle is the Material Station, which fits neatly underneath the S5 itself. This obviously holds up to six spools of material and, like the Air Manager, it is also “smart”.
The device can automatically load material into the S5. Heh, you don’t even have to sharpen the filament tip like you do on so many other 3D printers. It has motors to push the filament all the way up the two tubes to the two Bowden extruders on the S5, which take over and pull when the filament arrives.
The interesting part is that the Material Station can switch between filaments. In other words, a spool in any of the six positions can be routed to either of the two extruders. In this image you can see how filaments are being routed on this particular scenario. Note that as the print progresses, this can change.
Multimaterial Ultimaker Possible?
The intention of the Material Station is to provide for labor reduction: the device will automatically switch to a second spool when the first runs out. However, it seems to me that the filament switching capability could, in theory, be used for more complex filament swaps in the future. I would therefore not be surprised if Ultimaker announced a software update that allowed for multimaterial processing in months to come.
You might have thought the “Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle” is a sales technique, like “Combo #3” at the burger place, but it is definitely not. It’s a very capable professional 3D printer that just added two very smart peripherals.