Ultimaker unexpectedly announced a brand new desktop 3D printer today.
Nope, it’s not called the “Ultimaker 4”, as we suspected, but more about that later. The new Ultimaker “S5” is focused on making 3D printing much easier for workgroups of engineers and designers.
While the S5 inherits many of the excellent characteristics of its immediate predecessor, the Ultimaker 3, such as WiFi, swappable print cores, NFC materials detection, dual extrusion with water soluble support and matching pre-defined print profiles, it goes way beyond in a number of important areas. Yes, it’s a lot bigger in volume (330 x 240 x 300 mm, the largest yet offered by Ultimaker), but there’s a lot more under the covers.
Let’s take a look at the major S5 features.
First up is the new print surface system. The key to successful 3D prints is ensure proper adhesion to the surface during the entire 3D print. Ultimaker has significantly improved this with the S5 by including a bed heating system that’s dynamically controlled! The print surface is heated, of course, but using a real time feedback system to ensure all points on the print surface are maintained at a consistent temperature.
Like previous systems, the S5 includes a standard glass plate for printing “normal” materials, but the S5 will include a new removable anodized aluminum plate that is designed for “advanced” materials.
Wait, advanced materials? Yes, that is one of the key features: the ability to reliably 3D print a number of specialty materials, such as nylon, CPE and polycarbonate. The new aluminum plate, which will be made available later in 2018, also works much better with ABS material than the original glass plate. They do suggest they can easily 3D print flexible TPU-style material, but with their long Bowden extruder, I am a bit skeptical.
These materials capabilities alone will be quite attractive to those seeking professional desktop 3D printing equipment.
The S5 also includes a ramped up extrusion system. They’ve made the process of inserting filament far easier with “an ergonomic locking lever”.
An integrated filament-out detection system automatically pauses a print to allow for filament swap and resume, without loss of print.
Ultimaker has expanded their online ecosystem to provide benefit to all S5 users. Automatic firmware updates are now possible, for example. Their Cura Connect system allows for easy connection of the S5 to groups of Ultimaker 3D printers, and allows for control via mobile apps.
Finally, they’ve included the one Ultimaker feature we’ve always wanted: a proper control panel. While most other manufacturers have long moved on from the alphanumeric LCD panels, Ultimaker strangely had not done so - until now. Their machines continued to use the ancient panel style, but now the S5 sport a full color touch screen that offers even more than just the typical printer controls.
The new panel also provides a number of wizard-like features to make 3D printing operation easier, particularly for new operators - and they offer these functions in no less than eleven different languages for worldwide applicability.
And then there's the question of the name of this machine, the "S5". This is quite different than their traditional sequential machine numbering process, where one would expect the machine to be the "4". The "S" may suggest this is the beginning of an entirely new set of machines, perhaps focused on professional or industrial markets. Maybe there is a new "4" in the works that might succeed as the desktop flagship machine, whereas the "S" series is an industrial line. But who knows where this will go?
We don’t yet know the pricing of the S5, but it will certainly be more than the current pricing of the Ultimaker 3, given its extra features and much larger build volume. However, we do know that it will be available for order on May 15th.
I’m quite impressed with this move by Ultimaker, as it positions them at or in the lead for professional desktop 3D printers. With their specific focus on addressing the workflow and functional needs of their target market, I expect them to sell a great many S5s.