Ultimaker released yet another version of their upcoming Cura 4.0 software.
As we posted previously, Cura 4.0 should be a significantly different and far more powerful product than any of the previous versions. But after their initial beta release of 4.0, they now have released an updated version.
There’s several improvements, but a few of them are quite interesting.
One of the more telling changes is that plugins, which offer additional functionality to Cura by third parties, can now be rated on a star system. Below we see the Siemens NX Integration plugin, which seems to have a five-star rating. Good work, Siemens!
The interesting part is that a rating system could suggest that Ultimaker is planning on a very large universe of plugins for Cura in the future. Yes, there are quite a few now, but imagine there are so many that functionality overlaps between plugins and you have to know which is the best option through examination of a rating.
Ultimaker is a very smart company, and I suspect they are looking to leverage the community in the future to supercharge Cura in ways never seen before. This is similar to their stance on open source, where the crowd provides its own benefits.
Another interesting angle in the new Cura 4.0 beta release is the use of Cloud services, as we previewed last week. Here’s one feature:
“Integrated backups. ‘Cura backups’ has been integrated into Ultimaker Cura and can be found in the extensions menu. Use this to backup your Ultimaker Cura configurations to the cloud when signed in to an Ultimaker account, for easy access on any computer.”
“Remote printing. Send print jobs to network-enabled Ultimaker printers from anywhere in the world, and monitor print progress to stay informed of your processes no matter where you are. For now, one Ultimaker printer can be linked to an Ultimaker account. This feature will become possible with the release of firmware 5.2 beta (which will follow this beta release shortly).”
Here it seems that Ultimaker is adding features that will both leverage and draw Cura users deeper into their ecosystem by the sticky and connective means of their cloud infrastructure. Again, this is a good strategic move for Ultimaker, as it will strengthen their community and make it more difficult for users to consider alternative systems.
This shows the difficulties that might face a competitor to Ultimaker: they would have to implement similar systems and benefits that result in quality, efficient and reliable 3D printing, far more than making “just a great 3D printer”. It’s the ecosystem around the printer that makes it great.