How has Ultimaker’s Cura marketplace venture been doing? We checked out the latest.
We recently received yet another press release from a vendor announcing their participating in the innovative program, this time from Filamentive, a well-known vendor of high-quality 3D printer filaments, which of course can be used in Ultimaker 3D printers.
The Ultimaker program is unique in the industry, as it attempts to cement their ecosystem directly together through their popular software system, Ultimaker Cura. It was first opened several months ago.
Ultimaker Cura Marketplace
Here’s how it works: Ultimaker Cura is distributed as open source software, and due to its very powerful functions, has been widely adopted as a slicing tool for other non-Ultimaker devices. Of course, it is usually used as the slicer for all Ultimaker devices.
Ultimaker decided to create a “Marketplace” within the software. It’s accessible by the touch of a button that’s always visible. Through this marketplace Ultimaker wanted to dramatically increase print reliability and quality. The idea was quite brilliant: sell not only 3D printer filament for the machines, but also include the proper print settings for each filament at the same time!
This overcomes one of the biggest issues in 3D printer operation: getting started. It allows novice operators to almost immediately obtain excellent results while at the same time maintaining an open materials platform where any vendor can participate.
Of course, the print parameters are available only for Ultimaker machines, which is what makes the ecosystem a bit sticky for users. It sounds attractive for everyone, although perhaps a bit less so for Ultimaker 3D printer competitors.
How has it been doing so far? I took a look at the marketplace to see if it is indeed filling up with Ultimaker ecosystem products.
Ultimaker Cura Marketplace Plugins
There are two sections to the marketplace. Materials, of course, are present, but there is also space for “Plugins”, which are software add-ons that can adapt Ultimaker Cura’s behavior in one way or another. At the time of this writing, I saw 26 plugins. That’s not a huge number, but some of the plugins were quite interesting.
A few of the plugins had the purpose of integration. That’s integration of other 3D printers (like Dremel), networks (like 3DPrinterOS) or software (like OpenSCAD, CATIA or Blender file formats). For some reason the SOLIDWORKS plugin is quite low rated, only 2.6 stars out of five. These will be extremely useful for specific parties. Other plugins focused on adding new behavior, typically to optimize slicing one way or another. Finally, a few were there to provide ease-of-use, like the aptly-named “Barbarian Units” plugin, which provides instant inches to mm conversions.
The marketplace for plugins appears quite useful, but not particularly comprehensive.
Ultimaker Cura Marketplace Materials
Materials is quite another matter. Currently, I count some 27 materials vendors representing 63 different material profiles present in the marketplace. Note that I’m not including Ultimaker themselves in these totals, who provide eleven profiles for their own materials — these are installed in Ultimaker Cura by default, anyway.
That’s an average of only 2.3 materials each, and most offer only one or two profiles. These seem to be for the vendors’ more advanced materials, which likely have tricky settings of more interest to operators using them. For standard materials, Ultimaker Cura already provides generic profiles that are likely very close to optimum.
That makes sense; the value is in the unusual settings, not the generic ones. I would not want the marketplace to be overrun with dozens of settings for this or that PLA, for example.
Ultimaker Cura Marketplace Assessment
Is the Ultimaker Cura Marketplace successful?
At this still-early date, I would say yes. If someone were to buy an Ultimaker device, they would immediately be into Ultimaker Cura where they would see many good material options with settings ready to go at the touch of a button.
If only all 3D printer settings worked this well.