PROS / Its native Cura software is one of the best 3D printing programs for users of any skill level.
CONS / Ultimaker’s proprietary filament is a bit more expensive per kilogram than that of other manufacturers.
VERDICT / The Ultimaker 3 is a professional-quality 3D printer that is accessible enough for users of any skill level.
The Ultimaker 3 easily earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best 3D printer thanks to its connectivity options, excellent print quality and robust software. Its well-designed chassis doesn’t waste space and is well-lit and gorgeous. This 3D printer prints as well as it looks too – each test model we printed was buttery smooth and highly accurate.
The Ultimaker 3’s excellent print quality is unmatched. You can customize the print layer height in the 3D printer’s software all the way down to 0.02 mm, which is almost the thinnest in our review. Each layer on our test prints was so precise, we could barely distinguish the telltale grooves and ridges of plastic 3D printing. We saw some blips on ovals and circles in our test prints, but other aspects, such as spires and overall print surface quality, were flawless. The machine’s print size is about average at 7.9 x 8.5 x 8.5 inches. All in all, the Ultimaker 3 printed some of the very best models during our comparison testing.
Based on the superior-quality models it prints, this is an affordable 3D printer, but based on the price of filament, not so much. Each 1 kilogram of filament from Ultimaker sets you back more than $60. The good news is you’re free to use third-party filament to cut back on some future costs. Ultimaker does sell a few types of filament, including PLA, ABS, nylon, CPE, PVA, PC and TPU. The printer has a spool holder and an auto-feed system that runs the filament from the back of the machine to the print head through a tube. The gears leave little notches on the filament and can run a bit slow, but other than that we didn’t notice any feeding problems, which are all too common for 3D printers.
All the presets, commands, preferences and more are easy to control from the onboard screen. You have three menu options to get started: print, material/printcore and system. To print, you either insert a flash drive with saved files, tether the printer to your computer with a USB cable (though you can unplug it when your print starts) or connect your printer via Wi-Fi. Since it has two wireless options and can print partially tethered, the machine is fairly autonomous, and you don’t need a dedicated computer.
You scroll and click with a lighted dial to navigate and choose settings on the screen. It took five and a half minutes to preheat this printer, measured from when we sent the print to the machine and when it started printing. That’s a bit lengthy but only a minute or two longer than the fastest printers in our review.
When it comes to software, Ultimaker is a vanguard. Its Cura software has expanded past the Ultimaker brand and is now used by many other 3D printers on the market. It has a simple, clean interface, and you can customize it to your skill level. We preferred the expert setting since it allowed us to control all aspects of print quality such as layer height, temperature and more. This home 3D printer software is one of the best for advanced hobbyists and true beginners.
The Ultimaker 3 ships with calibration instructions. It’s easier than it sounds – the printer walks you through how to calibrate step by step. You use the included calibration paper to check z-height and other important measurements. During our 3D printer comparison tests, the Ultimaker 3 earned one of the highest scores for overall ease of use. It is simple to set up, calibrate and maintain. While its auto leveling isn’t completely automated, we found we only needed to perform the calibration once for all our test prints.
For being such a powerful printer, the Ultimaker 3 is compact and lightweight. The use of space is well thought out, and not an inch is wasted. This 23-pound printer is made of aluminum and glass and is very well lit with bright LED lighting. The print plate is solid glass, heated, and very easy to slide out and remove. We printed with painter’s tape and glue stick during our testing, but you can print without them too. The Ultimaker 3 also comes standard with two extruders on the same print head. One is primarily used for support material, while the other is used for finished-product materials such as PLA or ABS. If you need a larger print capacity, the Ultimaker 3 Extended version has almost 3 extra inches of height.
Help & Support
The Ultimaker 3 comes with a 12-month warranty, which is standard for the best home 3D printers. The manufacturer also provides lifetime support, so you can contact representatives at any time. An email address, phone number and other contact information are available on the website. It also provides manuals, tips and tricks, troubleshooting guides, and other resources.
This 3D printer is just another in a long line of professional machines from Ultimaker. Each iteration improves on print quality and overall printing experience. We found many of its test models had impressively smooth print surfaces and nothing really beats how easy this printer is to use.