Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ultimaker 3 Extended Detailed Review for Medical 3D Printing


Hello it’s Dr. Mike here and welcome to my
review of the Ultimaker 3 Extended 3D printer. We will be looking at the Ultimaker 3 Extended
specifically from the perspective of medical and medically-related 3D printing, which is
my area of special interest. Medical models are more challenging to 3D
print compared to engineering models because of their complex geometries and relatively
large size. We’ll see if the Ultimaker 3 Extended is
up to the challenge. The Ultimaker 3 Extended is the big brother
of the regular Ultimaker 3. Both printers are FDM, or Fused Deposition
Modeling printers, with dual extrusion nozzles, which is an improvement over the previous
generation single nozzle FDM Ultimaker 2. Dual extrusion makes it possible to use two
different materials when 3D printing. This means one of the extruders can use a
build material and the second extruder can use a support material, such as water soluble
PVA. This is particularly interesting if you’re
doing medical 3D printing because the complex geometries of anatomic parts often require
use of support material which can be difficult to remove. Water soluble PVA can be easily washed away
with tapwater after the print is completed. The Ultimaker 3 Extended retails for $4300
US. It has a build volume of 8.5 by 8.5 by 11.8
inches, or 21.5 by 21.5 by 30 centimeters. This is the same platform size as for the
regular Ultimaker 3, however there is an additional 3.9 inches in vertical build height, which
is handy when printing larger anatomic parts. The printer requires minor assembly before
using, has a heated glass build plate, and prints in layers as thin as 20 µm. It supports filaments made out of nylon, PLA,
ABS, CPE, and PVA. Material cost is variable depending on the
type and brand of the material, but as a baseline, PLA material from Ultimaker costs about $50
for a 0.75 kg spool. The printer is run using the Cura software,
which is free for download and available on Macintosh, Windows, and Linux computers. The Ultimaker 3 Extended comes in a large
box that contains two roles of filament, a power cable, a QuickStart guide, XY calibration
guide, glass build plate, a few tools, and an Uhu glue stick, bicycle chain lube, ethernet
cable, USB thumb drive, and filament holder. It also comes with two extrusion cores. There is a small calibration card, make sure
you don’t lose this as you’ll need it. You’ll need to take the filament holder and
attach it to the back of the printer. A cable connecting an embedded filament detector
needs to be plugged in to a port on the bottom of the printer. A cable guide cover also needs to be attached. The glass build plate easily slides onto the
build platform. Once everything is assembled you can plug
in your printer using the relatively large AC adapter. At this point instructions will be shown on
the small display on the front of the printer that will help you to install your 2 print
cores. Slide the print cores into position in the
print head. Make sure to adjust the locking lever to lock
them in place. The print cores should be automatically detected. Next you will load the filament onto the filament
holder and feed it into the extrusion system. Manually feed the filament into the motor. You will notice that the filament begins to
slowly advance. Eventually molten filament will begin coming
out of the nozzle. The filament is now loaded. You will repeat the same process for the second
extruder. Finally, follow the instructions to connect
to your Wi-Fi network, or plug the printer in using an ethernet cable and you should
be ready to go. For my first print I made a lumbar vertebra
using silver PLA with PVA support. This model is relatively small, but I wanted
to see how the printer did with a small model to start, and it performed without a hitch. After it was completed I dunked the model
in water and the PVA support dissolved in a few hours. The final part looks terrific. For my second print I made a celiac artery
model which is slightly larger but still no more than about 3 inches high. Again this printed without a hitch using silver
PLA with water-soluble PVA support. The final part looked great. I did run into some trouble when I removed
the BB print core. Somehow I got into a situation where the printer
was asking me to insert the print core but I was unable to do so because a piece of filament
was blocking the core. The printer insisted that I insert the print
core and there was no way for me to exit out of the menu or tell it that I was unable to
insert the core. On multiple occasions I ran into trouble with
simplistic menu instructions that do not account for the possibility that something could go
wrong, and the printer is instructing me to do something that cannot be done. There is no way to exit out of a menu other
than to shut down the printer. In this instance, I was able to disassemble
the feeding tube, called a Bowden tube, and remove the obstructing piece of filament. After this was done, I was able to insert
the print core. For my third print I decided to make something
more ambitious. I chose to print a full-size brain. The brain is a difficult print both because
it is large in X, Y, and Z dimensions, and also it is geometrically complex with a lot
of cavities and contours. 3D printing of large and complex models is
where I hope the Ultimaker 3 Extended could really perform, however this is where I started
to run into more problems. My first three attempts didn’t succeed for
a variety of reasons, and I don’t have good video of them. Attempt number 4 failed because the first
few layers would not stick to the build plate. I fixed this by applying glue to the build
plate, which is a recommended solution from Ultimaker. Attempt number five failed because the PVA
support material ran out in the middle of the print. The Ultimaker 3 does not have a way to detect
when material runs out, so the printer just happily keeps on printing oblivious to the
fact that it has run out of material and nothing is being extruded. You can see that the white material continues
to print but the transparent PVA support has run out. During my sixth attempt the printer just stopped
for no apparent reason. This might have been due to a software crash. In any event, it was printing normally and
all of a sudden the print head stopped. I was unfortunately away when this happened,
and print cores remained hot after the printer stopped. The PVA support material decomposed inside
the second print core and turned into a carbonized mass, which clogged the print core. I ran into a lot of trouble while trying to
fix this problem. First, I somehow got into an infinite loop
with the printer repeatedly giving me the same warning. No matter what I did I could not exit out
of the recurring warning message, and the printer kept showing me the same warning message
again and again. When I finally got this problem resolved I
performed a hot pull several times. This is when a spare piece of filament is
pushed through the obstructed, hot print core and then rapidly yanked out. The idea is that the obstructing material
will get pulled out too. Unfortunately, this didn’t solve the problem. Next, I transitioned to cold pulls. With this technique, filament is pushed manually
into the hot core and then the core is allowed to cool. The filament solidifies, presumably sticking
to the obstructing material. The filament is then violently yanked out
in an attempt to dislodge the material plugging the core. I tried this several times without success. I became somewhat concerned that this technique
could break the printer but the Ultimaker website says this is an established means
of clearing a clogged print core. The Ultimaker website recommended that I try
unclogging the nozzle using an acupuncture needle. The problem is that acupuncture needles are
restricted medical devices and are only sold to people that have a state acupuncture license. Obviously this wasn’t helpful to me. I try to unclog the nozzle using the finest
clothing needle I could find that my local megastore, but even this small needle was
far too thick to be of use. I finally broke down and purchased a brand-new
print core from matter hackers at a cost of $125. This turned out to be very expensive and time-consuming
printer crash. With the printer working again, I attempted
brain print number seven. I switched the printer from normal to draft
mode, which prints thicker layers at a faster speed. The estimated time of the brain print went
from seven days to 3.5 days. With my six prior failed attempts and an estimated
print to completion time of seven days each, I’d spent almost a month trying to print this
brain by this point. I made sure that I had full spools of both
PLA build material and PVA support material. Much to my delight, the print was a success! There was a bunch of loose filament stuck
to the model at the end of the print which I was able to remove easily and didn’t seem
to impact the overall quality of the print. I put the completed print in a glass vase
to dissolve the PVA support material, and it worked like a charm. It was actually pretty cool watching the PVA
slowly dissolve over the course of several hours. I removed the model, washed it thoroughly
to get rid of any residual PVA, and allowed it to dry. As you can see the quality of the print was
terrific. At this point I decided to take things a step
further and print a complex two-part lumbar spine model that was pretty tall. My first attempt failed after two days when
again I ran out of filament. I actually knew I was running low and had
intended to check on the print in about an hour, but became distracted and by the time
I got to it the filament had run out in the print was ruined. This seems to be a problem with the Ultimaker
3 in that if you are not 100% on top of your print at all times, a multi-day print can
easily become ruined. The Cura software has a feature where you
can watch your print progress through a camera on the printer over your network. In theory this would allow you to monitor
the status of your print while you continue to do work on your desktop computer or laptop. However, I found that after an hour or two
the printer camera disconnected from my desktop computer and would not let me monitor the
print. This occurred when the printer was both on
the Wi-Fi network as well as hardwired in using an ethernet cable. I’m not sure if this is a problem with my
network or with the printer or Cura software, but the net result was I was not able to monitor
my prints in real time. My second attempt at printing the lumbar spine
appeared to be successful. I did have to change filaments mid print,
but was able to catch the low filament level before it was too late and replace it with
the new spool in the middle of the print. When completed, I put the model in water to
dissolve the PVA support material, which can look very cool. However, when the PVA material was removed
the model broke apart. I think there was a weak layer at the level
that I replaced the filament at. The model came apart at that layer and was
ruined. My third attempt to print the lumbar spine
was really frightening. I’ve had lots of problems with build plate
adhesion. This means that the initial layers of the
print do not stick to the glass plate. I tried to correct by applying glue to the
plate, a recommended solution from Ultimaker, but if too much glue is applied it can cause
problems with the printer properly leveling the bill plate due to the irregular surface. During this print the initial layers came
off of the glass build plate and became entangled in the printer head. They then snagged part of the model that was
properly adhered to the plate and ripped the glass plate off of its supporting base, almost
knocking the glass plate out of the printer where it could shatter on the floor. As you can see from this footage this was
pretty scary and I would not want this to happen at night or during a weekend print
when nobody was around. My fourth attempt to print the lumbar spine
also had problems with build plate adhesion. It seemed that the PVA material did not want
to stick to the plate. Fortunately I caught this early and aborted
the print. My fifth attempt to print the lumbar spine
similarly had the same problem where the glass plate almost got pushed out of the printer
and broken the floor. The cause was the same, with poor adhesion
of the first layers to the bill plate, which caused them to become entangled in the print
head and eventually ripped the plate from its base and nearly pushed it out of the printer. After the second experience with nearly breaking
the glass plate I decided it was not safe to continue to try and print the lumbar spine
model. I’ve had the Ultimaker 3 Extended for about
four months now and have had very mixed results. On short models the printer seems to perform
quite well, printing both the lumbar vertebra and celiac artery models on the first try,
although I did run into some trouble with the glitchy firmware instructions on the celiac
artery model. For larger and taller models, performance
was much less impressive. I successfully printed a full-size brain after
seven tries, and was not able to print a tall lumbar spine model after five tries, almost
breaking the glass build platform twice. In total I had three successful prints in
a total of 14 attempts, a 21.4% success rate. The pros of the Ultimaker 3 Extended are its
large build volume, inexpensive material, availability of water-soluble support material,
and good performance on short prints. Cons are it is unreliable on tall prints,
it is very slow with full build volume prints taking up to a week, requires a lot of maintenance
and supervision, and has glitchy and occasionally nonsensical firmware. For a garage hobbyist with lots of free time
these shortcomings may not be much of a problem, although the $4300 price tag may be prohibitive
for most hobbyists. For medically related applications, such as
printing models for patient education, surgical planning, device testing, or medical education,
the Ultimaker 3 Extended has significant shortcomings. The combination of slow print speed and high
print failure rate for anatomic parts is a problem when a surgery or patient visit is
scheduled on a fixed date. Furthermore, the need for constant supervision
is an issue in a busy office or clinical environment where staff have other things to do, and may
not be available to supervise the printer at night and on weekends. The main drawback from a medical 3D printing
perspective is the lack of reliability on large prints. Build plate adhesion is a major problem, which
can be addressed with application of glue to the build plate. This is a delicate balance however. Too little glue and the first layer will not
adhere to the plate, but too much glue and the print surface will become irregular and
the printer will have a hard time with build plate leveling. The best way to be sure that the print is
properly adhering is to monitor the first layer or two. This can take up to an hour and in a busy
clinical environment where everybody is pressed for time this may not be practical. Another major issue that affects reliability
is the lack of filament monitoring. Large prints can take a week or longer and
can consume a whole spool of filament or more. With two extruders the printer has twice the
likelihood of running out of filament in the middle of the print. Because the printer doesn’t know how much
filament it has left, it is up to the user to constantly monitor the filament levels
and pause the printer and replace the filament when needed. With large prints taking up to a week, this
means checking on the printer daily and trying to guesstimate when the printer will be low
on filament to schedule a reload. If you are late by as little as 10 or 15 minutes
your entire print can be ruined as happened multiple times with me. The Ultimaker 3 Extended and its little brother
the Ultimaker 3 are definitely a step up from the prior generation Ultimaker 2 FDM printers,
however they are not quite ready for prime time for medically related applications. Other printers in the space, most notably
the Form 2 printer from Formlabs, are much more reliable. The Form 2 does have a smaller build volume
and does not have water-soluble support, but at $3500 US it is $800 less expensive. If you decide to purchase an Ultimaker 3 Extended,
make sure you have a good set of pliers. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the
Ultimaker 3 Extended 3D Printers. I tried to be as thorough and objective as
possible. If you want to know more about medical 3D
printing please visit embodi3d.com, where you can view dozens of free tutorials and
download hundreds of medical 3D printable files all for free. If you like the review please give it a thumbs
up. If you are interested in other reviews and
medical 3D printing related content, please hit the subscribe button. If you are interested in watching my review
of the Formlabs Form 2 printer for medical 3D printing, there is a link in the description below. Thank you, and happy 3D printing!

29 Comments

  1. Embodi3D
    Embodi3D July 2, 2017

    This review was 4 months in the making and encompasses my real and honest experience printing hundreds of hours with this printer. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful and informative.

  2. Void lon iXaarii
    Void lon iXaarii July 2, 2017

    great systematic review, very reasonable and well documented and quite entertaining to watch. Thank you! I felt for you all the way. I'm curious if you went for the form 2 sla if you can still print models with holes inside without the dissolvable filament. Really fascinating to watch, thanks for sharing this.

  3. Florian Thieringer
    Florian Thieringer July 2, 2017

    Thanks for the great review. It shows clearly that there are two sides of medal 😉 The UM 3 Extended seems to be able to deliver really good high-quality results and printing with PLA and PVA is absolutely cool – but reliability and speed of the printer should be evaluated further.

  4. NANO S.K
    NANO S.K July 3, 2017

    I really love ur work DR. i want to ask u i u can do a model for a real fetus from sonar scan i want to do one for my baby thanx a lot ❤️❤️

  5. FT
    FT July 15, 2017

    Nice review doctor, thanks.
    I have the same printer and have never ran into the issue of glass being knocked off. I was very surprised to see that, and even more so seeing it happen in the video for a second time! I'm glad i didn't fall and break and no one was hurt. I'm pretty sure the guys at the Ultimaker forum will be quite interested to discuss this with you.
    In my opinion, it seems the bed needs levelling as it seems to be higher than it should, and hence the glass gets dragged by the nozzle. Perhaps one manual bed levelling could prevent recurrence of that.

    I have a question / suggestion for you: why do your models seem to have 100% infill, meaning they are solid from the inside?
    Printing a solid objects increases the chances of things going wrong as it decreases tolerance for error, it also uses much more filament used and perhaps more importantly it prohibitively increases print time. You might find the brain print finish in less than half the time if you print with 15% infill. One other thing, you can decrease the "support density" (amount of filament used for support) in Cura. This will also decrease the amount of filament used.
    Hope to hear your feedback about that

  6. titaniumapple1
    titaniumapple1 August 3, 2017

    Great, honest review!

  7. David Light
    David Light August 5, 2017

    Mike great review. Addressing some of your failures when you used the printer are actually generic thru the industry. Build adhesion is an issue with glass so stop using it. Switch to PEI glass but be careful if you are using flexible filaments since they tend to bond so strong to the bed that you self destruct them during removal. I use rafts 100% when I use flexibles on PEI. There are other bed materials that work GREAT for adhesion and toss the dang glue stick it won't be needed once you dial in the right bed material and temperature for the material you are using.
    Much of the concerns you have are based on the use of dedicated software. I am not sure if the printer allows you to but shifting to Simplified 3D as the slicing software will allow you to reduce infil volume and design reducing your print time from 7 days to a few dozen hours. I have printed everything from full skulls to you name it and with modifying the infill design and layer thickness I am quite satisfied with the prints. Be it that I don't own the Ultimaker printer that you used I don't know the hard and fast limitations that you might have to deal with, all my printers are considered open source so I can use whatever I want both hardware and software with any of them. (I agree that it is much nicer to buy a pre-assembled unit and there are many that are both pre-assembled and open source)
    There are solutions to the out of fiber issues the first is to buy full sized rolls of filament rather than the partials ones that they sold you. Also there are some free designed and easily printable accessories that can hook up to warn you that the spool is out before the printer actually gets out of filament. Some printers talk the talk about stopping the printer to allow you to resume after you refill but I haven't seen too many that work 100%.
    Do a bit of checking around and you will see that ALL of the cons you are experiencing have solutions outside the Ultimaker limited realm and will get you 100% satisfied. BTW you might also find turning on bed heat (if it has it) to about 65C or so will help with the initial bed adhesion. This 3D printing stuff is not like us surgeons are used to with the plug and play ability BUT a bit of driving along the learning curve road for a few hours on Youtube will greatly get you to closer to what we expect. I have yet to see a daVinci level precision and function but then let's face it these are 3,4 and 5 digit tools and not 7 and even 8 digits like the daVinci and other surgical toys we so much have come to appreciate
    Dr Dave (head and neck surgical oncology)

  8. Gerardo Espinosa
    Gerardo Espinosa August 8, 2017

    Nice review doctor, thank you very much!!

  9. Where Nerdy is Cool!
    Where Nerdy is Cool! August 11, 2017

    A few thoughts…

    Upgrade your Cura and Firmware.

    Use less PVA! Cura has a features where the support material boundary will help. Rather than using so, so much PVA, you could use the PLA support and then a thin layer of PVA between model and support. That should dramatically reduce some print times and use a lot less [expensive] PVA. (Which leads me to again, wishing Ultimaker would make high quality Cura tutorial videos demonstrating these features. The 3D techies know where to find these things, if you haunt here daily…but "professional" users would sure benefit from tutorials on advanced topics)

    As for the prints not sticking, perhaps gr5 can link in his wonderful video on improving adhesion. Just coating the bed with diluted wood glue would help you out. Glue stick doesn't always apply evenly and on the stick I have, sometimes small pieces come off.

    It sounds like you are a good doctor trying to learning how to use 3D printing in your practice. Like any technology, it'll take some learning. (I worked for Information Systems at a medical center for 7 years. I know how doctors embrace new tech, but need some assistance taking advantage of it.)

    Hope our comments are useful.

    Don't give up. The UM3 is a wonderful printer (I miss having the loaners I had!)

  10. Michael Cheverie
    Michael Cheverie August 29, 2017

    Excellent review! Regarding your extruder jam, in addition to the hot and cold pulls, you might want to try a fine-guage steel jewellery wire. You can buy this type of wire at hobby stores, such as Michael's. I've done this same thing several times with a Deezmaker Bukito, which is a great printer, but has it's ups and downs. Your videos are great! I am trying to introduce them to a group of high school students in Los Angeles. Please keep it up!

  11. Paul Allen
    Paul Allen September 8, 2017

    nice and fair review. liked and subscribed

  12. Ethan Tremblay
    Ethan Tremblay September 10, 2017

    I, too, own the 3E and 2+.
    I conduct a plethora of complex engineering validation prints (using ABS or PLA, or Nylon/PVA) for mechanical engineers, and I have NEVER experienced any of the problems as you have in this review!!
    You should have have first upgraded the 3E's firmware and Cura. In Cura, you can see project filament requirements per print before printing… knowing this, you should never again run out of filament.
    Where is your front (door) enclosure? The odds are in your favor using the enclosure! Most of your problems could have been avoided with proper pre-print diligence (print bed prep, knowledge of printer settings, pre-print filament drying/dehumidification, etc.).
    Spend some time and get to know Cura; and dry your filament before printing!

  13. iCreat3d Product Development
    iCreat3d Product Development October 8, 2017

    I always use a glue stick its a must not really a recommendation. Also try to buy a dehumidifier, that will resolve any issues with the PVA. slow down the rapid movements to 150mm/s and linear movements to 60mm/s. I have a 97.5% success rate with my ultimaker 3. The wifi video interruption monitoring is 100% the router and internet. call your local provider and tune in the channel that the router emits, sometimes the internet will be on roaming and will cause your printer and laptop not on the same channel causing the paused or disconnect of the video. Your main issues are filament management and bed adhesion, both are an easy fix. Use a lot of glue sticks, 60 degree bed, and dry filament. the new software does not have any issues as far as firmware goes.

  14. rhbruning
    rhbruning October 11, 2017

    You are so patient! Thank you for your review – you were truly honest and really gave it a good try, many for that manner. I save this review for when I'm having a bad print day.

  15. Ralph Zoontjens
    Ralph Zoontjens October 27, 2017

    Thank you for the review. For bed adhesion, try blue tape, lightly sand it and use printafix glue with the heated bed set to 80C and first layer speed <25mm/s – no way it will come off!

  16. oleost
    oleost October 28, 2017

    That is not how you are supposed to do an cold pull. Be lucky you didnt damage your printer with those pulls.

    Cold pull:

    1. Heat your your printer, while pressing filament gently into the hot-end.
    2. While continuing pushing / keeping pressure on the filament into the hotend turn the heater off.
    3. Wait for it to cool down, still applying gently pressure on filament.
    4. Turn on heater, while keeping and steady pull ( Not yanking it ) on the filament, once it reaches a certain threshold the filament on the walls have melted enough to let the filament go, while hopefully its still fused to the stuck part and you will get that with you out.

  17. Jay Long
    Jay Long December 20, 2017

    Can i buy you some Acupuncture Needles out of state? (personally I've not had a issue with eBay….)
    And another suggestion is to keep the PVA & PLA in a 'DryBox' , this should help with the quality of the bed attachment. (And PVA is expensive, you may wish to do straight PLA with Simplify3D's breakaway supports)

  18. Pete DiCapua
    Pete DiCapua January 22, 2018

    I just unboxed mine…I love it. Where do you get your medical models…im an engineer… 🙂

  19. Pete DiCapua
    Pete DiCapua January 22, 2018

    can you make the brain print available?

  20. bhp123654
    bhp123654 March 3, 2018

    I cringed a few times during the video

  21. Xe M
    Xe M March 25, 2018

    Thanks for the video. Any suggestions regarding Cura parameters for obtaining precise models when PVA support is used? Which material is best?

  22. Jungmin Seo
    Jungmin Seo July 2, 2018

    wow.. thank you for great information. maybe I need to change my mind about overpriced 3D printer.

  23. Eric - waldo - Wauters
    Eric - waldo - Wauters January 16, 2019

    Dunno, but I have about 100% success rate with PLA on my UM3… lower with flex though…

  24. Vern Roberts
    Vern Roberts June 7, 2019

    That… is NOT how you do a cold pull!!!

    You have to heat the nozzle back up while pulling with constant pressure on the filament until it just gets barely hot enough and releases. This happens at a much lower temp than printing temperature hence the term "Cold Pull".

    Yanking on the filament like that will damage your rails and maybe even your print head.

  25. Vern Roberts
    Vern Roberts June 7, 2019

    All of this sounds like you didn't properly calibrate the machine, combined with possibly a defective main board or jacked up firmware flash. Did you contact Ultimaker for support at all?

  26. Sergey Romanov
    Sergey Romanov August 16, 2019

    Thanks for putting this video together and saving lives!

  27. Alex Alfons
    Alex Alfons October 5, 2019

    lol pretty shit printer for that money

  28. A. Schryve
    A. Schryve November 29, 2019

    Im using the 2+ for dental printing model at the job

    I resolve problem of sticking to the plate with warming PLA up to 240C and minimum speed + extra care cleaning the glass and with avoiding large continious first line layer (adding name of the pacient at the bottom)

    Soo far result are really good but really long 🙂

    Thanks for you video

  29. Ney Peres
    Ney Peres December 30, 2019

    Very useful review. Do you have any updated information about long parts printings?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *