Sometimes you have questions, and chances are you’re not the first to ask them. Here is a list of some of the most common questions that people have about using their 3D printer, compiled and expertly answered by Erin Oliver, co-founder of fbrc8, Ultimaker's Official USA Assembly and Support Partner.
1. Did I load the filament correctly?
One of the most frequent questions we see from people just getting started with their printer is, “My first print won't extrude; is my nozzle clogged?” For a new printer and nozzle, the answer is “no” — instead, it probably has to do with how the filament was loaded into the machine. The Ultimaker loading process has three stages: a slow load, a fast load, and another slow load. It’s important that the filament reach the nozzle at slow speed during the third stage. If you wait too long during the first stage to hit the button and trigger the fast stage, then your filament will progress too far up the tube and will hit the nozzle at high speed, causing the filament to become ground down at the feeder. When this happens, you’ll see the filament extrude during the loading process, but the filament will be unable to advance when you try to print.
For more information about this issue, please see our fbrc8 guide My First Print Won’t Extrude — Is My Nozzle Clogged?
During the initial slow loading stage, you should press the button on the front of the machine to initiate the fast loading stage as soon as you can see the filament in the Bowden tube appear above the feeder box on the back of the machine. For detailed information on the correct way to load filament, please see our fbrc8 guide Loading Material.
2. Did I connect the power supply properly?
The power cable has a mechanism to lock it in place on your printer so that it does not fall out while printing. If your power cord is plugged in all the way, then you should not be able to pull it out without engaging the sliding mechanism on the power cable. If you look closely at the flat side of the power cable, you will see up and down arrows. This is the sliding lock mechanism; you need to slide back the sleeve in order to unplug the printer. When plugging in the cable, note that you may have to push quite hard in order to get the power cable plugged in all the way; if the cable is not plugged in all the way, then it can fall out mid-print or cause the printer to reboot. You can tug a little on the cable to check that it is locked in place. On the other hand, if you try to force the connection with your cable the wrong way around, you could burn out your printer’s power supply. Make sure that you’re inserting the power cable right-side up before pushing it in; compare the pin pattern inside the cable end with the hole pattern inside the port on the back of your machine to make sure that the pins are lining up correctly.
3. Did I level the bed? Or, why is my print not sticking to the bed?
One of the steepest learning curves with learning to 3D print is learning to get the bed leveling just right. When the first layer goes on the bed, it should appear to be flattened. If you can see gaps between the lines, or if the filament appears rounded, then the bed is too far away from the nozzle. This means that your prints won’t have good adhesion to the build plate — your print may be successful for a few layers, but it will ultimately come off the bed and possibly attach itself to your nozzle. When printing with PLA, the heat of the bed (60°C on all Ultimaker models with heated beds) should generally be sufficient for adhesion, without any glue or tape. If you’re working with a material other than PLA, then there may be other things you’ll want to do for good adhesion, but we recommend getting comfortable printing PLA first as it is the most user-friendly material. Here is a photo of a good first layer.
4. Why is my printer purging filament before each print?
A filament purge occurs before the start of any print that uses the default Ultigcode setting in Cura. When the nozzle has reached the correct temperature, the printhead will move into the front left corner of the printer and push out a steady stream of plastic a little ways above the bed to ensure that your print starts off with a good solid flow of material. This is intentional, but it can sometimes result in filament curling up onto the nozzle; you may want to stand by with a pair of tweezers to catch the purging filament and draw it away before the printhead moves on to begin your print.
Note that when you begin a print, your heated bed plate will heat first, and then your nozzle. This keeps the nozzle cool during the longer bed-heating process, so that residual filament won’t burn for a long time in your nozzle. If you you happen to look at the Tune menu while the bed is heating, you might see the nozzle’s Head Temp set at zero; once the nozzle starts heating you will see the Head Temp start to rise.
5. Does it matter which filament I use?
Choose high quality filaments, and be aware of the diameter, recommended printing temperature, and properties of those filaments. While a higher price doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better product, we recommend using well-known brands of filament with reputations for good quality in the industry. It is vital that filament be consistently round (rather than oval) and have the correct diameter. Some brands of filament contain chemical impurities which have been known to leave chemical build-up in the nozzle, and which could lead to that nozzle needing to be replaced.
The Ultimaker series of machines takes 2.85mm filament. This filament is sometimes referred to as “3mm” filament. However, there are also companies making filaments that are exactly 3.0mm wide, which would be a very tight fit for an Ultimaker’s Bowden tube and coupler; be sure to check the specs when you’re ordering. For more information about 2.85mm filament vs. 3mm filament, see our fbrc8 guide 2.85mm vs. 3.5mm Filament.
Be aware of the type of material you’re using; Ultimaker’s open filament system means compatibility with a lot of fun, exotic filaments like Bronzefill, Carbon Fiber, Nylon, CPE, and others, but these filaments are also going to respond differently and possibly require different slicing settings, fan speeds, and temperatures. When printing with any high-temperature material for the first time, be especially mindful of the ambient temperature and airflow around the printer, and be sure to check on the print to make sure it adheres well. Materials like ABS are notorious for having a high shrinkage rate, which can lead to warping and the print coming off the bed if the ambient temperature becomes too cool.
6. If I have an STL or OBJ file, am I good to go?
When you create CAD models yourself, or when you download them from sites like YouMagine.com or Thingiverse.com, your 3D model file will be in the form of an STL, OBJ, or other CAD file. Your printer can’t read this type of file directly. If you put an STL or OBJ file onto an SD card and then insert that card into your Ultimaker, that file will not even appear on the file list on the printer’s digital readout. In order to print such a CAD model, you must first convert it into G-code, which is a list of machine instructions that your printer can read. To convert CAD models into G-code, you need to use a slicing program like Cura. The slicer breaks your CAD model into layers and lines that your printer can understand. For step-by-step instructions on how to upload your model into Cura so it can be sliced, read our fbrc8 guide What Should I Print? How Do I Print?
7. Is there one slicer setting that will allow me to print all my files?
Not all STL files will print equally well, or print at their best, with the same slicer settings. While the default settings in Cura are a good place to start, if you want to really get the best out of your machine, then open Cura and navigate to Maintenance>Expert>Switch to Full Settings. You can import the Quick Print settings as a starting point, but you may find that certain types of prints do better with slower bottom layers, or different retraction settings, or any number of things. Some prints are inherently more challenging than others; for example, models with overhangs are always going to be more difficult to print than those with straight sides. Worse, you may also encounter models that just aren’t very good, with bad geometry, ill-matching lines, or some other problem. It’s always useful to look at your model in Cura’s Layer view to see what your print will look like.
8. What should I know about the Bowden tube?
From time to time, you may need to remove your Bowden tube from one or both ends of the printer, for example, to remove a bit of filament trapped in the tube, or to perform the Atomic Method to unblock the nozzle. To remove your Bowden tube, slide the blue clip sideways out from under the white collet. When removing the blue clip, be careful not to drop it inside the printhead. (If you do drop it inside, you can get it out with a set of tweezers.) After removing the blue clip, push down on the collet while pulling up on the Bowden tube. Later, when you replace the Bowden tube, be especially careful to make sure that it is inserted all the way into the printhead. You’ll notice lines on the Bowden tube around where it was seated in the collet. These are normal. However, if you can still see the lines once you’ve re-inserted your Bowden tube, then the Bowden tube is not in all the way; pull it out and try again. Inside the printhead, your Bowden tube needs to sit all the way down inside the white coupler, as shown in the photo below.
9. What if I'm stuck? How do I get help?
In the event that you have any sort of problem with your Ultimaker printer, Ultimaker wants to help you get your machine back up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the US you can reach out to your resellers or to fbrc8 for support. When contacting support, be sure that the tech support analysts trying to assist you have a complete picture of the problems you’re having with your machine; photos and videos are extremely helpful in this regard, as well as any information about what was happening with the machine when you started to experience a problem.
We’ve compiled a list of the information that we need to help you resolve any problems as efficiently as possible in our guide How Do I Open a Support Ticket.
We also have support articles available online detailing the questions and problems we see most frequently, instructions on installing parts, and much more information. It’s all organized here in our Index of All Pages.
10. And if all else fails, do I have what I need to send my Ultimaker in for repair?
Your Ultimaker comes with a 1 year warranty, and lifetime access to our tech support team. You can contact your local tech support for as long as you own your machine; fbrc8 assembles all Ultimaker machines in North America and provides tech support via email, livechat, and phone. Ultimaker and fbrc8 stand by their machines and the parts of your machine are covered for replacement against defect/failing for one year (excluding normal wear and tear, and the hot end). Most often if a part is needed during the warranty period, then the fastest and easiest resolution is for fbrc8 to send out the part you need after the issue has been diagnosed. However, sometimes printers need to come in for repair; Ultimaker's warranty requires that you keep the original packaging in order to send your machine in for repair. This packaging has been designed to keep your machine safe in transit, and your machine must be packed according to the packing instructions in order to protect your printer.
For instructions on packing your machine up in the safest possible way for transport, check out fbrc8’s instructions How to Pack Your Ultimaker.
For more information about Ultimaker’s warranty policy, see the Ultimaker warranty.