Anatomy of an Ultimaker 3

Did you lose that little white c-shape thing that was tucked under the lip of the white thing on the extruder or the feeders? “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name,” has been attributed to Confucius, and it seems like a reasonable, as well as practical proposition. If you know what things are called and what they do, then you’ll have a better understanding of how things work and you’ll have a common language for communicating about it with others. (And can indicate with words, not just pointing!)

So let’s break down the essential parts of your Ultimaker 3 desktop 3D printer so you know what each of those pieces does, and how to call them by their proper names.

Front view

front view

Integral print head cable— Bundles up wires for side and rear fans, hotend heater and sensors, and all in one pretty white cable. With clips to connect it to one of the Bowden tubes.

Bowden tubes—The PTFE (Teflon™) tubes, fixed at each end, that the filament moves through from the filament drive on the back of the machine to the hotend within the print head itself.

Print head— The group of parts of the 3D printer which handles the heating, sensing, active cooling, and extruding of the build material.

Camera— A simple camera with a wide angle lens. It’s connected to the embedded Linux board that manages the printer and wifi communication. Current resolution is configured at 800x600, but camera supports up to 1600x1200. (The framerate is much lower at higher resolutions.)


Parts of the print head:

top of print head
opened print head

Lift switch—Mechanically lifts and lowers the second nozzle — so that your idling extruder is out of the way when you are actively printing with the other core.

lift switch

Print head fan bracket— Covers and protects the cores from melted filament.

print head fan bracket


Core— The Ultimaker 3 tool head uses a system of swappable cores to provide the integrated hotend and nozzle. The print cores also record calibration and ID information so that the printer can recognize which print core is installed, to better gauge what materials can be loaded — and whether the correct offset has been recorded between the two cores.

Core detail

AA and  BB Core—There are two types of print cores:

Type AA: for printing build material

Type BB: for printing support material

print cores internal

Changing cores— You will need to hold down the plastic tab in order to remove or install the cores.

changing core

Parts of the Gantry

Lift switch bay— The switch bay is what enables the lifting and lowering of the second print core. For successful dual extrusion prints, it is important that the switching functions well. The lift switch is already calibrated when the Ultimaker 3 is shipped, but the calibration can also be done manually.

For more information see Lift Switch Calibration

Sliderblock—When you inspect the rods of the gantry, and in particular how they fit in the sliderblocks, there should be no gap between the rod and the sliderblock. If there is a gap, there’s a possibility the rod will work itself loose from the sliderblock. Hold the sliderblock in your hand and apply pressure to push the rod in. You should hear a click. Approximately every 8 weeks, apply a few drops of sewing machine oil on these rods to keep everything smooth. Don’t use WD40, use sewing machine oil. (Note, your Sliderblocks might be black instead of white.)


The Build Plate

build plate

Build plate— The glass plate is the print surface for fabricating objects on your Ultimaker 3. To install, open up the two build plate clamps at the front of the build plate and gently slide the glass plate into the clips at the back of the heated build platform. Make sure the glass is well seated in the build plate clamps at the back and close the two build plate clamps at the front to secure it.


Build plate clamps— The two build plate clamps at the front secure the glass plate.

Build plate screw— The front left, front right, and center back screws can be adjusted to help position the build plate. To “level” the build place means to adjust it so that the surface is an equal distance from the nozzle across the entire build area.

build plate

Front Panel

USB slot— If you do not want to print over WiFi, you can load your G-code onto a USB drive instead. Insert it into this slot so that the embedded system can access the drive — and you can use the interface to select the file you would like to produce.

USB slot

Display—Shows all the necessary information for setting up and using your 3D printer.


Push/Rotate button—To select or control an action. Rotate to select and push to confirm an action. When pushing the button you will hear a “beeping” sound to confirm the action. A blinking button means the Ultimaker 3 is waiting for user input.

For more information see the Ultimaker Display and controller page

rotate button

Back view

Back view

Back Panel

NFC Spool holder— The black plastic mount for holding your filament spools. It slots into the back of the printer. attaches to the back of the printer. To install, first insert the top part in the mounting hole at an angle, and then tilt the holder until the two side tabs snap into place in the slots beneath.

insert spool holder

NFC Cable—Plug the NFC cable into the socket on the bottom of the printer.

plug in NFC

Cable cover—Protect the cable with the cable cover.

cable cover

Material Guide— Insert into the outer spool intended for Feeder 1, and thread the material through the guide before inserting it into the feeder.

material guide

Power socket— Plug one end of the power cable into the power brick and the other end into the wall socket. Next, connect the power supply to the Ultimaker 3. The flat side of the plug points downward (matching the sticker). After this, you can turn the Ultimaker 3 on.

Note: Before connecting the power supply, make sure the power switch on the Ultimaker 3 is in the “off” position.

power plug

Power switch— Before setting up your printer and connecting it to your power supply, make sure the power switch is in the “off” position. Only use the power supply that came with your Ultimaker 3.

Geared feeders—The feeders have high torque and good control of filament feed. In order to guide the filament properly through the feeders into the Bowden tubes and print head, it is important that the tension on the feeders be set correctly. If the tension is set too high, the knurled wheel of the feeder will dig into one side of the filament, scraping material away without advancing the feed of the material through the Bowden tube. This is called grinding. To prevent filament grinding, ensure that the white insert clip at the right side of the feeder is set in the middle. When you use other materials than materials delivered by Ultimaker, you might have to adjust the feeder tension slightly for the best results.


For more information, see the Ultimaker 3 Manual