Taking 3D Printer Development to the Next Level with SOLIDWORKS Solutions
Ultimaker B.V. is a Dutch 3D printer manufacturer that has held a prominent position within the 3D printing and Maker market since the company shipped its first printer in 2011. Although the company utilized 2D vector drawings to produce laser-cut parts for the Ultimaker Original printer, ramping up development and expanding its product offering required a more efficient development platform.
Ultimaker B.V. is a Dutch 3D printer manufacturer that has held a prominent position within the 3D printing and maker market since the company shipped its first printer in 2011. With origins in work done by the company’s founders at Fab Lab ProtoSpace in Utrecht, Ultimaker has close ties with the maker community because it grew out of the personal fabrication revolution itself. This explains the company’s commitment to accessible, open-source 3D printing. To achieve its vision of making 3D printing accessible to all, Ultimaker works closely with the personal fabrication community to develop desktop 3D printers that are extremely quiet, fast, accurate, reliable, and easy to use.
The company enjoys a varied, international customer base. Originally only available in kit form, Ultimaker printers have since evolved from a build-it-yourself machine to ready-made, fully assembled 3D printing systems. Professionals from many different sectors—including healthcare, education, fashion, and engineering—rely on Ultimaker 3D printers to support the production of prototypes and end products alike, earning the company a reputation for fast 3D printing in relation to high-quality print resolution.
Although the company utilized 2D vector drawings to produce laser-cut parts for the Ultimaker Original printer, ramping up development and expanding its product offering required a more efficient development platform, according to Mechanical Design Engineer Bas van Deursen. “Without a 3D CAD system, we would not be able to do our job in the mechanical design department,” van Deursen explains. “In 2014, we decided to investigate leading 3D design solutions to determine the system that best met our needs and would help us take our product development operation to the next level.”
After evaluating several CAD systems, Ultimaker chose SOLIDWORKS®, implementing SOLIDWORKS design and SOLIDWORKS Simulation analysis software. The company recently acquired, and is in the process of implementing, SOLIDWORKS Inspection software and the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional product data management (PDM) system.
Ultimaker chose SOLIDWORKS because it provides the required capabilities, is easy to use, and is widely known. “There were several CAD packages that would fit our needs, but what led us to choose SOLIDWORKS was the fact that all of the engineers that we had on the team had experience with, and were most fluent using, SOLIDWORKS,” van Deursen says.
EXPANDED PRODUCT LINE
Since implementing SOLIDWORKS design software, Ultimaker has developed and launched five additional products in just three years: the Ultimaker 2 (in collaboration with the van Berlo Design Agency), the Ultimaker 2 Go, the Ultimaker 2 extended, the Ultimaker 2+, the Ultimaker 2+ extended, and the recently released Ultimaker 3, which features a completely new print head. “There are several important SOLIDWORKS capabilities that help us achieve our new product development goals,” van Deursen explains.
“We have quite a few sheet metal parts, and SOLIDWORKS sheet metal functionality saves time,” van Deursen continues. “The SOLIDWORKS draft analysis tool speeds up design for manufacturability [DFM] of molded parts. We also leverage SOLIDWORKS interference checking before producing prototype parts and the rendering functionality for presenting design concepts to stakeholders.”
SIMULATING BEHAVIOR OF CRITICAL COMPONENTS
In addition to using SOLIDWORKS software to design parts and
assemblies for its 3D printers, Ultimaker utilizes SOLIDWORKS
Simulation software to analyze and validate the performance
of critical components—during both early conceptual design
and for validation—minimizing the number of prototypes
required. “We use SOLIDWORKS Simulation to quickly evaluate
concepts and ideas in terms of strength and stiffness,” van
“We also use SOLIDWORKS to simulate movement and resolve
challenges,” van Deursen adds. “For example, we had a
challenging issue involving the mechanical positioning of the
print core, in which the heat break sometimes moved slightly
relative to the print head base plate. To find the cause of the
issue, we used the moving parts, physical dynamics, and
collision detection capabilities of SOLIDWORKS to analyze this
movement. We then combined these insights with testing with
3D printed parts to better understand and solve the issue we
had with the positioning mechanism.”
IMPROVING USABILITY AND AESTHETICS
SOLIDWORKS software has not only enabled Ultimaker to boost
the productivity of its product development processes but has also
helped the growing 3D printing company improve its 3D printers’
appearance and ease of use. “We want to make our machines as
easy to operate and accessible as possible,” van Deursen stresses.
“Besides this, we care greatly about the reliability and aesthetics of
our products,” van Deursen says. “Regarding aesthetics, we produce
renderings in SOLIDWORKS to evaluate product appearance, and
SOLIDWORKS Simulation helps us ensure reliable performance.”
Streamline the development of 3D printing systems and expand the company’s product line.
Implement SOLIDWORKS design, SOLIDWORKS Simulation analysis, SOLIDWORKS Inspection, and SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional product data management software solutions.
Expanded product offering from one to six printers in three years
“There are several important SOLIDWORKS capabilities that help us achieve our new product development goals. We have quite a few sheet metal parts, and SOLIDWORKS sheet metal functionality saves time. The SOLIDWORKS draft analysis tool speeds up design for manufacturability [DFM] of molded parts. We also leverage SOLIDWORKS interference checking before producing prototype parts and the rendering functionality for presenting design concepts to stakeholders.”
-Bas van Deursen, Mechanical Design Engineer
Using SOLIDWORKS design, simulation, and
rendering tools, Ultimaker has introduced five
additional 3D printing models in just three years,
while simultaneously improving the aesthetics,
performance, and usability of its 3D printers.
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Annex Products Pty. Ltd.
Chris Peters and Rob Ward founded Annex Products in 2012, off the back of two successful Kickstarter campaigns. The success of the Quad Lock mounting system—for securing smartphones to bicycles, armbands, a car dashboard, or other locations—has exceeded expectations so dramatically that it has become the company’s main consumer-facing brand. To develop its products, Annex needed a 3D development platform that supported fast design turnarounds so it could quickly respond to new smartphone models.