Musings and Experiments on the Art and Science of 3D Printing

Six months with the UltiBots D300VS delta printer

By Michael Hackney Tuesday, June 20, 2017
A few years ago I built an UltiBots K250 delta printer from printed parts and a hodgepodge of purchased parts from UltiBots. I wanted a smaller delta to take to my presentations on 3D printing and it was the perfect size. This printer was also my original test platform for trying out the Duet .6 controller and David Crocker's dc42 RepRapFirmware. It turned out to be a perfect storm of delta nirvana! The K250 was the most reliable and most precise delta printer I've owned, period (until now).

So flashing forward, I came across the new UltiBots D300VS delta printer kit introduced in November last year (D=delta, VS = V-Slot). This printer's build of materials list read like a whose-who of top-notch printer components. Here's what I mean:

  • Duet WiFi controller with RepRapFirmware
  • Authentic E3D V6 all metal hot end
  • FSR sensors and JohnSL board for probing (delta auto-calibration)
  • all metal (aluminum) frame and corners assembles quickly and precisely, the towers are 20x40 extrusions for excellent rigidity
  • OpenBuilds Delrin carriage wheels
  • Hadyn Huntley's carbon fiber with magnetic ball delta arms
  • .9° stepper motors offer 2x the precision over the standard 1.8° steppers
  • Kapton bed heater with an aluminum heat dissipator and borosilicate glass build plate
  • 24VDC power supply
  • UltiBots' direct drive Micro Extruder - no Bowden tube!
  • top mounted filament spool holder
  • LED lighting
The Duet, .9° steppers, FSR probing and all metal frame caught my attention. But my main interest in this printer was its massive size - 445mm Z x 290mm bed diameter (it's actually a bit larger than that). The only "must have" not included is a PEI print surface – but one is available and can be purchased with the kit.
I ordered my D300VS kit not realizing it was one of the first sold and documentation was sparse. No worries though, I've built a lot of 3D printers and the only unique item was the Micro Extruder. I was actually on the fence about it and my initial plan was to swap it out for a Bondtech QR extruder and Bowden. Brad (UltiBot's owner) convinced me to give it a try for a few weeks and I'm glad he did!

I started to document my build with a lot of photos with the plan to help document the build. But as I got into the build, my excitement grew and I wanted to get this printer commissioned as soon as possible.

Once I had the printer commissioned and operational it was time to take a test run. Most who read this blog and my forum posts know that I am into fly fishing and developed a 3D printed fly fishing reel. I like to use it – nine printed parts – to test extruders, hot ends and printers because they can be challenging parts to dial in. So I loaded up the models and sliced an entire platter of all nine parts. This is the 3D printing equivalent of a Hail Mary, especially for a first print! I carefully prepared the new PEI surface, brought everything up to temperature and allowed to stabilize for 15 minutes then crossed my fingers and clicked Print...

As soon as auto-calibration completed (I run auto-calibration in my g-code header for nearly everything I print) and the first layer started I could tell this was going to be a special printer. And that's the precise moment that I fell in love with the D300VS! Take look at the photos below. These parts are each challenging on their own and even more so combined into one platter and printed simultaneously. As you can see, the first layers went down flawlessly. Two of these parts are printed with an "open mesh" that is very challenging to print reliably and flawlessly. The D300VS printed them flawlessly the very first time!

Here are the completed parts. Let me describe these and the challenges they present to the printer (and operator).
Starting at the upper left is the foot – that long skinny object. It is the part that attaches the reel to the fly rod. This part has very little surface area to stick to the print bed and is always a challenge.

Below it are two disks with a central post. These are the side plates and are the parts with the open mesh design. Here's a photo of one printed in pink PLA so you can see the detail more clearly. These parts are the most challenging to print. If the first layer height is off even a little it significantly affects the aesthetics (smoothed weave is obvious and looks horrible) or the part peals from the bed (layer too thick). These parts are perfect.
To the right of the spool pates are three cylindrical parts. They have very little contact area with the bed and must be printed very precisely to hold their dimensions. The larger of these has a gear-like feature you can see clearly in the photo of the pink parts. Those teeth are a major challenge to print flawlessly.

Below these is a large ring. Nothing significantly challenging on this part or the small part at the lower right. 

In the lower left is the reel back plate. This part has all sorts of challenges to print. The tall pillars are magnets for stringing and are a real test of extrusion and filament. They also create havoc for layer registration and part cooling for most printers.

The D300VS has continued to perform like this from the very first print. I knew what to expect from the Duet, .9° steppers, FSR bed leveling and other features but the Micro Extruder was an unknown entity. I've now done enough printing and testing to come to understand that direct drive extruders blow Bowden filament delivery out of the water on these large delta printers. I have been so impressed with part quality and the ease of dialing-in slicing to eliminate strings and blobs that I've gone on a mission to eliminate Bowden tubes from ALL my delta printers. I'm glad Brad convinced me to give it a try and now with six months of continuous use I can say the Micro Extruder has been very reliable and trouble free.

Sidebar: I'll post details about this later – shortly after building my first D3000VS several other direct drive extruders have become available. The E3D Titan Aero, the Bondtech BGM, the Zesty Nimble (remote direct drive) and of course the Flex3Drive (remote direct drive) has been available for a couple of years. I've spent a lot of time learning to get the best performance from Bowden filament delivery using 1.8mm ID PTFE tubing, Bondtech QR extruders and a host of slicer tricks. It wasn't until I saw (and experienced) the results from the Micro Extruder that I realized just how big of a compromise Bowden filament delivery really is. For small deltas like the Mini Kossel and K250 the length of the Bowden is manageable but the loooonnnggg Bowden's on large deltas like the SeeMeCNC Rostock Max and UltiBots D300VS have significant limitations. Over the next few months I'll post about these options. Back to the D300VS...

The only significant criticism about the D300VS was the lack of good build documentation. This is not an issue for experienced builders but is a bit of a non-starter for folks looking for a first 3D printer. Recognizing this, Brad asked if I'd write a professional build guide for the D300VS and I agreed. He sent me a new kit to use to photograph and document the build. The UltiBots D300VS Build Guide is now complete and getting great reviews – and more importantly, helping a lot of first time 3D printer builders get off to a great start.

At the end of the day, the D300VS is an excellent delta printer with top-notch features. It's geometry lends itself to precision construction and printing. The Duet WiFi controller is excellent and its stepper drivers are are dead quiet. Everyone always comments on how quiet my D300VSes are. The RepRapFirmware with its integrated Duet Web Control interface is the best open source firmware there is, especially for auto-calibration performance, usability and overall print quality. And the D300VS is a great value too with its quality components and construction and print build volume.

I'll leave you with a few more photos showing what the D300VS is capable of doing.








2 comments to ''Six months with the UltiBots D300VS delta printer"

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  1. ok Michael, so do you outright support the Nimble or the Ultibots extruder as the goto for Delta printers? It seems that the Zesty Nimble performed well for awhile for you on your reels that demand perfection as they are beautiful renditions of the real thing, Is this the ultimate product or is Ultibots?

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  2. There are 4 extruders. At the top of the list is the E3D Titan Aero. It is the cleanest extruder/hot end I've ever used. Next is the Bondtech BGM. It is almost as clean as the Titan and is better all around for flexibles and other challenging filaments. Next is the UltiBots extruder. Quite capable. The Nimble is good but not quite as good nor has it proven long term reliability. My interest in the Nimble was primarily for a non-Bowden option for smaller deltas. It is on my K250 and serves that purpose well.

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