Anders Olsson and the Olsson Block


 

We're proud to say that an essential part of the Ultimaker DNA is our strong community. Not only do they work tirelessly to help new members of the community find their footing, they’ve also helped us create the 3D printers you know and love. Today, we’d like to highlight the work of an ingenious community-member called Anders Olsson, the man who gave us the Olsson block.

Anders is a research engineer working on neutron particle experiments. He started using an Ultimaker 3D printer to create sample mounts and holders specifically designed for use during these tests, which were difficult to produce through more traditional means. 

Because neutrons can be dangerous to people and machinery the neutron-absorbing material boron carbide, an extremely hard ceramic that is also used in tanks and bulletproof vests, is used to shield them from the experimental process. But since boron carbide is so hard, it’s also extremely difficult to craft complicated objects with. Researchers often have to opt for toxic alternatives like cadmium.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Anders decided to apply his experience with 3D printing to the problem. First he created his own boron carbide filament that he could feed into his Ultimaker 2. And then, not knowing what would happen, he started his print... and discovered that it worked just fine!

The only issue? The stock brass nozzle had never been intended to be used with anything other than pure plastic-based filaments. As a result, after just a few hours of printing the hard boron carbide had completely worn away the nozzle.

Replacing the nozzle means changing the entire heater block – not a procedure that Anders would particularly enjoy doing regularly, let alone every few hours. So as a solution he designed a threaded replacement heater block that would let him screw in a new nozzle within seconds.

He posted his creation to the Ultimaker forum where the community immediately embraced the block as an incredibly good idea. Not because they were planning on printing with boron carbide themselves, but because the ability to swap nozzles gave them many other options they didn’t have before.

 

With their newfound ability to swap nozzles on-the-go, the community discovered they could change nozzle diameters, choosing smaller nozzles for more detailed prints or larger nozzles for faster, larger results. Or they could use separate nozzles for different materials, reserving specific specimens for particular plastics or using nozzles made of more hardened materials for more abrasive filaments. Within days the community had come up with countless new ways to use the block, and named it the Olsson block after its inventor.

And now we’re celebrating this successful community project by giving it away for free! If you buy an Ultimaker 2 or Ultimaker 2 Extended in the month of November, we'll be giving you a free Olsson Block kit to modify the Ultimaker printer with. The kit comes with 4 nozzles, ranging from 0.25mm to 0.8mm, for you to experiment. We’re looking forward to seeing what amazing models will be created by you!