Today, I'm thrilled to announce why I'm giving the Lulzbot Mini my Editor's Choice award for the best consumer-level 3D printer available today! Importantly, this breakthrough 3D printer will be able to print all the inventions I release this year at FoodRising.org. You'll need to use t-glase filament to achieve good print results, however.
For the record, this is not a paid endorsement of any kind. I buy my printers from Lulzbot just like everyone else. In fact, I just purchased another Lulzbot Mini yesterday (and can't wait to add it to my 3D print farm).
What's so great about the Lulzbot Mini? It's simply revolutionary. Here's why:
There are four key advantages that make the Lulzbot Mini truly amazing:
#1) Automatic bed leveling
Leveling the print bed remains the single most troublesome task of 3D printers. It's frustrating across the board, and you inevitably waste filament while trying to get it right. But the Lulzbot Mini has a revolutionary approach that eliminates manual print bed leveling. It's so good that I predict this will become the new standard across all consumer-level 3D printers.
It's brilliant and simple, and it's something I've seen in CNC routers: the nozzle is moved into a "touch off" position to touch each of the four corners of the print surface. These four corners have a metal washer mounted on top, and an electromagnetic sensor detects the moment when the metal nozzle tip touches the washer. By measuring the touch off Z-axis height, the printer knows exactly where the print surface is located.
The result? No more fiddling with knobs, cursing at printers and using wearable magnifiers to level print beds. No more prints with ruined first layers. The Lulzbot Mini solves the problem once and for all. I've now printed literally hundreds of objects spanning hundreds of hours of print time, and I haven't experienced a single problem with the bed leveling.
#2) PEI print surface
Here's another reason why the Lulzbot Mini is revolutionary: In nearly all other 3D printers, you have to figure out how to make your printed object stick to the print bed. This is accomplished through a variety of methods, all of them messy and annoying (if not downright toxic).
They include things like using acetone and ABS plastic to make "lulzbot juice"; rubbing glass print beds with Elmer's glue sticks; spraying the surface with hair spray... and so on.
All these methods "totally suck" to use pop culture lingo. They really do. They suck bad.
But Lulzbot has solved this problem. With their revolutionary PEI print bed surface, there's no bed adhesion treatment needed.
I know what you're thinking: "That's impossible!" But you're wrong. Check it out:
I've been printing Float Valve Receivers for the Mini-Farm Grow Box by using t-glase filament with NO bed adhesion at all. The object I'm printing is found at this link on FoodRising.org.
Here's a photo to show you how it prints on the Lulzbot Mini with no bed adhesion whatsoever (you can see some scratches from previous prints, and a bit of extra t-glase from a previous brim, but there's no glue, no ABS juice, no hair spray, nothing):
How is this magic achieved?
Lulzbot figured out that PEI sheet material has seemingly magical properties: It's sticky when hot, but solid as glass when cool. So after the bed heats up, your prints stick nicely to the print surface. But after your print, when the bed cools down, your printed objects can be removed with relative ease. (I use sturdy wide-mouth pliers to grab the base of each object and pull it off the bed.)
No more scraping glue with putty knives! No more inhaling acetone vapors! No more sniffing hair spray between prints! (Gosh I miss the 60's...)
#3) Easily replaceable nozzle
I'm about to murder my Ultimaker 2 printer because swapping out the print nozzle is nearly impossible without permanently damaging the heat sensor. As a rule, 3D printers should have nozzles that are easy to change out. The print nozzle is the single most frequently removed part of the printer because you sometimes need to clean it or even drill it out to a larger diameter (I don't print anything with less than a 0.5mm diameter nozzle, and I often run them at 0.7mm).
The Lulzbot Mini makes its nozzles incredibly easy to swap out. You just unscrew it and screw in a new one. It takes just a few seconds. And to make things even better, you can easily find generic replacement nozzles on Amazon.com.
With a lot of other printers, you have to buy their proprietary nozzles. This sometimes involves waiting for them to ship from overseas. But with the Lulzbot Mini, you can buy spare nozzles for a few bucks on Amazon.com and have them shipped via PRIME.
By the way, if you try drilling out nozzles to make them larger, you will ruin a lot of nozzles at first by breaking off the micro drills inside the nozzle. Have a good laugh and join the club... we've all done the same thing!
After doing this a few times, you will learn to put down the Dremel tool and drill them out with hand-operated micro drills like these ones at Amazon.com.
If you want a wearable magnifier visor, I recommend these wearable optics by Zeiss. (Yeah, they're expensive. Good optics are never cheap...)
#4) Supports high print temperatures
Another huge problem with other 3D printers is that they don't support the higher print temperatures needed for today's more advanced filaments like Colorfabb XT or even t-glase.
Believe it or not, t-glase filament for 3D printing needs to be printed at temperatures close to 250C. Earlier reports of it printing at 212C are not up to date. You actually want t-glase to print at the highest temperature possible WITHOUT air bubbles showing up in the print from excessive heat. This is usually around 250C, in my experience.
The Lulzbot Mini supports nozzle temperatures up to 300C. I've never taken it beyond 260C and I've never had a problem with it. Also, the filament feed problem I experienced with the TAZ 4 printer is totally solved with the Lulzbot Mini. In fact, in hundreds of hours of printing, I've only had t-glase filament fail to feed just ONE time, and even that was easily solved by removing the filament, cutting it off, and re-feeding. It worked immediately.
Also, it's incredibly easy to swap out filament with the Lulzbot Mini, unlike the Ultimaker 2 which is an enormous hassle for a number of reason I'll explain in another review.
The 3D printing industry is moving at lightning speed, but as of right now, the Lulzbot Mini is hands down the best consumer-grade 3D printer available today, in my experience. If there's anything better out there, please let me know and I'll be happy to review it!
The Lulzbot Mini is also surprisingly affordable: $1350. That's about half the price of the Type A Machines Series 1 3D printer, which is my second-best recommended printer.
At $1350, the Lulzbot Mini is a true bargain. It has a heated print bed, the miraculous PEI print surface, the "automagic" bed leveling feature, a nozzle wipe feature that keeps the print nozzle clean, easily replaceable nozzle parts, high print temperature support and a host of other features.
The only drawback to the entire system is that it must be connected to a computer to be used. It can't operate as a standalone printer running on SD cards. This is a minor drawback, but the other features and benefits of the Mini more than make up for it. The print bed is also significantly smaller than most other 3D printers, but it's big enough to print everything I'm inventing, so that's no drawback to me.
If you're looking for an affordable, easy-to-use 3D printer, this is the clear choice. Get one now and start downloading all my stuff from FoodRising.org!
If you want t-glase filament, get it from www.SupplySource.com and help support our operations (and future inventions).
I have five revolutionary inventions to release in 2015, and all of them are 3D-printable.
The first invention was just released on FoodRising.org: the 3D-printable self-watering float valve that makes non-circulating hydroponics systems work. Click here for full assembly instructions and click here to download the 3D-printable parts that I've released to the world for free.
Four more groundbreaking inventions are coming this year and will be released for free on FoodRising.org. All of them can be printed with t-glase filament on the Lulzbot Mini 3D printer.
Here's my take on these four popular 3D printers: