LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printer Review

lulzbot 3d printer in full form

Given my overall general experience with 3D printers, I must admit that after using the LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printer for a couple of months, it’s definitely been the funnest experiences that I’ve had working with 3D printers. There were a few mistakes along the way – as is the case with all printers –  but none of them have been as joyful as with the Mini. This reflects the beautfy that LulzBot has to offer as a brand. Upon arrival, I noticed that the printer was neatly packed in a small container with the printer protected by black foam along with additional materials in a separate bag. What’s included as these extra materials are superb. You get a palette knife, a pick for cleaning the extruder, and tweezers. Furthermore, you get a printed octopus model to prove as a testament to the already pre-calibrated quality of the 3D printer before it even leaves the factory.

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The Setup

This is definitely the right choice for those looking to purchase a printer that’s plug-and-play. From the time I unpacked the printer and had it plugged in and ready to go, it took less than 5 minutes. The only steps required were to plug in the printer, insert the Mini-branded thumb drive and install the LulzBot version of their Cura 3D printer software. This of course could have been done directly from the LulzBot website, but having it well-illustrated and laid-out with instructions just made it that much easier. You’ll notice that HIPS filament is already in the printer when it arrives, and I believe this is an incredibly important aspect when configuring 3D printers since it gives you a good idea of how tape should be installed in the first place. After many countless tries with other printers, I finally realized that installing tape isn’t as easy as it may seem. From there you can simply click print and within 30 minutes you get your first pre-loaded model of a “Rocktopus,” very similar to the one shipped in the box.lulzbot-1

The Setup & Build

The features that distinguish the LulzBot Mini 3D Desktop Printer from other printers is that Aleph Objects has done everything in their power to ensure that the Mini is robust as possible packed alone with high capability. You can already take notice to its strength from the printer’s matte steel frame On one side there’s a filament spool holder that neatly comes out from the side and on the other a nested handle on the inside that makes it portable. Although it’s a small print best of 152 x 152 x 158mm, you’d be surprised at what a compact machine can do. Its all-mental end can get up to 300 degrees Celsius along with a heated bed that reaches up to 120 degrees Celsius, giving the printer the ability to create and handle lots of different materials. This includes PETT, copper composites, nylon and other preferred HIPS filament. This goes outside of the range of using your normal ABS and PLA Tape. Of course, LulzBot prefers the HIPS filament as you’ll get a perfect print every time. There’s no drips or overhands, and it adheres to the bed with each piece easily sticking to one another. After the print is completed, just wait for the bed to cool off and you can simply pop off the print bed. This feature is unique to the Mini and is due to the special PEI coating without making blue painters tape and solvents necessary.lulzbot-4

Never before have I worked with a 3D Printer that was so quick and easy to setup. The Mini comes with a small abrasive pad alongside the printing bed. The extruder automatically wipes against this before each print in order to make certain that the hot end is clean and to prevent any clogs. Moreno, you’ll notice that the printhead performs its own self-leveling before each time you print, making calibration on your part unnecessary and impeccable since the machine is doing it.The original goal of the LulzBot mini was to create a printer in which the user doesn’t have to do any sort of calibration once it’s up and running. This makes it incredibly fun and painless, meaning you can get straight to printing almost immediately. The one thing that disappoints most users as that it comes without WiFi. The fact that I had to plug my computer into the printing port was actually a pain, and other users report other problems as being the size of the bed and slight problems with the size of the single intruder. It’s said that these issues are purposely installed on the machine in order to make consumers upgrade to the TAZ 5, but this is only a rumor. Other than that, you’re not going to find much else wrong with the LulzBot Mini.

The Detail

I normally judge 3D printers on a wide range of aspects, but looking at print quality is definitely one of the most important things. Very few printers for around the same price range print with as much precision as the LulzBot Mini. While it came out at a retail price of $1,350, that’s not without justification. The only reason that it’s considered a “mini” is because that it’s smaller than previous versions of the LulzBot line. Yet this isn’t to be frowned upon as it’s excellent for freeing up space on your desk. After printing out dozens and dozens of a wide variety of models with 3D printers, nothing has topped the Eiffel Tower that I was able to pull off with the Mini. Many printers fail to create the tiny intricacies found within the tower, and such detail is extremely important on certain pieces of art and aesthetics. To my surprise, I couldn’t find one flaw even after only taking 44 minutes while on other printers taking as long as 2 hours. One thing that’s extremely disappointing however is that if you disconnect your computer from the LulzBot Mini, your print job will cancel. While it isn’t a deal breaker, I feel as if its a feature they could have improved upon. In any case, for those of you looking to purchase this printer, we highly suggest to use either their preferred HIPS tape or ABS, both which will print near-flawless designs.


Consumer Vs. Machine

The 3D printing industry is still considered somewhat new, and it should be taken into consideration that consumers might not be quite ready to use these machines. They’re still slightly expensive for the average person and they haven’t experienced a large drop in price ever since they were released, so it may be a while before prices significantly go down. Furthermore, printing is slow and takes time. Those looking to print useful objects in their daily lives have to deal with constantly buying tape and being patient. Aleph Objects includes all of these considerations when designing a printer and wants to supply a machine that’s more or less plug-and-play as soon as the box is opened. On the same token, it’s modifiable enough as to here a hacker or someone wanting to make changes can do just that, making adjustments until they get their desired outcome. You can change nozzles, do testing on the materials, and have fun trying to figure it all out. For me personally, I was curious to try every material that the LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printer was capable of working with. I ended up ordering some exotic filament sample of the bronzeFill and bambooFill material. Ironically, it turned out that the only filament that was an issue was PLA. With other printers it wouldn’t be an issue, but with the Mini there wasn’t proper layer adhesion making certain prints a bit strange or hollow. However, I later figured out that certain settings had to be adjusted if I were to use this type of tape.lulzbot-7

Another small issue that some may encounter is that the filament gets tangled up at one point during the printing process. The hot end may get clogged, but if this becomes a real issue you can order a new .5mm copper hotel for just a few dollars and replace it quickly without any further problems. This isn’t a frequent issue, but it has been known to happen. Contact Aleph Objects and they’ll end up replacing it for free if it’s within a couple of months of you purchasing their printer. Despite all of this, I’m still having tons of fun using the LulzBot, and I know that due to its stability and durability that this printer will last me for years. Until that day comes, its brother the TAZ 5 is essentially a perfect version of the LulzBot Mini, yet a lot more expensive.

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