LulzBot TAZ 5 3D Printer Review
Out of all the 3D printers that I’ve had, the LulzBot TAZ 5 3D Printer definitely comes out on top. The 5th version is definitely better in almost all aspects, and at a high price tag of $2,283 you definitely get what you pay for. It’s definitely one of if not the fastest printers around that we’ve tested that comes with high print quality and superb performance. Given these facts, the LulzBot TAZ 5 isn’t a perfect 3D printer. The setup can be a bit frustrating in an era of modern technology, and there are a few odd glitches, but overall you won’t be disappointed with what you’re getting.
When you first open your box upon receiving the TAZ, you’ll notice that you’re getting a piece of high-end industrial machinery. We’ve seen a common trend that structure determines function, and the TAZ does a great job of justifying this theory. The printer is build with a durable aluminum frame giving it rigidity without taking up a large amount of space. However, this is a printer that shouldn’t be considered small. It measures 27 in high x 21 in wide. You will need some space, especially when you take into consideration that the print bed slides back and forth. Yet this is not uncommon if you’re looking for a 3D printer that can produce large prints.
The bed itself is quite large. It has a print area of 11.7 in x 1.8 in. The bed is made of really strong material known as PEI. It’s a plastic-coated glass that serves for durability from extreme heat produced from the extruder. You’ll find that the print head moves both in an up-and-down fashion as well as left-to-right. Most printers you find will only move in a particular way or have the print head stay stationary while the print bed moves in accordance with the print head. The print head process layer height between 0.003 in (0.075mm) and 0.0138 in (0.35mm). Given this wide range, you’ll find that you can print highly detailed prints at an extremely fast rate. The printing head is made of metal and the print nozzle takes on a hexagonal shape and is where the print material is released.
As for the print head’s opening (used to seep the melted filament), it’s 0.5 mm across, much bigger than the majority of 3D printers with a standard aperture of 0.35 mm. This allows a large amount of print material to seep through thus making the prints much quicker. This does not come without any side effects however, as you will find that it can make prints a little bit hard to contain. This may leave some stringy print material behind or some small plastic strands, but you can usually scrape or pull these off from your finished print product.
A Wide Range Of Print Materials
The wide temperature range that’s produced from the LulzBot TAZ 5 3D Printer makes it available to other print materials that you might not commonly use such as polycarbonate and nylon. When looking at a 3D printer, the materials that are supported by it usually depend on the maximum temperature of both the print head and the print bed. On both of these fronts, the TAZ is at the high end compared to other printers. The print bed heats up to a maximum of 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit) and the print head can heat up to a maximum temperature of 300 degrees Celsius (527 degrees Fahrenheit). In fact, Lulzbot has been known to support users for trying out different materials, and they even give specifications and detailed instructions for those looking to do so. The polycarbonate and the nylon that we mentioned above are great materials since they can be used to print dishwasher safe material such as glasses or silverware.
One really unique material that’s supported by the Lulzbot is high impact polystyrene. This material is incredibly light, durable, and easy to print with. We decided to use this material for the majority of our tests, and most of the time the products produced were very clean. We also found out that the TAZ even supports Ninjaflex. While this produced very flexible prints, it tended to show a pesky habit of covering the print ahead. In order to prevent this, Lulzbot sells a print head specifically made for more flexible print heads, or you can also purchase a $495 dual extruder add-on that allows you to print two different types of materials at the same time.
Print Quality – Extremely Impressive But Not Without Flaws
Overall we don’t have much to complain about from the prints produced with the TAZ 5. We found that most of the prints produced during testing were smooth, clean and highly-detailed. However, this did not come without a few minor issues. Thin strands were left on the outside of a print. Every once in a while the prints also slightly sagged giving way for holes to appear that weren’t originally intended.
Aside from these errors, we were able to see the complex curves that the TAZ 5 was able to make. The control of the flow of certain plastics was incredible and you can definitely tell that it’s under control. When set to the highest print quality available, you can see the immense detail that the Lulzbot is able to produce (on the far right below).
Not only that, but the TAZ 5 does a great job of holding the print in place where parts would normally overhang. These parts can be easily taken away and didn’t leave hardly any or left almost no finding of this on the finished product. Keep in mind that the TAZ 5 is known as a fused deposition modeling printer. This means that it works by melting the material and then fuses the layers together. What this does is make the bottom layer slip slightly. This layer is heated in order to make sure that it sticks firmly to the print bed and spreads slightly as successive layers are printed on top of it.
Sometimes you may have to use small tweezers to pull off whisking filaments or use scissors to get your exact desired print, but it usually doesn’t require much work outside of this. After much testing we found that the best settings were found at lowering the print surface to 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) when the default is normally set to 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit). Doing so made our prints less slumped, have little need for any trimming and an overall increase in quality and detail.
Geometric sculptures were some of our greatest prints with the Lulzbot TAZ 5 Desktop 3D Printer. Edges were found to be very clean and sharp-looking, but often you’ll find a lot of whips between the tips. This wasn’t really much of a problem since they can be cleaned up easily and are more of a slight annoyance more than anything. Some edges were slightly rough, but this was only a problem a small percentage of the time.
Even in this modern age of technology, it isn’t uncommon to have to self-assemble your 3D printer. The TAZ 5 3D Printer only comes shipped partially constructed. The majority of the work on your end requires mounting a part, turning a thumbscrew and plugging in some cables. It took us about an hour to start our first print from opening the box. Compared to other 3D printers, the initial setup time is much shorter, something we definitely commend about the Lulzbot.
One particular feature that we found odd with the TAZ5. The TAZ mini includes an auto print bed leveling feature in which the printer touches the print nozzle to each of the four corners of the bed in order to calibrate its height and whether it’s level or not. We were extremely disappointed to not find this feature on the TAZ 5. Instead you’ll be required to tighten a thumbscrew to calibrate the height and then proceed by moving the print ahead around and tighten a screw on every corner in order to get it to perfect calibration to be in print-ready mode.
Once this is complete, you can start your first test print to check and see if everything is functioning properly. While this isn’t a difficult task to do, it’s just one extra step when you compare it to the automatic feature that came with the TAZ mini.
One other thing we found missing is a small, mini-brush that would clean any stray fabric off the print head. This tends to be very useful as even a small stray of material inside the print head at the beginning of a print job can completely ruin it. Just be sure to clean it yourself beforehand. Lulzbot has mentioned that they are working on both of these features for future development. Thankfully their open-source policy allows for a much quicker upgrade, and you can find the full details of their latest version here.
The Interface And Controlling The Prints
There are two different ways to navigate through your prints with the Lulzbot Taz 5 3D Printer. The first way is via the LCD screen and via a dial found on the side of the printer, and the second way is via their free Cura software for either Windows, Mac or Linux systems.
The screen found on the front of the printer is a LCD display that shows you the progress and status of your print. There’s a knob on the side that can be used for stand-along printing. You’ll find the interface to have an easy-to-use menu structure that gives you access to each aspect of what the printer controls. This includes changing temperature, increasing or decreasing quality, unloading and loading filament, and much more. This can consist of a lot of button pressing, but it’s a great way to calibrate the printer for your exact needs.
Aside from that, if you want to automatically get started with your print there’s no need to adjust, and the instructions on the print screen are incredibly straightforward. For your test print, you can insert the SD memory card that comes with it and then select the print from the card via the LCD screen. All this takes is just a few buttons and you’re using their pre-configured settings for optimal print usage.
Their Cura software lets you load models in either STL or OBJ formats and even do some basic editing such as scaling and moving or printing more than one model at once. It also includes an estimated print time that’s mostly accurate as well as a short preview regarding what the printing process is going to look like. Right before you’re ready to print, simply press the control button from the screen. Here you choose the temperature of both the extruder and the printing bed and then begin your print. As far as progress goes, this is only indicated by a progress bar found on the LCD screen.
The Print Process
I have never found 3D printing to be free of errors, even on the most advanced 3D printers that you’d find today. However, the TAZ 5 gets extremely close to doing this. I’ve made roughly over 30 prints, and only one failure was produced. This happened when the printing material didn’t stick to the layer beneath it halfway through the printing process. Every other print came without any issues, even including removing it from the print bed. This was the case for HIPS, ABS and PLA printed materials. Just like with all 3D printers, we had to pry the print off the bed once it was completed. Whenever you do make mistakes like this, look at what you did rather than how you messed up rather than the printer since the printer is designed to be mechanical and work every time. Sometimes it may be difficult to accept this.
The Print Speed
I have found the TAZ 5 to be one of the fastest filament deposit manufacturing 3D printers around. It was easily able to print our 4.5 inch test model on the fastest setting in just under 2 and 1/2 hours. We compared the same model with the UpBox and Orion Delta, and their speeds were timed at roughly 5 hours and 6 and 1/2 hours respectively. When we set the print to the highest quality, it did take a bit more time at just under 7 hours, but the quality was of much higher quality than the other 2 printers that we tested with, and the Orion and the UpBox were both on their lowest quality settings and still had a long printing time. On high quality prints, they could take up to 10 hours if not longer, which is was slower than the TAZ 5.
The Lulzbot TAZ 5 Desktop 3D Printer is one of the most popular modern day 3D printers for a reason. It’s on of the fastest out there that still produces prints of incredible caliber with the option of using a wide variety of materials. While there were some issues, they could normally be fixed by either cleaning your finished print or by tweaking the settings slightly. One drawback is that great features from the TAZ mini were not brought onto the TAZ 5. This is a minor setback, but the are looking at adding it to newer versions in the near future. For those serious about your prints and want something that prints fast with excellent quality, the TAZ 5 is by far your best choice.