If you’re looking for the most bang-for-your-buck then you might not have to look any further than the LulzBot TAZ 4. Seriously, for just a little over $2,000, this printer seems to have everything most 3D printing enthusiasts want: a huge print area, an open-source platform, a very competitive price, the ability to print in a variety of different filaments, and good print resolutions.
In comparison to MakerBot’s newest Replicator, (the 5th Generation), the TAZ 4 has a significantly larger print area, it can be upgraded and modded (whereas the Replicator can’t), and it costs over $1,000 less.
Add to that the fact that it’s provides an open-source platform and it’s really easy to get behind LulzBot’s flagship 3D printer.
|TECHNOLOGY||FDM — Fused Deposition Modeling|
|MATERIALS||3mm ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, and wood filaments|
|BUILD SIZE||298mm x 275mm x 250mm / 11.7″ x 10.8″ x 9.8″|
|RESOLUTION||As low as 100 microns|
|INPUT||.STL, .OBJ, .THING, file input|
|SIZE||680mm x 520mm x 515mm / 26.8″ x 20.5″ x 20.3″|
|WEIGHT||11kg / 24.25lbs|
LulzBot TAZ 4 Features
While it’s not the only 3D printer to be built on an open-source platform, nor the only printer to boast having a large print area and having the ability to print in a wide array of filaments, it does seem the first printer to combine all of these things with a fairly affordable price tag (at least for the features you get.)
In the Introduction section above, we compared the LulzBot TAZ 4 to MakerBot’s 5th generation Replicator simply because anything made by MakerBot gets rave reviews…
As far as features and build-quality go, though, most hardcore 3d printing enthusiasts will be the first to tell you that the TAZ 4 offers the more complete package.
Aleph Objects Provides Excellent Customer Support
On top of the impressive list of features that the TAZ 4 comes with, you’d be hard-pressed to find a LulzBot customer who doesn’t rave about Aleph Object’s customer support.
This, of course, is extremely important in the world of 3D printing, which, because the industry is in its infancy, means that no printer out there is without its flaws.
So, with excellent support, you can have peace of mind when purchasing the TAZ 4, simply because you know they will be willing to correct the problems that are more than likely to arise.
Open-Source Means Modability
Perhaps the most important feature-at least from a ‘maker’s’ perspective is the fact that the TAZ 4 is based on an open-source design. That means that you can modify it to your heart’s desire.
It also means that there are likely a lot of other individuals (who are much smarter than myself) who will make important modifications to the design and, in turn, make those free to the public. In fact, the TAZ 4 is already setup to where it can easily be upgraded to a dual extruder!
Ultimately, this is important because it phases out those companies who would want to capitalize on the 3d printing market by pushing out an entirely brand new 3D printer every year-one that only has nominal improvements over the previous model-thus forcing you to spend a ton of money to get the newer model.
So, if you want to be able to upgrade your printer as time goes by, rather than having to shell out thousands of dollars for a brand new one every couple of years, an open-source 3D printer like the TAZ 4 is the way to go.
A Very Solid Warranty for A Very Solid Printer
Perhaps one of the biggest nuances with the 3D printer market right now is the ridiculously short warranty period. Some 3D printers come with 1-2 month warranties. In my opinion, that’s an absurd offering regardless of the market you’re talking about.
Sure, 3D printing is a very new technology and that means that there isn’t a lot of consumer know-how, which ultimately results in a lot of consumers breaking their printers. So, I can see the reasoning behind manufacturers wanting as short of a warranty as possible…
…but when you’re saying “I have this excellent product that I want to sell you. It’s so awesome that I’m willing to guarantee its quality for a whopping two whole months. Now please pay me hundreds if not thousands of dollars for it,” it’s pretty ridiculous.
Fortunately, the LulzBot TAZ 4 does not participate in such nonsense, as they offer a full one year of warranty and support. This is a standard offering in the electronics industry, but an above-and-beyond offering in the 3D printer industry. So, it’s just another thing to write home about when reviewing the TAZ 4.
Full List of Features
|Large print area makes it possible to print huge items|
|Very good accuracy for an FDM printer|
|Perhaps the best price-to-performance on the market|
|Excellent maximum print speeds|
|Comes with an LCD control panel|
|Supports a wide array of filaments|
|Very attentive customer support|
|Open-source means you can upgrade and mod the printer|
|One year warranty blows away most competitor’s offering|
|Setup is quick & easy and it comes with plenty of documentation|
|Comes with a rack to hold your filament|
|Can easily be upgraded to a dual extruder|
Setup, Software, and Configuration
For first-time 3D ‘printerers’ the prospect of setting up your 3D printer can be excruciating and daunting. Fortunately, for the TAZ 4, Aleph Objects gave plenty of support materials to help you get up and running.
Though, it should be noted that there is some preparation steps involved in order to get the TAZ up and running correctly. The following are the steps you must take to get your printer up and running:
1. Mount the Printer Bed to the Printer Frame
2. Mount the Power Supply to the Printer
3. Attach the Filament Guide (Tube) to the Printer Frame
4. Install the Printrun Software to Home the Printer
5. Level the Print Bed
The steps above give you a general idea of the steps you’ll need to take in order to get the printer up and printing. Once they have been performed, you’ll be ready to make your first print.
For your first print, the TAZ 4 setup guide has you print an octopus and they provide the g-code file for you. The TAZ 4 works out of the box with Printrun so I recommend using that software. It may take you a couple of test runs to get the printer working properly.
As mentioned above, the LulzBot TAZ 4 works with Printrun. Printrun will give you all the controls you need to print files and configure the settings on your 3D printer. And, as it comes bundled with Slic3r, you won’t need to worry about getting a slicing program for the STL files you pull from sites like Thingiverse.
Note, however, that Printrun will not allow you to design your own models. For that you will need a CAD or 3D modeling software packaging.
Overall, Printrun/Pronterface does its job fine and gives you enough control to maximize your experience with your printer.
Printing With the LulzBot TAZ 4 3D Printer
A 3D printer can come with all sorts of cool features like a steel frame, or an LCD screen, or a rack for your filament wheel, but when it all comes down to it, all that really matters is how well it prints.
For an FDM 3D printer, the TAZ 4 brings professional-like print quality to the home user.
In this section I’ll go into detail about the following areas: print accuracy, print speed, print area and volume, and printer build quality and reliability.
For what FDM printers are capable of, the TAZ 4 is in the upper echelon of printing accuracy. With a layer thickness ranging from 0.075mm to 0.35mm and a print tolerance of 0.1mm, the TAZ 4 offers you the ability to achieve some really good quality prints.
And, while you won’t get SLA-quality prints, the TAZ 4 is capable of producing objects that will suit most enthusiasts needs. So, overall, if you’re looking for a machine that can produce nice-looking objects, the TAZ 4 will serve you well.
Print speed typically means loss of print quality. But with the TAZ 4, you can push the printer to its limits and still achieve prints your mother would be proud of.
The TAZ 4 is capable of hitting prints speeds of as high as 200mm/sec which is right about industry standard. Print speed probably isn’t the best indication of overall quality of the printers themselves… but it is important that a machine is able to print an object in a reasonable amount of time, especially considering that the longer the print, the more likely something is to go wrong.
Print Area and Volume
You’d be hard pressed to find a printer on the market that offers as big of a print area as the LulzBot TAZ 4, especially at the price it comes in at.
With a print are of 11.7″ x 10.8″ x 9.8″ and a total print volume of 20,500cm³, the TAZ 4 outshines the FormLabs Form 1, the FSL3D Pegasus Touch, the MakerBot Replicator 5th Gen, the CubeX Trio, the Airwolf AW3D XL, the MakerGear M2, and pretty much any other high-end printer you want to throw into that mix.
The best part is that the TAZ 4 costs less than all of the above-mentioned 3D printers except for the MakerGear M2.
So, if you’re looking for a printer that can produce huge objects, then you need look no further than the LulzBot TAZ 4.
Printer Build Quality and Reliability
The TAZ 4 is marketed as being “…the most dependable desktop 3D printer on the market…” And, it’s fair to say that Aleph Objects honestly believes that statement as they are willing to do what most other 3D printing manufacturers aren’t: back up their product with a 1-year warranty.
The truth is that the reliability of 3D printers in general at this point in time is shaky at best. As mentioned before in this post, the technology is in its infancy and there are some growing pains to go through before we have a truly perfect printer. However, for now, the TAZ 4 is very-well designed, sturdy, and is capable of churning out multiple long prints without issue.
Ultimately, if I were going to rank the TAZ 4 among 3D printers for build quality and reliability, it would definitely rank among the top 5% of consumer 3D printers currently on the market. And, that’s not including the 1-year warranty it comes with.
Overall, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to call the TAZ 4 3D printer the best deal currently on the market. It exceeds expectations in pretty much every category and it comes it at a much more affordable price than some of the other big-name printers on the market. And, that’s why it makes our list of the best 3D printers for 2014.
I do believe it’s safe to say that the LulzBot TAZ 4 is one of the best FDM printers currently available (if not the best.) It’s large print area, open-source platform, 1-year warranty, and excellent customer support are just a few reasons why the TAZ 4 stands above the rest. You definitely can’t go wrong by getting this printer.