Monday, 30 January 2017

Lulzbot TAZ 6 vs Makerbot Replicator 2

For a long time the Makerbot Replicator 2 has been seen as the plug and play workhorse for 3D printing. I was disappointed with their next generation after the Makerbot Replicator 2, as I have blogged before. I think they lost the plot, personally.

We (A&A) have now got a Lulzbot TAZ 6. It has some differences, and I hope to explain them here. However, overall, I think the TAZ 6 from Lulzbot is actually a good choice and value for money.

Price

A good starting point in any comparison is price, and Makerbot Replicator 2 seems to be listed for around £1500 at the moment. The TAZ 6 I got was a little under £2000, but oddly they are often listed nearer £2500 (inc VAT). The price I paid seemed quite good, and I got it from Amazon. DPD screwed delivery so a working day late.

Unpacking and getting ready

The Makerbot pretty much was complete (though later versions needed some assembly), but the TAZ 6 is not far off. The bed+carriage needed fitting, which was 4 thumb screws, and the extruder needed fitting which was one screw with a (provided) Allen key. It came with a tool kit even. Very simple and easy and very clear instructions. A few connectors needed plugging in along the way, but all simple and obvious. I was originally concerned that the TAZ 6 was more "hobby" style than the "plug and play" style of the Makerbot, but I really cannot fault the packaging and installation instructions much. It really was simple and took maybe 10 minutes from opening the box, if that.



Print area

The Makerbot 2 is a closed frame, and has a print area of 280 x 153 x 155. The TAZ 6 is an open frame and has print area of 280 x 280 x 250, so way more. This is pretty major in terms of features - being over 2.6 times the volume!

Print bed

The print bed on the Makerbot is acrylic but on the TAZ 6 it is glass (with PEI surface?), and importantly on the TAZ 6 it is heated. This is important as it can ensure large prints do not curl up - this happens a lot on the Makerbot. So far not needed to print any sort of raft on the TAZ 6, unlike the Makerbot. Getting prints off the bed has been easy on the TAZ 6 - not so much on the Makerbot.

Resolution

Checking the Internet the layer resolution of the Makerbot can be as good as 50µm, but the software appears to only go down to 100µm. Even at 100µm we found the prints to be "stringy" (fine threads between parts of the print). The TAZ 6 can go down to 50µm but the quality is much the same as 100µm, and very good. My practical tests suggest the quality of the TAZ 6 is at least as good as the Makerbot Replicator 2. As usual it is simply a trade off between quality and speed.

Filament

The Makerbot uses 1.75mm PLA, but the TAZ 6 uses 2.85mm PLA, or ABS. The fact it can print ABS is a definite plus point for stronger prints.

Speed

The TAZ 6 manages 200mm/s. I am struggling to find the Makerbot spec. It seems similar. We may have to do a race between the two some time soon!

Bed levelling

The Makerbot Replicator 2 has a zero Z axis only, bed levelling is a manual process to go through with turning thumb screws. The TAZ 6 has built in levelling. Unlike the Makerbot which means making the bed level, the TAZ 6 measures the bed and builds that in to the X/Y/Z plotting on every print - never a bad print that way. Nice feature.

Moving bed

I was not really that happy with a moving bed - seems to be asking for trouble somehow, but to be honest the TAZ 6 seems fine. Yes the bed and the whole of the print so far moves, but it seems to not break anything, so fair enough. It has the side effect, along with an open frame, of making video of the print process a lot easier.

Dual extruder

There is a dual extruder for both of these, not tried either, but that is a key feature for dissolvable supports. More on that when I eventually try that. The open frame of the TAZ 6 could mean no loss of print size though, to be tested.

Applications

The Makerbot app is very good, and easy to use, but to be honest the open source Cura used by the TAZ 6 is at least as easy to use! There is nothing really to tell them apart here.

Any criticisms?

The TAZ 6 lacks maybe on thing. The on device menu should have load and unload filament for totally off line operation. I think it may be possible with movement command. Could be clearer. At present that works well via USB from the Cura app. That is pretty much my only criticism of the TAZ 6 so far!

The only other issue on the TAZ 6 was that when it arrived, probably down to vibration in transit, the two Z axis screws were not aligned meaning I could not do the auto bed levelling. My left/right Z axis was skewed! It was a simple matter of turning one screw a few turns, but the manual did not seem to cover this simple flaw. They could easily improve that.

Conclusion

I prefer the TAZ 6, not much more in price but a lot more in features, and just as easy to use as the Makerbot Replicator 2. Well done Lulzbot.

I am also quite impressed with how much of the TAZ 6 is in fact 3D printed parts!

6 comments:

  1. Adrian,please be safe and ensure proper ventilation and fumes extractio when playing with 3D printers. I suppose you have heard the news of the couple and their cats in SF killed by CO.

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    1. Good point. I have CO alarm anyway and ventilation.

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  2. Running an Ultimaker 2+ here, which I suspect is in the same sort of performance class. It's definitely trying to be on the "just works" end of the scale rather than the "old British bike you have to tinker with for hours" style, but it's quite tweakable - and with no Ethernet connection, not vulnerable to the usual IoT problems. Enclosed, but with an open top and front; does ABS, PLA and (apparently) PET, though PLA is all I've used so far.

    (RSchu, don't believe the Daily Mail version of the story that most news outlets have copied - it's the Daily Mail after all! The SF case seems to have involved a laser cutter, not a 3D printer, and it's not at all clear just what they were cutting. ABS fumes may well be bad for people with certain chemical sensitivities, but they're a much lower category of hazard.)

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    1. I read the story on the Register, who did point out the distinction between a 3D printer and a laser cutter, but I suppose good ventilation cannot do any harm in any event.

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    2. Indeed, and we have a laser cutter, and if you cut plastic it makes some fumes, but it also has a big extractor fan...

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  3. I would like to see you buy a formlabs2 stereo litho printer :-)

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