The LulzBot TAZ 4 was high on my list of printers to test this year. I have always been impressed with the engineering and attention to detail that LulzBot has put into its machines. Having spent some time on the original TAZ during last year’s testing, I wanted to see what improvements had been made. I expected a printer that the hackers would love — capable of producing large prints that are perfect for demos and parts. I didn’t expect a machine that would print high-quality prints on par with any other machine on the market. I was pleasantly surprised!
Minor Assembly, Foolproof Connectors
Unpacking the TAZ 4, you will find the printer mostly assembled but with a few of the parts packed separately for easy shipment. You will also find a quick-setup guide, a larger manual, a spool of filament, and an excellent toolkit. Assembly is a snap — the TAZ 4 uses high-quality connectors that make the wiring foolproof. Most of the parts can be assembled by hand, but the few that can’t are easily completed with the included toolkit. With the help of the quick-start guide, you will be up and running with your first prints in about an hour.
By Engineers, For Engineers
In a field of printers that are starting to spend a serious amount of effort on their design aesthetics, the LulzBot TAZ 4 isn’t going to be winning any beauty pageants — it’s been designed by engineers for engineers. The creators took time to not only figure out how to do the things they wanted but how to do them the best way. The spool holder is hinged to hide away during transportation or storage, but swivels down and locks in place for use. The filament guide snaps onto its holder and can adjust with the movements of the machine. In most printers we find that screw holes are either tapped directly into the plastic or have nuts on the backside to hold the bolts in place. The TAZ uses press-fit brass threaded inserts that ensure all connections stay rock solid. Instead of using the standard steel roller bearings for linear motion, the TAZ uses igus polymer bushings. These bushings run quieter and without lubrication, resulting in zero maintenance and a longer lifespan.
Keeping It Open Source
As more printers hit the market as closed-source projects, LulzBot has continued its commitment to manufacturing a fully open-source printer. All of the files — their source files, schematics, and code — are available for you to fix, build, and redesign any portion of the machine. They also support a large number of the slicing and control software options that are available for the OS printers. LulzBot’s site includes config files for the popular open-source Slic3r engine tuned for numerous materials, making it simple to start printing in ABS, PLA, NinjaFlex, and others. Even the printed manual that comes with the TAZ is open source. If you get nothing else out of this review, download bit.ly/taz-manual and take a look. Many sections are nonprinter specific and are perfect for anyone interested in 3D printing. If you use Slic3r this is a must-read!
So who is the TAZ 4 a perfect printer for? While I’m hesitant to say this is a printer for a first-time printer owner, the quick-start guide and manual make it easy for anyone to get this machine up and running. Makers, hackers, engineers, and artists will feel right at home with this machine. The large, heated glass build platform, ability to print untethered, and ease of modification will give them everything they are looking for. Sometimes it’s best to spend your time on engineering rather than good looks.