I currently own a Formlabs Form 1+, a LulzBot Taz 5, a Printrbot Simple, and a FlashForge Creator Pro. I have also played with numerous other 3D printers, including a MakerGear M2, the original MakerBot Replicators, some of the newer Replicators, and many others.
Of all the 3D printers I have had the opportunity to use, perhaps none are quicker and easier to get printing than the LulzBot Mini.
And, while the other printers that I have used all have their own pros, for first-time 3Ders, from my experience, the LulzBot Mini is worth every dime…
There’s no tweaking or bed leveling necessary to get the Mini going. The Mini’s prints don’t need to be bathed and washed in rubbing alcohol after they are finished. And, once your print is finished, there is really nothing you have to do to get ready for your next print (except maybe wipe the build platform down).
Overall, Aleph Objects may have delivered the easiest-to-use consumer-level 3D printer on the market. Add-on-top of that the fact that the Mini is extremely reliable and you have the perfect 3D printer for first-timers to the world of 3D printing.
|TECHNOLOGY||FDM — Fused Deposition Modeling|
|MATERIALS||3mm ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, and wood filaments|
|BUILD SIZE||152mm x 152mm x 158mm / 6″ x 6″ x 6.2″|
|LAYER THICKNESS||From 0.05mm to 0.50mm|
|INPUT||.STL, .OBJ, .THING, file input|
|SIZE||435mm x 340mm x 385mm / 17.1″ x 13.4″ x 15.2″|
|WEIGHT||8.5kg / 18.85lbs|
LulzBot Mini Features
Even some of the best and most well-regarded 3D printers on the market need tweaking through the provided software in order to start producing quality prints.
This isn’t so with the LulzBot Mini. With the Mini, you get a 3D printer that is ready to start printing right out of the box (after you have installed the software, of course.)
But, coming ready-to-print is just one of many features that the Mini brings to the table…
Auto Bed-Leveling Before Each Print
For some printers, leveling the print bed can be a real pain in the butt. LulzBot has solved this problem by including a completely hands-off auto-bed leveling feature. If you use the Cura software’s quick print settings, your Mini will level the bed before every single print.
This means no more endless tweaking and adjusting to your print bed before it’s level.
While some enthusiasts don’t mind the endless tweaking and adjusting, for others, having a machine that can level itself before each print is a huge plus as it saves a ton of time which can be put toward printing out objects.
Another nuisance with most modern 3D printers is the fact that you have to keep the extruder’s nozzle clean, or risk filament clogs and jams. LulzBot has also solved this problem by adding a strip of cloth right behind the build plate that the machine can use to clean the extruder’s nozzle.
And, just like the auto bed-leveling feature, the nozzle-cleaning feature is also performed before each and every print (as long as you’re using the quick print settings.)
Aleph Objects Does Customer Service Right
If there is any market or technology where companies needed to provide excellent customer support, it’s 3D printing. Since 3D printing is still such a new technology, machines don’t always work as they’re intended to.
And, because of that, it’s imperative that the manufacturer of the 3D printer make themselves available to you in your time of need.
Aleph Objects definitely scores big in the customer support department. They’re accessible, friendly, and they offer plenty of options for getting support. You can contact them by email, by phone, or post in their forums.
One-Year Warranty With the Option to Extend to Two- and Three-Years
A lot of 3D printer manufacturers fail with the warranty they provide. It’s not uncommon to see 3D printers with 3-months or less warranties. As mentioned above, consumer-level 3D printing isn’t the most polished technology and so offering such a short warranty for a machine that has a high chance of breaking down is a tragedy.
Fortunately, along with offering a very reliable printer, Aleph Objects has gone the extra mile by offering a one-year warranty (which includes one-year of customer support for your machine) with the option to extend that warranty to two or three years.
This means that Aleph Objects believes in their product enough to guarantee its reliability for a full year (or two, or three!) And, having that protection should definitely give first-time 3Ders some peace of mind when purchasing their first printer.
Full List of Features
|Can be up and running within 20-30 minutes|
|Auto bed-leveling is an amazing feature that saves you hassle|
|Can print in a variety of filaments giving you more options|
|Good print speeds|
|Auto nozzle-cleaner saves you time and hassle|
|Compatible with an array of 3D printing software programs|
|Very attentive customer support|
|Open-source means you can upgrade and modify the printer|
|One year warranty blows away most competitor’s offering|
|Good accuracy; capable of producing quality prints|
|Comes with a rack to hold your filament|
|Lightweight design make it perfect for your desktop|
Setup, Software, and Configuration
While 3D printing technology is improving, there still aren’t a whole lot of printers out there that come ready-to-print right out of the box. The LulzBot Mini, however, can pretty much start printing as soon as the following are finished:
1. Remove all packaging foam from the machine
2. Download, install, and configure software
3. Connect and power on the Mini
4. Feed filament into the extruder
5. Start printing
The steps above give you a general idea of the steps you’ll need to take in order to get the Mini up and running. As you can see, all of the steps are pretty basic and none of them requiring any major tinkering or adjustments.
I chose to use the Cura software and once I configured it for the Mini, printing was as simple as loading the model, opening the Control Panel, and printing it. I will say, though, that if you want to use the full settings option, that you need to calibrate the printer and set the Z-axis home.
I tried printing right out of the box with the full settings and it wasn’t calibrated correctly. However, when I switched to the quick print settings, it printed with no problems.
The software is pretty straight-forward to use. With the quick print settings you’re given options for the quality of print you want (high quality, normal quality, and fast low quality), the material you’re using, and the option to print support structure and a brim around the base of the print.
The full settings allow you to change the layer height, shell thickness, fill settings, print speed, extruder temperature, bed temperature, filament diameter, flow rate, as well as a few other settings.
Once you have your print loaded and scaled how you want it, you load the Control Panel and hit Print. That’s pretty much the gist of it. The Control Panel will enable you to manually move the printer along the X-,Y-, and Z-axis and you can also set your extruder temperature and bed temperature directly in the Control Panel.
Printing With the LulzBot Mini 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 LulzBot Mini 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.
With the advanced settings, the LulzBot Mini can hit a layer thickness of as low as 0.05mm. And, if you take a look at some of the prints I posted images of in the sections below, you can see that even at a layer thickness of 0.2mm, the objects came out looking really clean.
I have not yet tested the Mini at .1mm or lower as I’m fine with the quality at .2mm, but if you can get the settings right and get the Mini printing at .1mm or less, the quality should be amazing.
Print speeds ultimately rely on what kind of quality you are looking for. The LulzBot Mini sits in the upper echelon of FDM prints as far a print speed goes with a top print speed of 275mm/sec at 0.18 layer height.
That’s faster than the Alfinia H-Series, the CubeX Cube, the Felix 3.0, the LulzBot Taz (Aleph Object’s flagship printer), the MakerBot Replicator (2x and 5th generation), and plenty more.
So, if print speed is an important factor to you, then the LulzBot Mini will definitely meet your needs in that category.
Print Area and Volume
The one downfall with the LulzBot Mini is the fact that it is, well, mini. But then again, Aleph Objects made the Mini specifically to be mini.
So, if you’re looking to push out some monster-size prints, the Mini isn’t for you. With a print area of roughly 6 in³ you’re getting roughly the same print area as the ~$600 Printrbot Simple Metal.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the Simple Metal is the better deal. It quite simply is not.
The Mini makes up for it’s small build area with its reliability, ease-of-use, exceptional print quality, heated build platform (which can be purchased as an upgrade on the Simple Metal), print speed, and warranty.
For it’s price, it trumps its competitors in nearly every category except print area/volume.
Printer Build Quality and Reliability
Another big selling point of the LulzBot Mini is it’s reliability. I’ve had the printer for nearly a month now and this thing has been printing nonstop. It hasn’t given me a single problem yet.
I’ve done plenty of small prints that have taken under an hour, a few large prints that have taken over 10 hours (including a T-Rex showerhead that took 17 hours), and a number of prints in between.
All the Mini does is keep on pumping out quality prints. This, for the most part, is due to it’s solid construction. It has a steel frame, but surprisingly there are a quite a few parts to the machine that are actually 3D printed. These, of course, don’t hurt the printer and only add more to its “coolness” factor.
Pictures of Prints from the Mini
As mentioned above the LulzBot Mini has pretty much been printing nonstop since I got it. These are a few of the prints I have done in that time frame.
Of course, I had to print out the Rocktopus. And the long skinny print with the notches in the side and the hole in the middle is actually a tripod mount for my Samsung Note 3.
The T-Rex showerhead print and the crazy looking cube were the longest prints and the cube was definitely the most challenging. The T-Rex took about 17 hours to finish while the cube took about 10 hours.
The T-Rex showerhead looks amazing. I printed it at the quick print “High Quality Print” (which I believe is .2mm layer height).
It took over 17 hours and the only trouble the Mini really had with it was the teeth. However, every other person I saw who made this print had trouble with the teeth and pretty much everyone had even more trouble with them.
As you can see in the picture above the showerhead did fit fine, but I accidentally broke off the spout part from the skull because I tightened it too tight. I fixed it with some super glue.
There is a small leak from where the spout broke off, but the showerhead still gives off surprisingly good water-pressure.
This cube was by far the most difficult print. But that’s not a testament to the Mini’s ability, but rather to the complexity of the design itself.
While it didn’t come out looking perfect, the Mini was able to get through the print without any major issues.
The Note 3 tripod mount was pretty straight forward and it printed with no problems. Now I can use my phone as my video camera!
If there is one thing that stood out the most to me about using the LulzBot Mini, it was the fact that of all the 3D printers I own and have ever used, it was by far the easiest to setup and get printing.
3D printers typically come with a bit of tweaking and adjusting to get working, but for the Mini it was as simple as unboxing it, installing the software, installing the filament, loading an object, and hitting print.
Furthermore, unlike other printers that constantly need adjusting and leveling between prints, I have not had to make any adjustments on the Mini in the month that I have been printing with it.
My only gripe about the Mini would be it’s print size. However, it was created to be smaller. So, really, I’m guessing I’m just hoping to see the next rendition of the Taz get the auto nozzle-cleaner and auto bed-leveler features.
All-in-all, the LulzBot Mini is a resounding success. It can match more expensive 3D printers in terms of print quality and it is one of the easiest printers on the market to setup, maintain, and use… and that is really the ideal set of features that you should be looking for in your next 3D printer purchase.