TAZ5 vs. Makergear M2

I’m a retired programmer, and I got into 3D printing late last year, seduced by Barnes and Noble’s $249 price on an XYZPrinting Da Vinci Jr. printer.

I’ve had a lot of fun with it (and Sketchup), learning how to clear filament jams, replacing damaged Bowden tube fittings (my fault, but at least Amazon sells ‘em in 10-packs for $6.00), tweaking the Z offset (no bed leveling on this entry-level printer) in tenth-millimeter increments because the black PLA is “thicker” than the colored PLA filaments), and the importance of temperature control to keep prints from warping.

I have some use for these things: my local Mustang car club holds annual car shows, and I can print fun stuff for the goodie bags participants get, and table decorations for the awards banquet. I collect old computers and calculators, many of which have plastic parts that have disintegrated with age.

Anyway, as I said, it’s been a fun few months, but now I’m running up against the limitations of the hardware and XYZWare software. As you probably know, the Da Vinci Jr. is “locked down” and cannot use third party filament or slicing software, so I’m looking to upgrade to a more capable and versatile machine.

Ideally, I’d like a dual-extruder setup— if not initially, at least something that could be upgraded. (One of the things i’d like to print for the car show is little Ford key fobs, with an inset “Ford” logo in a different color material). Open source appeals to me greatly, and my short list now comprises the Lulzbot Taz 5 and the Makergear M2. Both seem like excellent machines, and both have active user communities. I will note that the Luzlbot wins points for having a very detailed 40-step illustrated guide on installing and configuring their dual extruder setup, culminating in the printing of…drum roll…a key fob with an inset logo in a contrasting color!

I have of course spent several days researching these two printers, and reading the forums. Still, I thought it would be a good idea to get input from people vastly more experienced and knowledgeable than myself, so my question to you TAZ 5 owners is: why did you choose this printer over the M2? What do you see as its advantage?

Thanks for all responses…

I was standing in front of the same decision last year. For me, the final decision was triggered by the finding that the M2 isn’t shipped to Europe :cry:

Beside this, there are pro and cons for both printers and of course you will read pro-TAZ meanings in a Lulzbot forum :wink: The biggest difference between M2 and TAZ is the quality of the bearing system. The M2 comes with a rail system witch shouldn’t have any play in it and allow for high quality and higher speeds. The bearings of a TAZ limits you to very moderate speeds and there are annoying problems with Z-wobble and simmilar things as a result of the hughe bearing play. If you decide to go for the TAZ, I would recommend to keep in mind that you may want to change the rods and bearings in near future.

For two-collored printing, I would suggest you to have a look at the E3D Cyclops hot end. No oozing of the unused color, no calibration problems… :sunglasses:

The M2 now ships overseas. Besides a far better rail and bearing system, it also has a physical heat break gap that does not allow heat creep to happen. Hence little or no jamming.
BUT you don’t get the print area size and I really liked Cura a lot better then Simplify 3D.

Thanks for the replies. The E3D Cyclops hot end looks interesting, if improbable. Off to find end-user reviews…

One significant advantage of the Lulz: y’all allow questions about other printers. The Makergear forum folks sent me a nice letter that while I was allowed to ask any questions about Makergear products, they didn’t want discussions and comparisons with other machines. Huh…

Indeed, support from the community here is outstanding, and a great reason to consider a LulzBot machine.

Personally, I think the Taz design, and especially the Mini design, implements more robust design choices. Moving a potentially heavy bed platform in only the Y dimension seems less subject to bending than a cantilevered platform moving along Z across unsupported rods. Especially if there is any desire to add features to that bed, or use the machine for more than light 3D printing. Filament diameter is also a consideration - in my experience both direct and bowden extruders perform several times better with 3mm filament. Much less compressibility, more surface area to melt in the nozzle. Bonus, the rock solid LulzBot extruders ship with all-metal hotends, compatibile with a wider range of materials.

On the other hand, the bearings are a weak point of the Taz. Fortunately, upgrading to ultra-slick OpenBuilds bearings is a well-documented procedure.

The Mini design is attractive, especially with the auto-head-cleaning and auto-bed-levelling (which apparently simply stores Z offsets for the bed corners and adjusts the extruder height on the fly rather than actually leveling the bed). This appeals to the “I just want my damn print” impulse; on the other hand, can I really consider myself a Printer if I don’t spend hours adjusting fraction-of-a-millimeter tolerances everywhere?

Also, I really, really want the option to move to dual extruders in the future.

You mention 3mm filament. Is this the standard size the TAZ extruders are designed for? I gather I’d need to switch the extruders to go to 1.75mm filament. Pity: I’ve many spools of XYZPrinting PLA in 1.75…

It seems funny to talk about upgrading parts as basic as rods and bearings on a $2200 printer. Honestly this is the biggest shot against Lulzbot for me. Of course given my small experience level it’s possible I could happily print my parts for months without being bothered by the things that annoy more experienced folks.

(Or I could just say “Heck with it” and buy an Airwolf Axion dual extruder setup. Despite the fact that I currently have no plans to print ABS, I can say “At least it has an enclosure for better printing of large ABS parts.”) Yeah, that would probably be stupid.

The issue with the rods really depends on what you are printing, and at what resolution. If you are going to print large items at medium or low resolution with a .5mm nozzle, the issue with the rods will not be that big a deal as long as you are moderate with your speed settings. If you print small parts at under .1mm layers using a .25mm or smaller nozzle, again, the rods will not be a big deal. I mostly print smaller parts at .08mm to .2mm layers using a .25mm nozzle with ABS and wax and am very happy with the TAZ. I still plan on building piercet’s openrail mods so I can try and push the resolution and speed envelope.
Actually, the ease of making changes to the TAZ is one of the points that swayed my choice in printers. Plus, they have given me great customer service.

In reality, I think either of the systems you are looking at are at the top end of the price/performance index.


With the rods, this is just a minor annoyance that doesn’t seem to bother most users. Both the Taz and Mini work out of the box, and that is what counts. For me, I am extremely demanding, expecting every job to start without manual intervention. Plus I am adding several pounds more extruers, lasers, microscopes, milling spindles, etc. So take my recommendation there with a grain of salt. :wink:

For the Mini, alignment is usually a non-issue. Some users seem to have problems with the probing mechanism, but it has worked extemely well for me at HacDC. It definitely serves the ‘just print impulse’ without fuss, but also provides excellent print quality.

Regarding filament diameter, some users have reported carefully using 1.75mm filament without any modifications to the machine. However, 3mm is the standard size LulzBot Taz and Mini extruders use. Failing all else, IMO, it is worth using the eBay exchange service - 1.75mm filament is terrible.

Many enclosures for the LulzBot Taz and Mini have been designed and shared on the forums. Honestly though, I’ve printed HIPS, ABS, and PLA, without seeing much need for an enclosure. Automatically generated fan speeds from Slic3r seem able to maintain almost any part at just the right temperature throughout printing.

As for the Airwolf Axion dual extruder setup, it always seems odd to see expensive machines using bowden tubes with cartesian mechanics. Either the machine should be much cheaper, it should be capable of moving heavier tools. Doesn’t seem like a fair deal. Also, Airwolf seems to like that word “proprietary”, which is a bit strange considering the RepRap community’s roots…

FWIW, I have a misadventure story related to Airwolf dual-extrusion printers. A 3D hubs operator accepted a job for me that was supposed to be done with PVA support material on an Airwolf machine. After about a week of waiting for their support to address g-code slicing errors, he finally printed it on a Makerbot. For lack of build area or dissolvable support material, he had to acetone glue the parts together. To the operator’s credit, communication was excellent and professional.

I do have to say that after my experience with the Da Vinci Jr., I’d really prefer a direct filament drive (i.e. in the extruder) rather than the Bowden system. The Jr’s filament drive requires removing the front, top, and side of the case, plus an internal support brace, to get to in case of jams, and I’ve done this so many times I could likely hold my breath and complete it.

In fact it’s currently waiting for me to disassemble it to remove another jam (the third one on this spool of blue PLA; maybe the spool is cursed or something). But at this point I think I’ll just cut my losses and wait for a “real” printer. I can’t really complain at $249, and it has been a good learning experience, but the past few days have been super frustrating.

Right now I’m measuring desk space. Here’s my current setup:

See way over at the left, with the small monitor and the red open frame system (currently doing SSD testing for a review site)? That’s where the printer has to sit. And the TAZ 5 is kinda huge.

And thanks for the Airwolf story. It’s tempting to spend tons of money on something like a 3D Systems Cube Pro or some other “industrial” machine, but I think a TAZ/Makergear level device would probably suit me better…

To me, desk space is a non-issue. Not because it isn’t a problem, but because chosing a smaller machine to fit in a small space can cause more trouble than is worthwhile. If space is a critical constrait, I’d strongly recommend a Mini for ease of use.

Bowden tubes are usually not such a pain as you have described. Usually, it is easy to snap off a PTC fitting. Clogs should also be extremely rare. Sounds like you were also dealing with bad filament and a bad extruder design. Have heard that some bargin filaments made from recycled material are embedded with metal shavings.

Problem with the “industrial” machines is they haven’t quite lived up to expectations in my experience, generally. Typically, alignment is still a major headache. In some cases, other problems emerge. For the Cube printer I have used, the machine was limited to PLA, lacked a heated bed, and required glue stick use. For Makerbot, I have heard many, many, many horror stories that leave me wondering how that company is even still in business.

LulzBot’s Mini is the best ‘just works’ machine I have found. Taz is the next best, easy to align, and easy to upgrade. After that, SeeMeCNC’s delta machines are easy to align, and precise enough to stay aligned. The rest of the competition seems to fall short by a large margin in my view.