What 3D printer to buy?

Hi. I am in the market for purchasing a new 3d printer and would like some advice on what printer to buy.

I am technically experienced both in mechanics, electromechanics, electronics and software so I am able to do some tweaking, however I must admit that this will be my first 3D printer.

The typical use will be serious hobby use. I want to print quadcopter frames, small cabinets to mount lcd displays in, wing parts for RC planes, front bezels for keyboards, small camera brackets, battery holders etc. I would say stiffness / rigidity / selection of plastic types take priority over good looking prints. I am not at all interested in printing nice teddybears and shapes downloaded from thingsverse for fun. I also want to be able to print fairly large parts.

I am looking for something that works and is well proven with good support and availability of spare parts, software and extensions.

The question now is: should I go for the Makerbot replicator 2x or Lulzbot TAS4, Solidoodle, one of the repraps, (obviousy this forum may be biased, I realize that).

I see people mention problems with drafts and moving air with non covered designs. Is this a problem with the TAZ4?

To phraze it differently: why should I buy the TAZ4 over any other printers like the Makerbot replicator 2x, Solidoodle and more?

Please give me your honest advice.

If you want to print quadcopter frames, particularly ones larger than 200mm x 200mm then you want to stay away from the makerbot replicater 2x, which has a long narrow build plate. It may also only print in PLA plastic, which is heavier than ABS. Solidoodle is also smaller than the TAZ. If you are looking for alternatives to the TAZ, I’d probably also recommend looking at the Mendelmax 2, one of the Ultimaker designs, or if budget is an issue, a mendelmax 1.5 / AO-10x type frame.

As for the Pros for the Taz 4, I will admit to some bias, but I also think it is one of the better designs out there at the moment. It is entirely open source. You yourself can print any spare parts you want for the cost of materials. The part files are available so you can modify the printer at will. The frame is solid, it prints 300mm x 300mm, it does so accurately and repeatably. There is a working dual extruder design that performs very well. There is also a fairly active forum community and modification community here who like to tinker with and alter the printers to hopefully make them better. There is also a very responsive and timely customer service department. Most issues posted here that forum peoples can’t handle are taken care of within days. Depending on where you are located, they also have shipping stock available in Canada and the U.K. The software is all open source, and the printer can be persuaded to work with repetier host fairly easily. Lulzbot provides a bunch of pre-canned profiles for slicing software, and you can certainly still download any teddy bear off thingiverse you so desire and print it, or make your own creations using your CAD program of choice. I run mine with Repetier host, Slic3r for slicing, and generate my designs from Autodesk Inventor. The Taz 4 also uses actual leadscrews on the Z axis, not the threaded rod that many designs use. I find that helps eliminate Z banding considerably.

Lulzbot also has a very active community support program if that is at all important to you. They have literally given away more 3d printers to community centers and hackerspaces, than makerbot has sold to those same spaces.

Some of the cons to the Taz 4 design, it’s big. If space is a concern, there are smaller 3d printers out there. Some people are also occasionally concerned by the fairly rapid version iterations that the printers are upgraded in. I personally find that a feature, not a detriment, but it’s worth mentioning in fairness. About the only other thing I would consider a con, is their shipping rates for smaller items can be a little high occasionally.

The enclosure vs. no enclosure debate really depends on where your machine is located. If it is indoors, inside a climate controlled conditioned space, the need for an enclosure is minimized. I don’t print with one, and I rarely have any issues. For those occasional larger prints that might benefit from one, you can always just put a large cardboard box over the machine. No enclosure makes access to parts and machine maintenance easier. Enclosure helps with minimizing layer splitting on large thin wall parts. For what you mentioned that you want to print so far, I would personally not be too worried about an enclosure

Any 3d printer is going to be much better than having no 3d printer, but I’ve been very happy with Lulzbot and will be sticking with them. I’d be happy to answer any machine specific questions if you like.

I did research for over 2 months before deciding on the TAZ 4, IMO for home based 3-D printing, it had the most accurate, largest printing volume, easiest to use out of the box solution I could find online. I considered larger more expensive and cheaper DIY printers that seemed chock full of problems from countless Youtube videos I watched. The TAZ 4 has what I wanted, build volume, open source, durable, long lasting printing platform, it could even print while upside down :slight_smile:, the TAZ 4 seemed like a great bargain vs. having blow molds made, which cost around $3500 each with a minimal order of 500-1000 plastic production blow mold pieces. Comparing it to online printing services I considered using instead of buying my own 3-D printer I came to the realization that with the 10-20 design changes in each final product made, I would save around $4200 just on the first final model.

I’ve got two words for you that most of the other 3-D printers don’t have: Customer support. If it’s a deal, it’s likely a first or second generation model without good customer support as they are likely new and inexperienced. I saw many models that could not print to the level of accuracy that the TAZ can, and more with people telling stories about how they haven’t received their printers after many emails and waiting for 2 months or more. Some other printer companies seemed like a total rip-off, I wanted to avoid those companies, Lulzbot seemed like it had 5 stars even before I bought one.

If you are considering getting one of these like you say, I will tell you it will benefit you, your designs, your mechanical mindedness and tinkering abilities and way of thinking. The “instant karma” of a new model or two every day to play with will finally be realized. Mine is and life just seems better than before.

As for quadcopters and the like, those models are currently available online as free downloads from many sites, just run a search on free 3-d models for printing, and download like crazy.

Good luck have fun printing.