My Lulzbot Mini

My Lulzbot Mini with LED strip lights that I added. The object on the bed is half of an exhaust adapter for a laser cutter.

I started the Rochester Makerspace more than 2-1/2 years ago. It’s a non-profit (501c3) community workshop and art studio in Rochester New York that provides low cost access to sophisticated tools, teaches classes, organizes events, and hosts school field trips.  The makerspace has many very hard working volunteers but it’s still a nearly full-time job for me.  It’s also unpaid one so I also have a very demanding full-time day job.  That’s why this website has been so dormant.

Ironically, I don’t get a chance to make anything anymore because I’m so busy all the time.  That was really starting to bother me so last spring so I bought a Lulzbot Mini 3D printer.  It conveniently sits in my home office so I can make something once in awhile.  It’s a great machine and I want to to tell you about it in case you’re looking for a really good “hobby-class” 3D printer.

The Lulzbot Mini costs $1350, which makes it one of the more expensive 3D printers in its class.  But I think it’s worth the extra cost.

  • To get a high quality 3D print your bed needs to be perfectly level and your nozzle has to start at the proper height about the bed.  Most current machines (all?) require you to make those adjustments manually and you have to periodically redo them.  The Lulzbot eliminates that chore because it has a self-leveling bed.  It measures the height of the four corners of the bed before every print and then automatically compensates if it’s not level. I won’t try to describe exactly how it does that but trust me, it works great.
  • Most printers also have a problem with getting ABS plastic to adhere to the bed consistently.  So their owners resort to all kinds of tricks, like using hairspray, glue sticks, large skirts, or a mixture of acetone and plastic. Many people avoid the problem completely by only printing with PLA on a layer of blue painter’s tape.  The Lulzbot Mini doesn’t have this problem because its heated bed has a layer of PEI. It’s a plastic that ABS sticks very well to when it’s hot and comes off of fairly easily when the bed cools down.  As a result I print almost everything with ABS because of its extra strength and durability and because it’s just so easy with the Lulzbot.
  • I also bought the Lulzbot because I wanted to be able to print with Nylon, which is something most 3D printers can’t do.  The Mini can do it because it has an all metal extruder that can reach the necessary temperature.
  • The Mini also produces very high quality prints.  I’m not sure I remember correctly, but I think it came in second in Make magazine’s latest 3D printer tests.  It’s also super easy to use.

I also think the Mini is very well designed and durable.  It’s also an open source design and you could download all the files and information you need to build one from scratch.

There are a couple of things that I don’t like about the Lulzbot.  It’s too noisy when it’s running.  The Rochester Makerspace has a couple of Soldoodle 3D printers and a Rostock Delta we built ourselves and they are almost as quiet as a whisper.  I also think the cost of some of the Mini’s replacement parts are too high.  The two parts you’re most likely to need to replace someday are the cooling fan on the extruder and the PEI on the bed.

The Mini comes with a one-year warranty and I know first hand and from others that the company provides very good customer support.  The PEI on my bed was badly damaged by someone who used a screwdriver to pry a print off of it when I wasn’t looking.  I needed to fix it within 2 days for a demonstration and the company very nicely agreed to ship a replacement overnight at no extra cost.

If you don’t know what you can make with a 3D printer then check out Thingiverse.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to contribute something else this to this website.  The Makerspace is getting closer to being able to hire some staff members, which will make my life easier.  I may actually be able to do some machining again.

I want to thank Mikey and Roger for continuing to help visitors to this website who have questions or need advice.

3 comments to My Lulzbot Mini

  • Mikey
    September 13, 2015 at 4:05 AM | Reply

    Looks like a neat machine, Rob. I assume you also have to be able to run a 3D cad program to make stuff, right? If so, I may never get to try one of these things, me being cad-challenged and all. Glad you’re enjoying it, though.

    Lava lamps? I know what you were smoking in the 70’s!

    Take care of yourself, Rob.

  • Rob
    September 17, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Reply

    Hi Mikey,

    You don’t need to know anything about 3D CAD / Modeling to make things with a 3D printer. You can find thousands of cool, interesting or useful things that you can download for free from Thingiverse.com and then print.

    If you want to learn 3D modeling then check out Autodesk’s TinkerCAD (tinkercad.com). It’s simple, free, comes with great tutorials and you don’t even have to install it because it works in your web browser. It’s not industrial strength and it’s probably meant for kids but but you can do some very useful things with it and the skills you learn can be transferred to other modeling programs.

    If you want to learn to use 3D modeling software that is industrial strength then I recommend AutoDesk Fusion 360. I don’t know if their website says it yet, but hobbyists, students, teachers, mentors and businesses with revenue of less than $100K can get a full free 3-year license by just checking a box when you install it.

    BTW, I’ve learned that 3D modeling / CAD programs are easier to use than 2D ones. That’s because you draw it like it looks in your mind. You don’t have to convert it into 2D symbolism. You also don’t have to look at a complicated 2D “blueprint” and try to figure out what it looks like. A lot of modeling software will automatically create a dimensioned 2D drawing if you need one.

    I like Lava lamps but I never smoked anything. My parents would have kicked my ass if I had.

    Rob

  • Mikey
    September 22, 2015 at 3:25 PM | Reply

    Thanks, Rob. I’ll have a look. My son is into 3d printing so I’m sure he’ll help when I get totally lost.

    Good thing my Mom didn’t recognize that eating everything in the house was a sign of smoking stuff …

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