Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

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.

Random Quote

It’s only “work” if you’d rather be doing something else.

— Dean Kamen