In the spring of 2015, I applied for and received $7,500.00 from Jacksonville University’s EPIC program with the intent of revitalizing our Computer Animation curriculum by acquiring, learning and incorporating 3D printing technology. After researching 3D printers in the course of writing the grant application, I settled on 2 printers using different methods to create their prints. One of the printers was a laser-based, resin-curing Stereolithographic printer called the Form +1. I describe my experiences with it in another post.
The other printer is a Fused Deposition Modeling style printer called made by Lulzbot and called the TAZ 5 printer. It prints by heating filament to a specified temperature and extruding in very fine layers on a heated bed. It builds the print from the bottom to the top. It is capable of printing using many different types of filament such as ABS, PLA and HIPS.
I bought mine from Becoming3d.com. They did a great job making sure I got all my materials and filament. I wrote a review of the printer which you can read here (click the review button).
The printer requires some assembly out of the box, but it also includes all the tools you will need including a complete set of Hex head wrenches. More importantly, the assembly directions are clear, well-illustrated and easy to follow; basically, you are assembling pre-built components. If you have even a modicum of handiness with tools, you will be up and running in no time.
Lulzbot provides, on its website, a custom version of the popular 3D slicing software called CURA (simply click on the operating system you use). Combined with PronterFace, it provides an effective solution for slicing models and controlling the printer. As the printer can print from an SD card, it is not necessary to have it connected to the computer; I use Pronterface-Mac only when calibrating the print bed; CURA is my go-to software as far as model prep is concerned.
I have found the TAZ 5 to be an excellent printer...when it works. The provided .38 nozzle has a nasty tendancy to jam, and it is possible to render the print head unusable when this happens. However, Lulzbot's technical support is EXCELLENT!! Furthermore, they have no problem with the user taking the print head apart (as long as the user is comfortable doing so) and otherwise servicing the printer. I have found them more than willing to exchange an extruder head at no charge. They are concerned with making sure your printer is working. Currently, I am waiting for a .5 nozzle which, I have been told, will help clear up the jamming problem.
As I have said, when it works, it works well as the images below demonstrate:
This handsome devil appears on a previous post of mine about 3D printing. This bust is printed in ABS plastic, but instead of white, the filament is called ABS Natural. It has a translucent, ivory-like, quality which hides the extrusion lines nicely.
This model is a PLA version of a model also featured in another post. It is over six inches long, printed quickly and has a very nice surface finish.
Below shows a two-piece model of a fighter character called iBrau just after printing and after rough cleaning and assembly. It has been printed using grey HIPS filament. HIPS is a less expensive, though perhaps a bit more coarse material. It is light, but has demonstrate a tendancy to jam. We shall see how the new extruder works.