The LulzBot Mini is a highly versatile printer, at a very attractive price. Whether you’re new to 3D printing or looking to expand your horizons, it’s well worth your consideration.
Not all of us can justify having an area dedicated to our 3D printers. Sometimes, you just want to throw it in a cupboard! The Lulzbot Mini is a compact little printer, but is it powerful and versatile enough to justify buying it?
That’s what we’re here to find out. We’ll be examining several aspects of this printer in an attempt to find out if it’s actually worth your hard-earned cash. Don’t think we’ll go easy on it just because it’s small – we have high standards and we know you do too. With that said, let’s begin.
|Supported Materials||ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, Exotics|
|Build Volume||6 x 6 x 6.2”|
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At 17” wide, the Lulzbot Mini lives up to its name. Despite its small size, build area is open, allowing you to create medium-sized models without too much trouble. You should note that it’s not a huge build area, though, so larger models will have to be assembled from separate parts.
While most mini printers do away with the heated bed to keep costs down, the Mini actually includes one. This is important since it has a wider range of filament support than many of its rivals (more on that later). Lulzbot has included all the tools and accessories you’ll need too, which is great.
Now, your connectivity options are pretty limited. There’s no WiFi, Ethernet port, or SD card slot, so your only option is to control it directly from a PC. As there’s no microcontroller, you can’t import models from a USB stick. This isn’t great, but it is what it is.
We were pleasantly surprised by the print quality of the Lulzbot Mini. It handles intricate structures very well and faithfully reproduces fine details on mechanical parts. It’s pretty speedy too: a 5” tall figurine takes less than two hours to complete – far less time than we expected.
The only minor issue is that the Lulzbot Mini (and indeed all Lulzbot printers) use 3mm filament instead of the standard 1.75mm. However, with supported materials including HIPS and PVA, there aren’t really any limits as to what you can create. Even fiber-based filaments will work, so you can really go wild.
It’s also pretty loud, due to its open design. This might not be an issue for residential use, but if you’re in an office, it’s almost certainly going to annoy your co-workers. Maybe see if you can set aside a separate area for printing?
The Mini offers a minimum layer height of just 0.05mm. Usually, the minimum is around 0.1mm, so what does this mean for the user? In simple terms, it means that your layers will be almost indistinguishable, resulting in a far more professional appearance. That’s never a bad thing, right?
Good news for those of you outside the US – this 3D printer comes with one of three different power cords. This removes the need for a converter and ensures you can start printing as soon as you’ve assembled the unit. This process shouldn’t take too long – it’s a pretty barebones chassis, after all.
It’s nice to see Lulzbot include an accessory kit at no extra cost. Too often, these are optional extras that can cost far more than they’re worth.
The Lulzbot Mini costs a little over $1,200, so it’s firmly in the mid-range price bracket. You can choose to add a microcontroller for around $150, or an enclosure for about $80. These add-ons aren’t mandatory, though – if you think you’ll need one, go for it, but don’t feel obligated to.
Because you aren’t limited to using only proprietary filament, the running costs for this model are as small or as extravagant as you’d like. This low overhead means the Lulzbot Mini is excellent for small-scale production or commercial use, without isolating people who just want to print for fun.
It’s a rare printer that provides this level of quality for such an affordable price. There is a slight catch, though: while the TAZ 5 and TAZ 6 offer extended warranties, no such option exists for the Mini. As such, once the year’s coverage expires, you’re more or less on your own.
Lulzbot offers seven-day support, with readily available email and phone support services. They claim that any enquiries they receive will be answered within a day, which is excellent. You can also submit a support ticket, for more specialized help and information.
The company also offers a repair service, however this can be a little expensive. First, you have to pay a $50 examination charge, then whatever your repairs will cost. Finally, there’s a $35 dollar return shipping fee. This can be waived if you collect it from Colorado yourself, but for most people, it’s unavoidable.
On the other hand, if you’re just looking for information, the Lulzbot support section can help you out. There are detailed tutorials and guides to getting set up properly. Need help using a specific application or material? No problem, just ask on the forums. Short of a mechanical failure, you’ll have the resources to deal with just about any problem.