This post is the 16th post in my ongoing series about my experiences building and using a RepRap Mendel, an open source 3D printer. For more posts in the series, see here
With the old Sells Mendel in a better place, the question arose of what printer to replace the Sells Mendel with. In 2012, there are more choices of available printers than ever before. The Thing-O-Matic, Replicator, UP!, Ultimaker, Fab@Home, printrbot, and Mosaic, to name a few. Many are good designs, with nice features and price ranges.
For my purposes, I wanted a robust, reliable, single-filament printer for approximately a thousand bucks. I ultimately chose to stay with the RepRap “brand” of printers, as they are a printer in the true DIY tradition (not an unmodifiable lasercut box from a company) and are the original hobbyist rapid prototyper from which almost all 3D printer designs are derived. From my experiences with the original RepRap Mendel, I learned that a good hotend design is worth its weight in gold, and one hotend design stood head and shoulders above the rest: the Budaschnozzle design from Lulzbot. Lulzbot sells complete Prusa Mendels, so I decided to give one of those a try.
The Lulzbot Prusa Mendel
I ordered a Prusa Mendel from Lulzbot, and roughly a week later, it arrived. Upon arrival, I was most impressed. Some of the primary features of the printer included:
- Power Switch: I know this sounds ridiculous and basic, but Lulzbot included a nice, neat power switch (where Mendel-Parts couldn’t be bothered to consider such things)
- Single, Unified Power Supply: For the electronics, drive motors, and heated print bed. As opposed to 2 separate power supplies, set by small, easily loseable fuses as per Mendel-Parts design.
- Heated Printbed PCB with Glass Build Platform: What? You mean I can actually control the temperature of my printbed and turn it off in software, as opposed to reaching into a bag of fuses, hoping I haven’t lost the one I need for a particular plastic, and crawling under my table to unhook the heated printbed power supply? Thanks Lulzbot, I feel deeply honored!
- Mechanical Endstops: After all, jousting has been a forsaken practice for hundreds of years, so why should are electronics perilously joust optical gates in a manner that’s sometimes damaging and often frustrating.
- Prusa Mendel Design: I mentioned this in my “Lessons Learned” post from the original RepRap saga posts, but the Prusa Mendel design does away with much of the mechanical overdesign of the original Sells Mendel and creates a resultant design that is much more efficient and easily user serviceable. Easier to build, easier to repair, and overall simply better.
- Fully Assembled and Pre-Calibrated: I’ll be honest, this feature doesn’t matter very much to me. I would have happily spent a weekend putting a machine like this together, and find the accomplishment of building a working object from pieces to be fun. That said, coming pre-assembled and pre-tested got me to the point of first print in about an hour, which was a large step up from the 3 months I spent working on my original Mendel.
I performed several test prints with the Lulzbot Mendel, and I can happily say it worked great, and far better than I had ever achieved with my original RepRap. The new printer was more refined, and, overall, cheaper. I would highly recommend the Lulzbot RepRap models to anybody interested in getting involved in 3D printing, and by all means, go out there and get yourself a printer; you’ll be glad that you did!