The 3D printing industry is reviewing the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse 3D printer.
Developed by US OEM Aleph Objects (now FAME 3D), the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse is a large format FFF 3D printer that runs on open source Marlin firmware. The desktop system is based on the previously released TAZ 6, but has several feature enhancements that set it apart from its predecessor. Priced at $ 2,950, the TAZ Workhorse is primarily aimed at prosumers, designers, and engineers looking for a reliable printing press for the workshop.
The machine is characterized by its unmistakable open LulzBot frame and has a construction volume of 280 x 280 x 285 mm, which is 14% larger than the TAZ 6. The user receives a removable borosilicate glass bed with a PEI coating on one side, thereby improving the parts clothing. The maximum bed temperature is a respectable 120 ° C.
If we look at the system’s single printhead, we have a 0.5mm nozzle supported by a high performance E3D titanium aero extruder. With a maximum hotend temperature of 290 ° C, the desktop system can 3D print a whole range of filaments such as ABS, nylon, polycarbonate and TPU. Upon closer inspection, you may find that the outer housing of the printhead is 3D printed, resulting in optimized geometry with reduced weight and 360 ° part cooling.
Users have a choice of USB or SD (an 8GB SD card is included) when it comes to connectivity. The 3.2-inch LCD screen, while not a touchscreen, provides access to all of the printer’s core functions, such as: B. Filament loading and bed leveling. Apart from that, the menu navigation is facilitated by a rotary knob, which gives the feeling of a “nuclear control room”.
The LulzBot TAZ Workhorse 3D printer. Photo via LulzBot.
What distinguishes the TAZ Workhorse?
The LulzBot TAZ Workhorse contains a host of notable design considerations that simply wouldn’t be fair to gloss over them. First of all, it should be mentioned that the TAZ line is against the status quo when it comes to filament sizes. As a result, users will need to purchase 2.85mm filament if they want to start printing when they unpack. Fortunately, another staple of the TAZ series is the ability to effortlessly swap out the system’s printhead.
The company’s universal toolhead adapter allows users to replace all other offerings from LulzBot with the standard SE toolhead. This includes the 0.5mm U hardened steel tool head for carbon fiber capabilities or the 1.2mm HS + tool head for thicker layer lines. The company has now also launched the M175 tool head, compatible with 1.75mm diameter filaments, allowing users to experiment with an extensive list of third-party materials.
The standard SE toolhead can be exchanged for any other offer from the company. Photo from the 3D printing industry.
The powder-coated metal frame of the Workhorse, which is delivered fully assembled, has been redesigned to ensure improved stability compared to the TAZ 6. It uses smooth steel bars with self-lubricating linear bushings to achieve superior part qualities. In addition to the reinforced mechanical components, the electrical elements in the printer have also been improved to extend the service life.
Similar to the other systems in the LulzBot line, the Workhorse also has the company’s characteristic belt-driven Z-axis. While it may seem whimsical at first, the design choices supposedly allow the printer to remove artifacts caused by “z-wobble,” a problem synonymous with bent threaded rods.
Finally, the 3D printer has automatic bed leveling and a self-cleaning nozzle. While these aren’t exactly revolutionary on their own, LulzBot’s new proprietary X / Y / Z backlash compensation system could be added. By measuring the backlash with an internal calibration cube, the machine can compensate for unwanted X / Y / Z shifts during the automatic calibration process, thereby improving the dimensional accuracy and quality of the part surface.
The build plate of the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse. Photo from the 3D printing industry.
The Cura LulzBot Edition Slicer
LulzBot offers its free slicing software for use with all 3D printers. Based on the widespread open source Ultimaker Cura, the LulzBot Edition Slicer is an easy-to-use program that offers everything a 3D printing enthusiast could ever want, regardless of technical experience.
Based on the company’s acid green-gray color scheme, the slicer has an intuitive set of model editing functions that are inserted into a digestible user interface. The motion system used here is very similar to most of the other FFF programs on the market, so if you spend a few minutes messing around in the menus, it’s a breeze.
Due to the company’s open material properties, the slicer is packed full of a variety of ready-to-use print profiles. In cases where the user may need to tinker with some of the printing parameters, the Cura LulzBot Edition offers an extensive list of customizable settings. This includes temperatures, print speeds, fills, layers, and even tree-like beams.
All in all, the slicer does its job without any significant problems. We thought some custom settings menus could be tweaked to make better use of the available space, but this is largely a design comment and does not affect the functionality of the program. If we compare the cutting speeds to the original Cura program, we can say they are comparable, so you spend less time preparing and more time printing.
The user interface of the Cura LulzBot Edition. Image from the 3D printing industry.
Benchmarking the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse
As always, we put the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse through its paces with our comprehensive benchmarking tests for 3D printers. We started with the 3D printing industry’s internal benchmarking model for ABS. We use the benchmarking model to combine several smaller tests such as the overhang test, the retraction test and the bridging test into one solid part.
The 3DPI benchmarking model. Photo from the 3D printing industry.
Admittedly, we had some concerns about the machine’s open frame, as higher temperature filaments tend to require a great deal of temperature control in order to print successfully. Nevertheless, the LulzBot was able to hold its own and print error-free overhangs of up to 60 °. Since the machine independent average is around 50 °, this is a great result, especially given the difficult nature of the ABS filament.
We then looked at the bridging portion of the test, which prints horizontally into the cavity with no support structures. Therefore, the test is an excellent indicator of the performance of the extruder cooling system. Our horizontal structures showed curves around the 35mm mark, a relatively average result for systems in this price range.
The 3DPI benchmarking model – retraction test. Photo from the 3D printing industry.
Finally, let’s move on to the retraction test, which is designed to test the extrusion capabilities of the motors themselves. This is really where the workhorse had its first hiccups, with noticeable strings around the tips of our spike array. The result was surprising to say the least, as E3D extruders tend to perform well in this category. The fact that we were working with a nozzle temperature of 230 ° C undoubtedly had a significant effect. Regardless, the covering was not catastrophic and can be brushed off without affecting the rest of the component.
Next came the mechanical assembly test, which gave us an idea of the dimensional accuracy of the LulzBot. In the case of the following differential gear system, we can judge how tight these tolerances are based on the fluidity of the gear movements and the overall ease of assembly.
Differential gear system test. Photo from the 3D printing industry.
Our abundant blue gear system worked like a charm. Each of the components had minimal surface artifacts, and playing around with the entire assembly results in no frictional drag. We didn’t even have to do any post-processing as the contact areas of the 3D prints were good to come straight from the build plate. The entire assembly would be a fantastic functional prototype.
Finally, we decided to try our hand at some PETG prints to test the effectiveness of the standard print profiles provided to us on the LulzBot Cura slicer. The following models are a standard 3D bank and the test file is on the printer’s SD card.
The PETG print tests. Photos from the 3D printing industry.
Both parts came out exceptionally well, with no covering, surface defects, or warping problems. The layer lines are invisible and the curved surfaces of both models are buttery soft. This shows the importance of refining print profiles as newbies to 3D printing can get started right away without worrying about the intricacies of various printing parameters.
We are happy to say that we were pleasantly surprised with the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse. It handles high temperature filaments with grace for an open frame machine, and the modularity of the system components lends itself to some good old-fashioned DIY craft.
However, this doesn’t mean we haven’t encountered some behind the scenes hurdles as the auto-leveling feature has failed us a few times. This was because the nozzle washers did not completely clean all of the hardening oozing from the tip of the hotend. We also thought that for the price, the LulzBot could use some Wi-Fi functionality, a touchscreen, and maybe even a filament runout sensor.
Nonetheless, the professional print quality and the large, robust bed allow a multitude of functional polymer components. The LulzBot slicer does everything it claims to do on the software side, and the pre-built print profiles make trying out desktop 3D printing a breeze. The LulzBot TAZ Workhorse is a no-frills FFF system that feels at home in a workshop.
Additional pressure tests on the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse. Photos from the 3D printing industry.
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The picture shown shows the LulzBot TAZ Workhorse 3D printer. Photo via LulzBot.