Think Big With a Large 3D Printer!
Most of the 3D Printers available to consumers like you and me are only suitable for printing relatively small objects that will fit into a build volume of 6 inches or less.
But what if you want to print something a bit larger, like a 1:200 scale architectural model or a 12″ Millenium Falcon? Then you’ll need to invest in a large 3d printer with a bigger build volume!
What you need to know about large 3D printers, is that in general, they require a little more setup and maintenance than the smaller plug and play models that I usually recommend for home users. This shouldn’t put you off if you’re keen to build large models, it’s just something to keep in mind.
So, onto my recommendations. I will review them in order of build volume because if you’re looking for a large 3D printer you probably have an idea of the size of the object you want to print. And the larger the build volume the higher the price you have to pay.
Build Volume: 280mm x 280mm x 250mm (11″ x 11″ x 9.8″)
The LulzBot TAZ 6 is the smallest 3D printer in this list but with a build volume of 1200 cubic inches, it still offers over double the capacity of most consumer grade 3d printers.
Setup is Quick and Easy
The main advantages of the TAZ 6 over most other large 3D printers are its ease of setup, ease of use and reliability.
On delivery, there’s about an hours worth of initial assembly and setup for you to do. This comprises of attaching the printhead and the base with a handful of screws and connecting a few cables.
Lastly, you need to load the filament into the extruder via the guide tube. This process is easier on most other printers and fully automated on some but shouldn’t really cause you any problems.
Luckily the instructions are clear and well written so you should find it a stress-free process.
Auto print bed leveling has been newly introduced on the TAZ 6 which makes setup and calibration even easier and is very welcome. The system works by including four metal discs on each corner of the print bed.
The extruder goes around touching each disc in turn, the metal to metal contact completes a circuit so the printer knows the height of each disc and adjusts as necessary.
Another simple but genius new feature is the inclusion of a small felt pad that automatically cleans the extruder tip before each print. This wipes away any excess filament that was stuck to the printhead and could potentially spoil your next print.
The TAZ6 can handle an impressive range of filaments. With an extruder that heats up to 572°F, you are free to use almost any material like ABS, PLA, HIPS, and nylon, as well as exotic blends like conductive PLA or wood blends.
The only material Lulzbot don’t recommend is Carbon Fiber blend as it can damage the extruder.
1.75mm filament is used so you have a wide choice of compatible materials available to you.
Hassle Free In Use
The TAZ 6 comes with the highly regarded Cura software which offers you enough tweakable parameters for most of your projects as well as some very reliable automatic settings for beginners including print quality presets that allow you to choose low, medium or high quality depending on whether you require a fast print or are willing to wait it out to get the best quality.
Once you’re ready to print you can transfer your files with a USB connection or an SD card.
You can start and stop the print from the LCD screen, and in use, a progress bar appears showing the percentage build time complete. Other that this the LCD display doesn’t get used for much else.
One thing to note is that the TAZ 6 is not a very quiet 3D printer. Pretty much everything from the drive motors to the three cooling fans are a little on the loud side. So I wouldn’t recommend this as a 3D printer to be kept in your living room.
High Print Quality
The prints come off build very clean with a noticeable lack of blobs and spider webbing and quality is very good.
Using the Cura presets the High Detail setting can achieve a 0.18mm layer height which is good for most applications and certainly in the context of large prints.
Whilst High Speed compromises at 0.38mm but allows you to print much faster, around 3 times quicker than the High-Quality setting.
The LulzBot TAZ 6 is an excellent 3D printer that is easy to setup and use and offers the flexibility to use almost any filament type.
It can print to a high standard of quality making it suitable for most applications.
The only real limitation of the TAZ 6 is that although it’s build volume is larger than most, it may not be quite enough for your application.
Creality are currently offering the best value for money large-format 3D printers.
The CR-10 comes in three options, each with a bigger build volume:
Build Volume: 300x300x400mm (11.8″ x 11.8″ x 15.6″)
Creality CR-10 Plus
Build Volume: 400x400x400mm (15.8″x15.8″x15.8″)
Creality CR-10 Max
Build Volume: 500x500x500mm (19.68″x19.68″x19.68″)
The CR-10 is a new kid on the block. When it was launched early in 2017 its low price for a large format 3D printer immediately created a stir as it began receiving positive reviews and developed an enthusiastic following.
Demand was so strong that orders started to be delayed as more stock was shipped in from China. Now supply seems to have caught up with demand and the CR-10 is available online with just 3-5 days shipping time.
As a nice bonus, you get a few extras in the box. There’s some masking tape, a good amount of PLA filament and a cutting tool to help you remove prints from the bed.
When you unbox the CR-10 there’s a bit of DIY to carry out. You can find instructions on the included SD card so it’s a good idea to fish that out of the box first and have a look at the manual and videos before you get started.
You’ll need to bolt the aluminum frame to the base and plug some wired connectors onto the motors.
The power supply is set to 220V by default so you’ll need to switch that to 110V to suit our US supply. And then finally the filament guide tube has to be fitted to the extruder.
Where the CR-10 differs from the TAZ6 is that you have to manually adjust the bed leveling. The adjusters are a little tricky to get access to so calibration isn’t exactly a pleasurable experience.
But with a bit of patience, you shouldn’t find it too stressful. And it seems to hold well once set so you shouldn’t need to perform calibration very often. You can also print some larger adjuster wheels which make bed leveling a lot easier.
All of which adds up to less than an hour of initial setup, which is not a bad compromise for such a good value printer.
The CR-10 has a variable nozzle temperature in the range 355°F to 428°F (180-220°C) and a hot bed temperature of 120°F to 140°F (50-60°C) which allows it to accept most types of 1.75mm filament such as the usual PLA, ABS and TPU along with more exotic blends like wood and metal.
If you want to print ABS successfully the open design of the chassis doesn’t really provide the necessary stable environment. You will need to make a cover to retain the heat and prevent draughts affecting the build.
The quality of prints from the CR-10 is hard to fault. Like the TAZ6 there is little in the way of blobs or spider webbing. Resolution is good, down to 40 microns and at 100 microns steps become less noticeable as you start to take advantage of the CR-10’s huge capacity and print some big objects.
The large print bed takes a while to heat up but once up to temp it heats evenly right to the corners and maintains its temperature perfectly.
Creality have really revolutionized the market for large-format 3D printers. The CR-10 range is impossible to beat in terms of value for money.
Although the CR-10 has only been available since the beginning of 2017 user opinions are unanimous in their praise. And should you run into any problems there is a very enthusiastic following of owners willing to help you get the best from your CR-10.
The Best Large Format 3D Printer
You picked the best time to be looking for a large format 3D printer! The Creality CR-10 has completely turned the market upside down in terms of how much you can now get for your money. If you need to print anything larger than 11 inches then there’s no reason not to get a CR-10, and you should pick the largest model your wallet can stretch to.
If you need a 3D printer that’s larger than the average but you’re confident you won’t need to build anything larger than 11 inches, then the Lulzbot TAZ 6 is a perfect choice. They’ve been around a long time in 3D printer terms and their support network is second to none. In every aspect, the TAZ6 is flexible to your needs and future-proof making it a wise investment.