# Choosing a 3D Printer Lulzbot vs Ultimaker vs Makerbot

I am currently looking at getting a 3D printer for work. We are wanting a large build volume, high reliability, and quality. I am currently looking at the Ultimaker 2, Makerbot Replicator 5 (with the smart+nozzle), and the Lulzbot TAZ 5. Which one would you recommend (or any other)?

I’ve used a Lulzbot TAZ 3 and it was absolutely awesome. The nozzle never clogged on me and the printer was very reliable. The new version looks great with all of the new upgrades. As for Ultimaker, I’ve heard great things, but I don’t have any personal experience. I’ve used a Makerbot Replicator 2 and had great results, but I can’t speak of the new versions. They’ve been getting really bad press on their extruders lately due to clogging issues. Hence why they have the new + version of their smart nozzle. I would be a little cautious of their new extruder system since there isn’t much data to show that it works well.

Also, the Taz and Ultimaker (?) are opensource software based. So you can experiment with different slicing engines and really fine tune the system. Makerbot has their own proprietary software that you can only use and it can be a little buggy at times.

I hope this helps!

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I am using an Ultimaker 2 and can recommend it. Interestingly Ultimaker released the + Version just today. It uses a geared feeder now and added easily swappable nozzles. One thing about Ultimakers regarding printing quality - these machines are very dimensionally accurate. Depending on the intended use, this might be very important.

Like nostrout said, opensource is a plus because you’ll find tons of sensible upgrades and addons for some corner use cases.

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With all of the printers out there it is hard to determine what to get and in order to make a an appropriate decision you will need to add a few more areas that you will want to consider before making the decision on what you purchase. The biggest question to ask - What are you going to be doing with it - Functional Prototypes? Actual parts? Just nice to have? Depending on the answer to those questions you may have to go up to the professional level of printers made by Straysys or 3DS - however they are expensive to buy and operate. Additional things to consider:

Budget. First you are looking at printers in the $2000 to$3000 dollar range for initial purchase.

Filament Costs: Makerbot hightly encourages the use of its own filament which is often more expensive - Ultimaker and Lulzbot encourage the use of anything

Warranty and Maintenance Costs: What’s it going to cost to repair? Since you are doing this for a business you need to also look at warranty length as well as operating costs over the life of the machine. The makerbot will have higher maintenance costs due to proprietary parts and the Ultimaker may have longer lead times for parts due to the fact that they are headquartered in Europe.

Types of Filament: If you want to print in anything other than PLA that automatically disqualifies the Makerbot Replicator - it does not have a heated bed so some of the more exotic filaments you will be unable to print.

Build Volume: If build volume is your biggest concern the TAZ 5 is the winner.

Upgrade Possibilities: Think you will want to dual extrude at some point? TAZ 5 is the only one that has the capability and the support to upgrade to dual extruders.

Noise: Is operating noise going to be an issue? Look up their decibel ratings to see how much noise they make ( I think its Makebot, TAZ, Utilmaker in order of quietest to loudest but don’t quote me on that).

Reliability and Quality: The reliability and quality for all of them are about the same as long as you take the time to learn how to use them and take care of them. There are noted issues that the Replicator has with its extruder but also several praises. All of these printers can print without being attached to a computer and it is my opinion that the wireless monitoring capabilities of the Makerbot are not worth the cost premium (and can be added to the other machines for the cost of a rasberry pi and some time)

Other Considerations:

Do you need sub 100 micron printing? If so you need to consider an SLS printer such as the Formlabs 2+. Be aware that not only is this a more expensive printer it costs about 3 times as much to operate due to the cost of resin vs Filament. Plus its messy and requires more post processing (you have to wash everything in alcohol).

Who’s going to be using it? Someone dedicated that can learn about it and fix it or everyone in the office?

Other machines to consider:

Fusion3 F306 - Slightly Larger Build volume than anything here and can be purchased with dual extruders but costly

Rostock Max V2 - only $1000 but requires assembly. Large build volume and good if you just need something that prints well and with a big volume and don’t have the money to spend but have the time to mess with it. If I had to choose from the 3 you listed I would go with the TAZ 5. I’ve used makerbots 2, Form 1+, TAZ 5, Printrbot Metal, Rostock Max V2, TAZ Mini, and a Stratasys Objet30 and I think that the TAZ 5 is a good machine though it does have its quirks and requires a little bit of setup and a learning curve (as do most machines). I’ve read good things about the Ultimaker 2 and think you would be fine with that as well (biggest reason I’ve haven’t used one is they are much harder to find and buy in the US.) Lastly a good resource to pick up is the Make Magazine Issue on Desktop Fabrication that is available now - lots of printer reviews to take a look at. 3 Likes Thank you very much for your detailed response. It is very helpful. I will be using the printer mainly for rapid prototyping and I am also looking into making molds for permanent castings (using pla or similar material). I am a complete beginner and have never used one before so I am looking for something that I pick up quickly. With youtube tutorials and online help I am sure I can learn it, but something plug and play. I was looking at resins, but with the cleanup changed my mind. I think based off of that I would go with the TAZ 5 or Ultimaker 2+. As one of the other responses noted the 2+ has a few new features that are nice but they may be hard to find in stock (Ultimakers are often hard to find and since its new may be even harder). Both will serve you well and have plenty of online forums to support. In order to get the best dimensional accuracy I have found that it depends more on the filament and slicer (software) then the actual machine when it comes down to less than .5mm. I suggest starting out with cheap PLA ~$25 a KG to learn the ins and outs of the printer and then going to something like Taulman In-PLA or N-Vent or Polymaker high end stuff. It is more expensive but when you get the dimensions right on the first print and don’t have to go change your tolerances and print again it makes up for it. For permanent casting depending on what material that is going to be cast you may want to look at working with ABS and doing vaporbath smoothing. This will leave the surface nice and smooth without time consuming sanding and surface preparation. Lastly realize that smaller nozzles and increased resolution = increased print time!

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I would go for the TAZ5, the reasons would be pint quality and easy to maintain. If you got any of the proprietary machines, getting your machine up and running again would take time not to mention the parts cost.

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I liked that the TAZ and Ultimaker are open source. I am leaning more toward the TAZ due to it being US based and having a slightly larger build platform, and wider array of materials for me to use.

I am also very intrigued by Fusion3 F306. What kind of results/reliability/performance/failure are typical for the Fusion printer?

Quick note on Lulzbot’s customer service: They are super friendly and quick to respond. Also, I accidentally blew a fuse on the PCboard of the Taz I was using and they walked me through the process of finding which fuse was blown using a multimeter while on the phone with me. Very helpful folks there in Colorado.

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I will concur with the gang on the TAZ 5- I’m quite upset of my experience with makerblot, and your doing great doing the research as I didn’t do!

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The Fusion3 F306 appears to be solidly built. However, I have only read a few reviews on it, mostly positive, but the price premium seems to be the sticking point for most of the reviewers and whether or not the price premium is justified.

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I can only talk about experience with the TAZ 5. I love the PEI surface when working with PLA. Very rarely do I have a problem with a print not sticking (PLA bed temperature is at 60 degrees). When cooled down, the prints pop right off (sometimes on their own). No scarring either. With ABS, it seems the PEI surface gets damaged every time. I’m working almost exclusively with PLA and love it.

If you need network access, my TAZ 5 at work is doing a print now and I’m watching it from home. Courtesy of a Raspberry Pi and Octoprint software. Love the remote control.

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Just some notes:

Ultimaker 2: You can change the materials. But if you’ll often change the material, you’ll have a lot of clogging. (We have about 10 Ultimakers in school - half of them are steadily defective…) You have to repair the machine by yourself. And as said you have only USB or SD-Card connectivity or you have to invest in other products.

TAZ 5: I only know comparable machines. Well you can print with diff. materials but you’ll never get realy good results. E.g. ABS needs a closed and tempered surrounding to cool down slowly and evenly. It’s the same with nylon and others. Especially if you want to make bigger parts.

Makerbot: The problems with the Extruder are solved a half year ago. And they are right now launching a new one. And if there’s any problem with it, I got a replacement within 12h (Switzerland) - without smirching my hands. Since mid last year the software also allows a lot of adjustments in a userfriendly surface.

Ultimaker and TAZ 5 printers are open source and basically good. But you have to deal with the matter, make some tinkering/upgrades - then you got a lot of possibilities and good results - but it takes some (or a lot of) time.

Makerbot offers you a solid machine, easy and ready to use - but with a bit less possibilities.

Do what ever you want…

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I would limit to an Ultimaker or Lulzbot TAZ as both machines have huge installed user base and are very flexible.

A better comparison would be the UMO+ though as they are both then tinkerer’s machines with the UM2+ being somewhat easier for a less experienced user and one that does not want to tinker as much.

The only other thing to consider are drive technologies - UM’s are bowden and TAZ is direct drive.

I own 2 UMOs and have been blown away at what they can do - I am thinking about another printer and am considering the TAZ and UM2+ - bear in mind that I am a tinkerer, want the higher nozzle temperatures (270+), direct drive (for flexi) and therefore am leaning towards the taz - but if I just wanted something that worked I would go for the UM2+ as UM has developed extremely reliable machines, and testament to their software development - the taz uses Cura (developed by ultimaker).

They have US support and and a strong community.

There are other contenders, but IMHO having been printing for three years these two hit the sweet spot.

I have an ultimaker 2, for about a year now, more then happy, not many problems except the usual ones every printer has now and then ( clogging , finding out how to minimize stringing , getting prints off buildplate difficult : now resolved with BuilTak ) Their new Ultimaker 2 looks very promising, they have a standard Olsen block with interchangable nozzles, this feature I kinda miss on my ultimaker 2 standard.

I’d throw in that it depends on what you want to use the printer for too.

The latest Ultimakers are just great. The U3 isn’t the traditional type with it’s sealed print head modules, but when you need 30 items printed over night reliably it really gets the job done. Just keep everything maintained, clean your nozzles with the right stuff regularly and level the board and it just keeps on going!!

The U3 and new U5 can print loads of new materials. If they actually stand by what was shown at the TCT fair on their stand then that’s really exciting, but my foray into flexible and Nylon FDM was short and disastrous!!

At work we have a U2+, a U2 and a U2 which we upgraded to 2+ and these are all still great machines, you can tweak them a lot more, but they aren’t quite as reliable if you need them to deliver. I would say that the U3 still lags the 2 and 2+ in speed of print, although seems to print nicer and the 2nd nozzle is good when you need to do overhangs etc, although you can do that without.

We used to have Makerbots (R2 and an R2+) These took ages to get good and also loads of bespoke parts and we got them close but they are years away from the Ultimakers of today. The MB5 was awful and I wouldn’t touch MB these days. Would love to have my fears taken away as I have find memories of MB when they were small!