on February 4, 2013
I have to say I'm not an expert in 3d printing by any means, but I studied mechatronics as a grad student so I have decent experience with a lot of the components. The printer does indeed come fully assembled and you can begin printing almost immediately. The only calibration you need to do is set the low point on the z-axis, which is extremely easy to do. I was very relieved (and a bit surprised) that the very first print I attempted came out great. No issues at all.
Not every print is perfect. Sometimes the first layer of plastic doesn't fully stick to the surface and I have to restart. Parts with overhangs can be problematic. But as far as I know, these are very common (and surmountable) issues for consumer-level 3d printers in general. And why these issues are common is because most of these 3d printers share very similar designs (most of the consumer-level 3d printers are based on the open-source RepRap project).
So what distinguishes this printer from others? Honestly, I'm not totally sure. It does seem to be a bit more expensive than similar printers. I guess the main difference is that it is fully assembled and tested. But since I don't have any experience with other printers, I can't say how much different it is. All I can say is that it does work well and I am very happy with it. As someone interested in this type of stuff, part of me does sort of wish I built my own, but I'm also glad I didn't end up spending weeks of my time frustratingly trying to get a self-built printer to work.
on February 13, 2013
I've had my printer for a week now. I had intended to be the first to review it, but Kevin M not only beat me to it, but said everything I would have said - probably better than I would have said it. I also don't know what I'm doing and I don't know the difference between this printer and others, but so far, I'm impressed. The setup process was easy and I was printing within an hour. One thing I think needs to be said over and over again - this still feels like cutting edge technology. There are some rough spots in the process and a fairly steep learning curve.
The printer comes with a sample printout from my printer - it tells me that my printer can print a lot better than I can make my printer print (read that again, it will make sense). There are a ton of parameters in the software that can be tweaked to improve the printing - I know nothing about those. I print w/ the default settings and my printouts, while not as nice as the one in the box, are still very serviceable.
The printer came with a printed setup manual, a toolkit w/ what must be a tool for anything you would need, and a generous supply of ABS filament (5 lbs of white 3mm).
When doing my comparison shopping, I was impressed that I could buy it from Amazon and pay no shipping w/ my Prime account. I also liked having Amazon as a customer service fall-back if I needed them (doesn't look like I'll be needing them). Lastly, the printers were in stock and delivered in 2 days. All the other printers I looked at had a 5 to 8 week delay before shipping.
I don't spend this kind of money easily - I'm happy to report that at this point, I have no regrets.
on June 3, 2013
Setup for my Lulzbot was not as smooth as I would have liked, but it is still by far the easiest 3D printer to setup, calibrate, and print with than any other currently selling for less than $3K. Mine arrived with a broken glass plate and I found the print bed was unlevel, which is probably not a problem that everyone will have - to solve it, I had to add layers of tape under the new glass until it was level. Calibrating the Z-Axis was pretty easy; you only have to turn one knob, which is easy to do by hand. Loading the filament was similarly easy and quick. Once properly leveled, I've found the Lulzbot AO-101 to be the fastest 3D printer I've used.