Editor’s Pick: Open Source 3D Printer is a Horse of a Different Color

LulzBot TAZ Workhorse Edition brings open source revolution to the engineering desktop.

LulzBot TAZ Workhorse Edition brings open source revolution to the engineering desktop.

The LulzBot TAZ Workhorse 3D printer delivers open source innovation in a popular desktop size. Image courtesy of Aleph Objects.

Dear DE Reader:

Open source software is everywhere. We build and run websites with open source. Millions of people use open source browsers, word processors, operating systems and database management software. But open source hardware? That’s a horse of a different color. In this case, the horse is a 3D printer. Here’s why the next generation LulzBot TAZ Workhorse Edition is our Editor’s Pick of the Week. 

It seems owners of the previous generation model, LulzBot TAZ 6, commonly referred to it as their workhorse. “[Users] nicknamed TAZ the ‘Workhorse.’ Since it earned the name, we decided to own it,” says Eric Beardslee of Aleph Objects, manufacturer of LulzBOT 3D printers. 

For the next generation model, Aleph Objects focused on the needs of professional users, starting with hardware. The body was redesigned for additional strength and the motion mechanics were upgraded with a new belt-driven Z-axis. The business end of an STL printer, the hot applicator, is now a modular system with three options. The print heads are designed for 360-degree cooling, which Aleph Objects says offers improved performance for overhang and bridge printing. 

What software do you use for an open source 3D printer? Open source software, of course. Aleph Objects recommends Cura LulzBot Edition Free Software to operate the Workhorse. The latest release has an updated user interface, more slicing options, an updated slicing engine and improved print quality. It works on a variety of open source and commercial operating systems. 

When hardware is open source, it means the firmware driving the device is also open source. The firmware is Marlin, used by both open source and proprietary 3D printers. Marlin’s original author was Erik van der Zalm, but today Marlin is supported by makers and vendors, hosted on GitHub. (In a bit of irony we can’t help but pass along, GitHub is proudly open source but its owner is Microsoft.) Marlin runs just fine on the same inexpensive 8-bit microcontrollers found in the Arduino platform, which helps keep down the cost of the TAZ Workhorse.

3D printing is a three-legged stool; we would be remiss in not mentioning the third leg, materials. The TAZ Workhorse supports a wide variety of third-party thermoplastics and carbon fiber reinforced blends; check the Product Brief for details.

Describing all the details of a new 3D printer is like peeling an onion; there’s always another layer. Check out this week’s Product Brief for complete details. Thanks for reading; we’ll see you next week with another Editor’s Pick of the Week. 

—The DE Editors

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DE Editors

DE’s editors contribute news and new product announcements to Digital Engineering.
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