LulzBot Mini 2 Review

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The LulzBot Mini 2 is an improved version of the original Mini from Aleph Objects, an American company operating from Colorado. It was officially revealed in late April 2018, with the first batch of units shipping out a month later.

While it retains the compact and rigid design of its predecessor, the Mini 2 is a very different machine, boasting a host of improvements, including a modular print bed, a slightly larger build volume, and an onboard LCD interface with SD card connectivity.

The Mini 2 sells for about $1,500 and comes with a one-year warranty. It’s an excellent 3D printer with an impressive material compatibility out of the box, but that high price point makes it unattractive to beginners.

The Design

The Mini 2 is a compact and portable 3D printer with a Cartesian XZ motion system and a direct drive feeder system. It’s identical to its predecessor in almost every way, at least in exterior design. It has a rigid aluminum frame with a top-mounted spool holder and includes a number of printed parts. The integrated power box, which covers the main electronics, has a switch and a USB port.

In regard to build volume, the Mini 2 is slightly larger than the original Mini, but the footprint is the same. But don’t get too excited about the 20 percent increase in build volume. The Mini 2 is still a small-scale 3D printer compared to other products in the same price range ($1,000-2,000), with the Dremel Digilab 3D40 and the MakerGear M2 both offering larger build volumes.

A lot of users complained about the original Mini’s dependence on a cabled computer connection. With the Mini 2, that’s no longer an issue. It has a built-in LCD interface with a knob control and an SD card slot, which means you can now do standalone offline prints and adjust the settings without a connected computer. Since a tethered computer connection is not strictly required, it’s easier to move the Mini 2 around and plant it anywhere in your workshop.

The Mini 2 has a single extruder and uses the standard LulzBot Mini Tool Head, but the components are drastically different. Instead of a Hexagon hotend and Wade’s Extruder combo, the Mini 2’s tool head is built around a genuine E3D Titan Aero. Like with the original Mini, there is currently no official dual extruder support for the Mini 2.

Officially called the “Aerostruder Tool Head,” the print head setup is compact, rigid, and lightweight, with a more constrained filament path that makes it ideal for flexible filaments. The hotend centrifugal fan has an extended air duct that goes around the nozzle (0.5 millimeters), which makes for a more effective cooling system. Combined with the heated print bed, the Aerostruder gives the Mini 2 an impressive material compatibility, with the ability to print with materials such as PETG, ABS, and TPU right out of the box.

Most consumer 3D printers are equipped with threaded rods or leadscrews to drive the movement in the Z-axis. The Mini 2 is not in the same boat. Instead, it has a belt-driven motion system similar to a delta 3D printer, which boosts its print speed and reduces its noise level. It’s configured to stay locked in place when the power gets cut off, preventing the print head from crashing and damaging the print bed or the printed 3D model.

On the electronics side, the Mini 2 features an Einsy RAMBo controller board with Trinamic TMC2130 stepper motor drivers, translating to a significantly quieter operation. It runs on Marlin firmware, one of the most actively maintained firmware. The controller board is well-designed and is not a fire hazard, which can’t be said for most cheap 3D printers on the market.

Overall, the Mini 2 has an excellent design. It has a rigid open frame and good cable management. It’s made of quality components, although some consumers might not like paying over $1,000 for a 3D printer that uses a bunch of printed parts. At just around 20 pounds, the Mini 2 is relatively easy enough to move around, with the frame handle making the transport more convenient.

The Features

A lot of things can be said about the Mini 2, but “lacking in features” is certainly not one of them. It’s a 3D printer that includes a set of features designed to make 3D printing easy for everyone. It has an automatic bed leveling system that significantly reduces the time required for the initial setup and comes with a self-cleaning system.

The automatic bed leveling system makes sure the print bed is always in optimum alignment before every print, ensuring the first layer is on point. The self-cleaning system, on the other hand, takes care of filament residue on the nozzle. Both features are also on the original Mini and the LulzBot TAZ 6, a testament to Aleph Objects’ consistency.

The Mini 2’s most notable feature is its modular print bed system. It has a removable print bed with dual print surfaces: one side is coated in PEI and one side is bare glass. Some materials are best printed on a PEI-coated surface while others are best printed on Borosilicate glass. The Mini 2’s print bed gives you the best of both worlds and allows you to easily switch to a surface best suited for the material you want to print with.

While not as fancy as a touchscreen interface, the onboard interface is easy to operate and includes a bunch of options. It shows information related to the machine components, including the hotend and print bed temperatures, the cooling fan status, and the current print’s progress. On the cosmetics side, the interface won’t impress you, considering it comes off as more of a cheap DIY component, something you don’t expect to be mounted on a 3D printer that sells for more than $1,000.

Just like the original Mini and the TAZ 6, the Mini 2 has an open filament system, which means it can use materials from other brands. It uses 2.85-millimeter filaments and, as mentioned above, is compatible with different types of materials out of the box, with no need for a tool head upgrade. Of course, the Mini 2’s print quality is not always the same for all third-party filaments; the material’s quality is also big a factor.

In regard to overall features, the Mini 2 is solid, but some might be disappointed at the lack of innovation on that front or the absence of a Wi-Fi connection, especially considering the price point.

The Setup

A plug-and-play 3D printer, the Mini 2 is extremely easy to set up out of the box. It comes fully assembled and requires less than 30 minutes for the initial setup. If you already have extensive experience with 3D printers, you can get it running in no time.

The Mini 2 arrives in a well-secured box. Everything you need to get started right away is included in the package, including a sample filament, a toolkit, and a printed documentation. The printed documentation is notable considering many companies simply opt for a digital manual saved on a USB or an SD card. Some companies don’t even bother with that and just redirect customers to an online manual.

When it comes to documentation, Aleph Objects is probably on the same level as Prusa Research, the manufacturer of the Original Prusa i3 MK3. The Mini 2’s documentation, which is also available for viewing on the official website, is comprehensive and organized. It has detailed instructions for different tasks, such as changing the filament and adjusting the print settings on the slicer.

As mentioned, the Mini 2 comes with a toolkit, which comes in the form of a small bag. It includes a nozzle cleaner, a glue stick, pliers, wire cutters, and tweezers, among other things. In addition, an SD card is also included in the package, along with a USB cable.

Aleph Objects has a strict quality control, which is not the case for a lot of 3D printing companies, regardless of their country. The Mini 2 comes with a printed model of the LulzBot octopus mascot, printed on the same unit you receive. It’s proof that Aleph Objects thoroughly checked your unit before sending it to your doorstep.

Since the Mini 2 is equipped with an automatic bed leveling system, there is no need to stress over the initial bed calibration. Just initiate the auto-leveling system and wait for the machine to get it done. It will only take a few minutes. Loading the filament into the extruder is also not that difficult.

The slicer is the updated Cura LulzBot Edition, compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s easy to set up, comes with preconfigured profiles, and has a lot of options you can tinker with for a custom profile. In all, the entire initial setup – both on the hardware side and the software side – is straightforward, with the instruction manual guiding you from the unboxing right down to your first print.

The Performance

On your first print, the first thing you will notice is the Mini 2’s reduced noise level, which is especially notable considering its non-enclosed structure. The cooling fans are clearly audible but not loud; other than that, the machine barely registers the sounds commonly associated with 3D printers. This quiet performance is courtesy of several components, with the electronics being the primary reason. In addition to the new belt-driven motion in the Z-axis, the Igus polymer bearings also play a role in keeping the noise level down.

The Mini 2 prints faster than the original Mini, which is not surprising considering a belt-driven motion is faster than a motion system based on threaded rods or leadscrews. Just ask delta 3D printers. When the Mini 2 is set to a high-speed profile, it means business, printing at a noticeably faster rate than when the profile is configured to standard mode. The best part is that the print quality doesn’t take a dramatic hit when printing in high-speed mode, which is surprising. However, it appears that only applies to standard filaments and doesn’t extend to more advanced filaments.

It’s easy to prepare the Mini 2 for prints. Both the hotend and the print bed heat up fast and can reach high temperatures with ease. The hotend’s max temperature of 290 degrees Celsius means it can handle both standard and advanced materials out of the box, and that includes flexible filaments, courtesy of the print head’s superb structure. In the past, a tool head upgrade is required before you can print flexibles; with the Mini 2, you can do so with the stock components.

The Mini 2 produces smooth and detailed 3D models that don’t need a significant amount of post-print finishing touches. It can also print some of the most popular torture test 3D models, such as the 3DBenchy, without too much issue. Although the Mini 2 runs into minor stringiness issues when printing with TPU, which can be easily fixed, the overall print quality is outstanding.

The slicer is also great. It has an improved user interface and loads faster. You can easily prepare and start prints as well as adjust the settings and create your own custom profile. It’s an ideal software for both beginners and intermediate users.

Just like the original Mini and the TAZ 6, the Mini 2 is an incredibly reliable 3D printer, capable of printing non-stop for days with minimal maintenance after each print and with a low failure rate. That’s one of the Mini 2’s biggest selling points. It’s a shame it has a limited build volume, though. With the Mini 2’s small build volume, you can’t get too ambitious and experiment with large-scale 3D models – unless you’re willing to print them in parts.

The Verdict

Tech Specs
Resolution: 50 microns
Volume: 6.3 x 6.3 x 7.1 in
Filament: 2.85 mm
Types: ABS, PLA, PETG, TPU, Nylon, HIPS, and others
Weight: 19.9 lb
Connect: USB, SD card
The Pros
Outstanding print quality
Easy to use
Fast and quiet performance
Removable heated print bed with dual surfaces
Automatic bed leveling system
Can print with TPU out of the box
The Cons
Limited build volume
Expensive

The Mini 2 is a recommended 3D printer for educational use, professional use, and commercial use. It can print with different materials out of the box and has a user-friendly setup. It prints fast with a low noise level and can do standalone prints. It has a few downsides, like its high price point and limited build volume, but if you can afford to spend over $1,000 on a 3D printer, the Mini 2 is one of the best and most reliable options on the market.

Rating: 4.5/5