DETROIT, MI (RAPID 2014) - In a show all about 3D printing and 3D printers, one 3D printer stood out. Despite being in the back of the exhibit hall, the Lulzbot TAZ had gathered quite a crowd. The Lulzbot TAZ 4, a 6th generations, spool fed, open-source machine, was zipping along making an octopus. It had been making octopuses (octopi?) all day.
What's with the octopus?
"It's our spirit animal," says Harris Kenny, who does handles communications at Aleph Objects, the company that owns the Lulzbot brand.
My first spirit animal at a trade show. Sensing there was something unusual about a company that would have a spirit animal, I had to probe further.
What's with the name?
Lulz is derived from LOL, then made plural, says Harris, who seems to have an infinite patience for explaining his company name to the older generation.
But could it make industrial parts for production? It seems to be rigid despite its open frame and have a generous build volume of 11.7" x 10.8" x 9.8". As it turns out Lulzbot is already used in production. It employs its own machines to make more machines. 135 of its TAZ 4s are used to make many of the plastic parts on the machine at Aleph's Loveland, Colorado facilitiy.
Aleph Objects is all about open source hardware, having plugged into the RepRap 3D print community, on which it's printers are based. "We give 100% of our technology advances back to RepRap," says Harris
The TAZ 4 costs $2200 and comes mostly fully assembled. I think the print heads have to be mounted, as Harris is doing in picture above, as does the cross feed table. But it probably takes less time than furniture from Ikea -- and way less time than the mess of parts you'll get with a kit 3D printer, like other RepRap machines.
lulz: beginning as a plural variant of lol, Lulz was originally an exclamation but is now often used as a noun meaning interesting or funny internet content. Lol -> lul; lols -> luls; lolz -> lulz. Thank you, Urban Dictionary.
www.RepRap.org - open source, 3D printer, in kit form
www.lulzbot.com - the company's product site