PROS / The printer comes with a Micro SD card reader and a built-in power switch in case you need to stop a print in a hurry.
CONS / Some assembly is required for this printer. Even with the included tools, assembly can be a little difficult if you've never worked with a 3D printer before.
VERDICT / The AO-101 does require assembly but the detail and ease at which this device and print 3D objects will appeal to a number of customers.
If you have always wanted to turn your ideas into tangible 3D objects, the AO-101 3D printer can help you achieve that goal. The TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award winner is one of the best 3D printers for consumers. The LulzBot AO-101 incorporates solid engineering into an easy-to-use 3D printer that is small enough to fit on your desk at home and light enough to transport to the office. It can print objects that are over 7 inches tall and 7 inches wide. While the printer does require extensive assembly, all the tools are included and construction is straightforward.
The build plate is a step up from other 3D printers because it is heated and a bit larger than other 3D printer plates. The nozzle extends as far up as 3.9 inches and you can print designs up to 231 cubic inches. The nozzle prints at 200mm per second, which is quite fast for 3D printers. You will find that the kit comes with 0.25mm, 0.35mm and 0.5mm nozzle replacements. Each replacement requires you use Slic3r code generator to configure the nozzle. Accurate configuration ensures that the nozzle cuts your model into the right horizontal layers. It also generates the right path the nozzle should take when creating a product and calculates the amount of material extruded.
The AO-101 also allows for multi-color printing. You can buy different filament colors and materials from the website and load them on the filament spool holder. This even includes wood filament. This filament holder has advantages over traditional rollers that rest on top of the 3D printer. For one, because it rests to the side, it gives you more access to the top area of the printer. In addition, because the filament does not require a spool, it is less expensive than traditional spooled filaments.
Filament & Cartridges
At first glance, the design of the AO-101 may look cheap and even flimsy, but this 3D printer is anything but weak. The aluminum frame is tough – tough enough to stand on. The printer weighs 18 pounds and is sturdy enough that it won't shake around while printing, but it is light enough that you can take it from your home to your office.
The aluminum frame of the AO-101 is a custom-made triangular design that steadies the device while it is printing. You won't even have to level the plate after construction because of the bed-leveling system. Solid plastic couplers hold many of the moving parts in place and do a good job of it. Unfortunately, though it is smartly designed, the AO-101 lacks a safety enclosure. All the moving parts are open to the environment around the printer, so we recommend regular cleanings, and make sure to keep your hands clear while printing.
There are no digital models or plans included with the 3D printer, but the printing software is included, and you can find multiple models online and upload them to the software for free. We appreciate that LulzBot includes the printing software with the 3D printer kit because this will save you a couple hundred dollars in the end. The printer kit also has a USB cable and power supply.
Connectivity & Accessories
Should you run into any problems with assembly or printing, LulzBot can be reached by phone or email. The website also offers a blog that is up to date and informs you of the advances they are making on consumer-priced 3D printers. The AO-101 comes with a 90-day warranty on all parts and services.
The AO-101 from LulzBot does require some hardware assembly, but it is still leagues ahead of many 3D printers on the market. The printer handles any type of filament you want to put into it, even wood filament. The printing software is included with the kit, saving you a couple hundred dollars. With its price point and printing speed, the AO-101 is worth checking out if you are looking for 3D printers.