Tall 3D Printers: MakerBot Replicator Z18, Big Builder Dual Feed, Leapfrog Creatr XL

Big Brothers. Exploring Tall 3D Printers: Replicator Z18, Big Builder, Creatr XL.

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Last week I published my Shortlist of 3D printers for Creative Professionals, including the ones I will review soon. One of them is the Builder Dual-Feed 3D printer, which I look forward to testing because of it’s unique single-nozzle-dual-feed system and PLA color mixing capabilities. Yesterday though, the Dutch manufacturer of this printer, 3Dprinter4U, contacted me to ask if I would like to test the Big Builder Dual-Feed instead. Of course I do! Not only is it still the same printer, only taller, but it also made me thinking about the (creative) possibilities of printing tall objects. I never considered a tall printer, but that might just be because I never thought about it. And I noticed that many readers that responded to my MakerBot 5th Generation Review own – or owned, because they sent it back –  a Replicator Z18, the big brother of the printer I reviewed. And there’s also a tall version of the Leapfrog Creatr I reviewed recently.

There are probably more, but let’s take a look at those 3 printers:

 

MakerBot Replicator Z18 Tall 3D Printer
The MakerBot Replicator Z18 has an enclosed, heated build chamber and a build volume of 30.5 x 30.5 x 45.7 cm (18 inches on the Z-axis – hence the name).

It can print PLA only with a minimum layer height of 100 micron. The printer is stand-alone with a USB, Ethernet and Wifi interface.

€7.258,79 (ex. VAT)

 

Big Bulder Dual Feed
The Big Builder Dual Feed 3D Printer has a build volume of 22 x 21 x 66.5 cm and has a powder-coated steel frame.

It can be ordered with an optional heated bed and can print many materials like PLA, ABS, Woodfill, XT and rubber at 50 micron.

It has a unique Dual Feed system that can print – and mix – two materials using just one nozzle. The printer is stand-alone with a SD Card interface.

€2495 (ex VAT)

 

Read my in-depth Big Builder Review

 

Leapfrog Creatr XL
The Leapfrog Creatr XL has a 23 x 27 x 60 cm build volume and an aluminum half-open frame.

It has a heated bed as standard and can print many materials like PLA, ABS, Nylon and Woodfill at 50 micron.

It has a dual extruder to print with to materials at once. The Creatr XL is not a stand-alone printer: a computer needs to be connected to it through USB while printing.

€3999 (ex VAT)

Looking at these 3 big brothers, the first thing I noticed is that the MakerBot is ridiculously expensive: you can buy 3 Big Builders (they also over a slightly cheaper single feed version) for that price. On top of that – literally – the Creatr XL offers around a 35% taller build volume of 60 cm and the Big Builder offers a whopping 50% taller build volume of 66.5 cm, compared to the 45.7 cm z-height of the Z18. Both the Creatr XL and Big Builder can print multiple materials and offer a heated bed for materials that require that to prevent warping, such as ABS.

Speed-wise the Creatr XL is the slowest with a maximum speed of 60 mm/s, followed by the Z18 with 90 mm/s (according to the software). The Big Builder is twice as fast as the Creatr XL with a maximum speed of 120 mm/s. Speed is important in every 3D printer if you want to use it professionally, but with printers this big it’s crucial because tall 3D prints can easily take days to finish – yes: days!

More important than speed, however, is reliability: when you’re going to do a print job this long, there’s usually no room for failures and re-printing. A failed print at 90% would have cost a lot of time and money because of wasted filament and electricity. Smooth operation and perfect calibration are essential: you don’t want filament jams or a skewed print at this size!

Since I obviously lost faith in MakerBot’s Smart extruder when it comes to reliability and this has been confirmed by multiple Z18 users in the comments of my 5th Gen Review I wouldn’t dare to buy it, especially at that price. And while I got the Leapfrog Creatr printing eventually I found out in my review that it needed to be tuned down to half of it’s already slow speed to print details reliably, so a 60cm tall print would take way too long for me. Plus the fact that it’s not stand-alone requires a dedicated computer next to it, which would add costs for me because I don’t have one to spare and can’t miss my Macbook Pro for days.

That makes me extra excited about testing the Big Builder Dual Feed: It has the tallest build volume, it’s the fastest, it’s the cheapest and it offers the unique dual-feed system which I was already looking forward too. I plan to pick it up next week so I can start to test it for you in the coming weeks!


Whats your opinion?

What do you think about tall 3D Printers like these? Do you own or want one? And why? What kind of tall projects are you printing or planning to print?

Let me know by posting a comment below or through Twitter!

 

Read my in-depth Big Builder Review


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Nick Lievendag

Entrepreneur at the intersection of Creativity × Technology — 3D Expert.

6 thoughts to “Big Brothers. Exploring Tall 3D Printers: Replicator Z18, Big Builder, Creatr XL.”

  1. hi Nick, did you eventually have a chance to test out the Big Builder printer? thoughts?
    I am looking into buy a similar printer but I still cant decide which one. (surely not Makerbot)

    cheers,
    MArco

  2. I want to discuss an issue, I need a 3D printer for my company. I have searched various solutions but could not find a machine that is below 5000 USD and supports PLA or ABS and can make prototypes for sanitary ware faucets and tap heads and showers. I read your review and wanted some advise on a printer that can make either from PLA or from ABS and with a bed of 18*18*18 inches or 14*14*14 inches and some thing that can give us the best result that does not need further machining or finishing and is less than 5000 USD. We are based in Pakistan and I would really appreciate your help in this regards. I could call you if I had your contact.
    Regards
    Yaseen Ahmed.

  3. Thank you Nick for great reviews. I almost ordered the Z18 before taking better view of the other candidates. So basicly my choises for my 3D printer are these three. Main reason for my looks toward Z18 was the biggest X and Y print volumes. But reading lots of complaints and realising that the price is high. I was going for Creatr XL. But now I am not sure about it either. So can you simply tell me two things. 1.Is the Creator XL worth the money? 2. Are there any new models coming in near future with decent print volume (Z18 has a good one)?

  4. Hi Nick,
    Since this review is now pretty dated, do you have any updated info/advice on the Makerbot Z18 or the others? Have the problems with the Z18 been fixed?

    Thanks!

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