Steven Osborn Gives Lowdown on Lulzbot Extruder Hacking for Lulzbot Taz 4

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60548We all know the drill when it comes to the best-laid plans. Often you might have a project in mind that’s clear cut, and all you can think about is getting to the finish line. Most of us though have experienced the grand — and not so welcome — surprise of becoming mired down in preparation and dealing with tools and technology that aren’t cooperating.

Steve Osborn has experienced just that, and while we can learn from his experience, most of us could take a page out of his book regarding patience with technology, and going the extra mile.

After complications with his MakerBot Fifth Generation Replicator, which proved to have enormous functionality issues, as well as being unserviceable from his perspective, he was driven to purchase instead a Lulzbot Taz 4 — but not before writing a comprehensive list of reasons not to buy that particular MakerBot 3D printer — and his faith in the company was obviously shaken as well. For more information on the full story of his experience, click here.

one pile of lulzbot extrudersWhile expressing a mild amount of irritation (well-deserved!) over having to spend so much time, ironically, 3D printing parts for the 3D printers themselves, Osborn pointed out that it wasn’t optimal but at least with the Lulzbot he was able to fix his solutions himself due to the open-source design. Because of some fairly major issues with extruders that did not work to his satisfaction, Osborn literally ended up with a pile of them for the Lulzbot Taz 4.

Regarding the stock Budaschnozzle, it would seem that unless you are planning to print with ABS, you may be in for quite a troublesome time.

“I’ve had PLA oozing from the PTFE nut, between the nozzle and the heater block, above the heater block, and even through the setscrew hole for the heat-break!” reports Osborn. “There are a few ways to fix this listed on their website. I suggest doing all three if you really want it to not leak.”

“Also make sure you tighten the nozzle and heat-break into the PTFE nut really well. Then, heat it up to temperature and tighten it up again. Although PLA seems to ooze and leak worse than the other filaments it’s not the only one that has a problem with it, as I’ve had a decent amount of Ninjaflex leaking too.”

While Osborn’s information is certainly not a great advertisement for Lulzbot — especially with a heat resistor that blew out not long after he got the machine — at least he is able to find workable, albeit tedious, solutions. His best solution for 3D printing with PLA using the Lulzbot, avoiding extruder clogging, was to update the fan shroud. Osborn directs users to a Taz 4 cooling duct found on Thingiverse, which other users seem also to have had good luck with.

While his luck with the uniquely named ‘Fangtooth Guppy’ was not quite as bad, some concerns were raised as the hexagonal, metal hot-end has “a thin wall around the thermal nut which makes it hard to insert without melting out the side.” He was also hoping, on investigation, to be able to get the heater cartridge to function. Concerns arose due to his previous experience with the cartridges not being able to maintain high enough temperatures. Lastly, there was also issue with finding the .stl for the extruder idler.

heroOsborn had dismal results with his initial build constructed from PLA, with an enormous amount of warping occurring after just 40 hours of using the 3D printer. Warping occurred due to:

  • Heat from the extruder
  • ‘Springiness’ of the filament

His hopes, not yet tested, were that the ABS parts would fare better.

Due to all the creative fixes and hacks that Osborn became embroiled with performing, he got into the spirit even further by creating his own part, the Water Schnozzle, which is a “3D printable, water cooled, heat sink that will work with existing Budaschnozzle parts.” The goal is to be able to print at higher temperatures, which seems to be an ongoing theme in Osborn’s challenges with the Lulzbot.

“The fact that the Taz is touted as the machine to get if you want to be able to print anything is clouded by the fact that it won’t even print PLA reliably without modifications and the hot-end won’t reach temperatures above 235c,” said Osborn.

All in all, despite his challenges and headaches, Osborn assesses the Lulzbot Taz 4 as “a very solid machine.” That’s not only generous considering the amount of work he had to do, but it’s also fair for him to advise that this is definitely not the 3D printer for a novice, as one could only imagine the frustration they would experience, as well as lacking the skills to immediately perform all the hacks and fixes with as much ease as Osborn. This is excellent feedback not only for potential users, but also for the Lulzbot team, as it would definitely seem to indicate that they would be holding back new enthusiasts from being to use the machine, if Osborn’s issues are an indication of the norm.

What are your thoughts on the challenges Osborn went through with a MakerBot, only to replace it with a Lulzbot that had quite a number of issues as well? Would you have been as patient? Tell us about your experiences as well as thoughts and input on this subject at Lulzbot Extruder Hacking forum thread over at

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Thin wall around thermal nut makes it hard to insert without melting out the side.


Still trying to locate the correct STL for the extruder idler / latch

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