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Nurture, Not Nature

TEVO Tarantula Review: a 3D Printing Fixer Upper

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Picture of Matthew Mensley
by Matthew Mensley
Dec 9, 2017

TEVO Tarantula Review: a 3D Printing Fixer Upper

It's cheap and looks cool, but be in no doubt -- the TEVO Tarantula is a difficult 3D printer kit to recommend. Read the full review here.

It’s a tricky thing, reviewing 3D printers that come in kit form. A delicate balancing act in which you must constantly check your findings against the context of the printer.

Like any printer we look at the ease of use, print results and the like, but countpoint this against the build itself. As the person responsible for assembling, any build flaws that impact print quality are your own fault. That’s not on the printer.

But, when parts of the kit you have in front of you stray into the questionable end of quality control, paired with incomplete assembly instructions that necessitate constant backtracking… well, the odds are stacked against you.

Or at least that’s how we felt. The allure of an inexpensive 3D printer is strong, but with the TEVO Tarantula that cost comes at a price. In this review we’ll dig a little deeper into the build, subsequent problems and print successes we had with the TEVO Tarantula.

It’s cheap and looks cool, but be in no doubt — the TEVO Tarantula is a difficult 3D printer kit to recommend. Read the full review here.

1

Tevo Tarantula Review Pros

  • Unique aesthetic
  • Highly moddable
  • Inexpensive
  • Active User Community
2

Tevo Tarantula Review Cons

  • Frame isn’t rigid enough
  • Poor quality control
  • Infuriating instructions
  • Missing essential parts
3

Tevo Tarantula Review Verdict

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Verdict

We went into this review cautiously optimistic about the TEVO Tarantula. It’s highly affordable and certainly looks the business whenever you come across a well-built one. That, and there is a thriving community that is clearly passionate about the machine. Three indicators, albeit shallow, that a printer may be worth your investment.

However, a hidden cost of the TEVO Tarantula that you’ll seldom see reference to is time. To get up and running with passable prints you must invest considerable time and frustration.

Add to this the general lack of cohesion around what exactly you are getting with the TEVO Tarantula. Taking into account the well-branded but self-sabotaging build guide, questionable quality control and missing basic features — and you are left with a 3D printer that is not for most folks.

Getting a TEVO Tarantula is a project. If you’re in the market for a 3D printer to rattle off prints — or just dip your toe in the water — look elsewhere. For similar money a Monoprice MP Select Mini will serve such needs with nary a hint of the frustration.

But if you’re rich with time and patience but strapped for cash, the Tarantula is an option. Not the best option, mind.

In our experience the Anet A8 will give you better results with half the effort. Plus, depending on where you’re looking, for less money.

4

Tevo Tarantula Review Down to Business

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Down to Business

TEVO is a 3D printer manufacturer based out of Zhanjiang in China. It ships 3D printers all over the world through distribution centers in the US, Europe and China.

Founded by Tan Qianmin, a young entrepreneur (who gave an exclusive interview with All3DP following the #TEVOgate saga), the company has risen as one of the go-to names for inexpensive Prusa i3 derivatives.

In the weeks that we’ve been testing the TEVO Tarantula, we’ve noticed a shift in the target region for TEVO, from a general non-region specific storefront page, to one luring Russian custom with tax-free printers.

This isn’t reflected in coverage of the brand however, with Western YouTubers and badge-wielding forum-goers using and discussing the printer apace.

One of a four-printer lineup, the TEVO Tarantula often courts controversy, with common complaints citing poor quality control and poor instructions. We got our hands on one to find out for ourselves and weigh the Tarantula up against the competition.

5

Tevo Tarantula Review Design

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Design

The TEVO Tarantula is your classic cartesian-style fused filament fabrication 3D printer. Based on the Prusa i3, the print head zips back and forth on its X-axis on rail-mounted pulleys. This rail is fixed to a single lead screw for Z-axis movement. Its heated bed moves in the Y-axis, also rail mounted with pulleys. Eccentric nuts allow you to tighten the printhead and bed carriages should things get a little loose.

Curiously, the Z-axis stepper motor is top-mounted, which in our opinion makes the frame a little top-heavy. Not only this, but its positioning leaves the lead screw in contact with essential wiring.

This particular Tarantula is single extrusion, with the filament delivered via a Bowden extruder mounted on the frame above the mainboard. However, said board has the connections for an additional hot end and extruder. This means upgrading to dual extrusion is possible.

To this, the extruded aluminum frame serves the TEVO Tarantula well, with printed extras or upgrades such as frame stabilizers and additional extruders easily mountable through the use of T-nuts (of which you will have plenty left over from the kit’s parts).

The lack of robustness of the print bed carriage and its pulleys presented one of the main frustrations in our time with the Tarantula. Removing a print from the (to the printer’s credit) grippy print bed is a struggle, requiring some degree of force. This force tips the bed, pivoting over its mounting on the Y-axis frame part. To continue printing with confidence you need to then re-level the bed. Every. Single. Time.

Sometimes it feels like the bed will unlevel if you so much as look at the Tarantula the wrong way. For unforgiving filaments like PETG that demand an exacting first layer, this is just too tedious.

One troubling problem we found building and using the TEVO Tarantula is the standard of quality control. Mid-build we found pins loose from their connectors and an end-stop cable working loose from its pin mid-print.

Add to this the hotend temperature probe failing after perhaps a dozen hours of printing, and it suggests to us that QC is not quite up to scratch.

Luckily (you could argue presciently), a spare end-stop and temperature probe were provided in our kit, so replacing them was little trouble. Nevertheless, it’s still unnecessary time spent replacing parts that needn’t be.

6

Tevo Tarantula Review Features

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Features

The current version of the TEVO Tarantula boasts a build volume of 200x200x200mm, on par with most Prusa i3 clones. A larger version is available, featuring 280mm in the Z-axis.

Our review unit is the single extrusion machine without the additional option of auto bed-leveling. The business end of printing is handled by a stock hot end from TEVO which, in our kit, came fully assembled.

A heated bed as standard means it can theoretically handle tricky first-layer filaments like ABS and PETG. TEVO rate the Tarantula for layer heights as fine as 50 microns (0.05mm).

The low price is also worth a shout out. We suspect this is the number one reason people opt for the TEVO Tarantula, and it’s undeniably one of the lower priced options out there.

It boasts an extruded aluminum frame that wiggles too much, even after multiple attempts to assemble the frame better with bracing modifications. It seems that it is generally prone to instability.

The heated print bed sports a neat graphic design that sets it apart somewhat with that strong Tarantula branding. A BuildTak-like substance coats the print bed, which works remarkably well in adhering prints to it.

7

Tevo Tarantula Review Unboxing and Setup

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Unboxing and Setup

Right off the bat, the TEVO Tarantula stands apart from its inexpensive brethren with branded packaging and clear visual identity. Sleek black packaging with aquamarine ‘cyber’ detailing carries from the box to the instruction manual and supporting documentation too.

Across three foam trays lie all the ingredients for building the TEVO Tarantula. Plastic bags filled with nuts, bolts, screws, tools and all manner of items are labeled according to the assembly instructions — a pictorally led 15-stage booklet.

Except, the assembly instructions do not completely correspond to the labels of all the bags provided in our kit. This meant a degree of common sense and checking the contents of each unaccounted bag against those required by the instructions in order to proceed with the build. A time waste, for sure.

Compound this with assembly instructions that have you assemble various clusters of the printer, only for several steps down the line to now feature said assemblies magically integrated with other now-closed off parts. There is little follow through, which leads to multiple (again timewasting) steps backtracking and reassembling.

And then (oh yes, there’s more) we find that there are diagrams for certain assembly steps that contradict each other, showing the placement of parts differently. This is perhaps the most damning aspect of the build. Mis-labeled bags of parts can be rifled through for the required screws, but conflicting imagery of how to assemble the printer leaves you no option but to look elsewhere for help.

Of course, solutions to the arrangement and orientation of parts is but an internet search away, but it defeats the point of even providing instructions. It shows one of two things: poor quality control and oversight on what is being shipped, and/or a lack of respect for the customers’ time.

Both are unflattering options.

We assembled our TEVO Tarantula over approximately one and a half working days, from unboxing to printing.

Print calibration is a simple case of adjusting the thumb nuts on the print bed’s four corners, raising or lowering said corner so that you can comfortably slice a sheet of paper underneath the nozzle with little resistance.

8

Tevo Tarantula Review Software

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Software

Much like the Creality CR-10 that we reviewed recently, the TEVO Tarantula is an open book in terms of the software you use with it. For the purposes of this review we’ve been hopping between Cura 2.7 and Slic3r 1.3.0 with settings and config files pulled from various YouTube and GitHub posts.

This means that the minutiae of print settings and control is entirely in your hands. The provided 8Gb SD card is more than adequate for the day-to-day porting of print files to the machine.

A USB port also allows for you to pipe prints directly from your computer directly or via an Octoprint (or similar) setup.

9

Tevo Tarantula Review Printing

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Printing

The TEVO Tarantula does not come with a print cooling fan. To our knowledge, that’s pretty uncommon. As a result, printing intricate or small parts with our test TEVO Tarantula as assembled out of the box was nigh-impossible.

Indeed you could call our first few runs of the Tarantula a hot mess, with temperature issues being the primary culprit for inconsistent and ugly prints.

Tevo Tarantula review

Adding your own print cooling fan dramatically increases the quality and consistancy of the outcome, but to do so you’ll need to print a part that allows you to mount one to your hotend. We quickly printed one on the office workhorse printer for this review, rather than wasting time trying to get the TEVO Tarantula to fabricate one.

Granted, there are specific filaments you’ll want to print without cooling. And for first layer adhesion cooling is a hindrance anyway, but for the bread and butter of routine desktop 3D printing, you’re going to be using PLA, ABS, perhaps even PETG. And to successfully print them, you need cooling. To us, this is a big omission.

Tevo Tarantula review

Lack of cooling aside, it is possible to get decent prints out-of-the-box from the TEVO Tarantula, but we found such print successes despite the printer, rather than because of it.

For the run of our review, we printed the usual suspect 3DBenchy (more times than we’d like to admit, first getting used to printing without a cooling fan), a smartphone case, a spool holder, frame supports, sunglasses holder clip, Titan Aero mount for an Anet A8, and a creepy hand.

Tevo Tarantula review

In our experience, operating the vanilla Tarantula with diligence and constantly resetting the overly sensitive bed level, the print quality was average at best. But this, as explained in our intro, carries that caveat that there could be as yet undiscovered errors at play from building the printer.

At 50 micron layer height, the creepy hand looked to be our most promising print on the Tarantula, before a filament spool tangle killed the job. With the layer lines barely perceptible, we’d agree that super-fine prints are possible.

10

Tevo Tarantula Review Moddability

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Moddability

As we’ve explained, once assembled the basic TEVO Tarantula is lacking. Thankfully, there’s a huge online network of fellow Tarantula owners making the most of their machines with 3D printable modifications.

Your first order of business should be to (surprise surprise) add a print cooling fan. We acquired a cheap radial blower on Amazon and printed out the appropriately named Radial Fan Fang (tarantulas have fangs, geddit?) mount.

Next up we’d advise a filament spool holder, if you don’t already have an external solution for this.

Tevo Tarantula review

Beyond these, all of the other mods you find should improve the print quality or durability of the machine in some small way. Everyone will likely have a different opinion of what is essential, so print according to your particular TEVO Tarantula.

The frame of our test unit is particularly rocky, so addressing that is high on our priority list.

Outside of printable mods, TEVO also offers official upgrade kits for the Tarantula, including a dual extruder kit, dual Z-axis upgrade, Titan extruder and more.

11

Tevo Tarantula Review Wrapping Up

Image of Tevo Tarantula Review: Wrapping Up

Possibly the saving grace of the TEVO Tarantula is that nearly all of its issues and problems are remedied with aftermarket parts and 3D printed modifications. However this doesn’t absolve the printer from the fact that it is an irritation to work with from the second you open the box.

You must turn to build-guides online which follow instructions that don’t necessarily match the labeled parts provided to you. And even then the build is iterative, with forum posts and YouTube video comments making counter suggestions to improve the assembly. It’s all over the place.

For the average user after a cheap and reliable machine, think long and hard. The basic printer, assembled purely from the parts provided in the box, is not the finished deal.

Only further nurturing of this little black spider will get you consistency and decent print quality. For less than $200, some would argue that’s fine. But there are alternatives in the same price point that, in our experience require an iota of the commitment the TEVO Tarantula is asking for.

Given the heated discussion regarding the company in recent months, we’re keen to hear other people’s experiences with TEVO 3D printers. Let us know in the comments!

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