Since buying my printer early last year, I've had a lot of questions about it, like 'where to get one', 'how good is it compared to others' and 'what kind of prints can I get out of it'. What follows comes from numerous emails and private messages with folks over the last year and a half. This document will change as I find new useful info.
Q & A
Q: What kind of printer do you have and where did you get it?
A: I have an Anet A8. I bought it from Gearbest.com and at the time I paid $165 + shipping and print material (around $240 all in). Since then the price has dropped significantly.
Q: How does it compare to other more expensive printers?
A: The short answer is, I don't know as this is the only printer I own. However, I've had people with other printers inspect my prints and they have all commented that the quality was good or very good - especially when I tell them how much it cost.
Q: Would you buy this printer again?
A: Yes! I've suggested it to others who also bought it and so far, no one has said that I steered them in the wrong direction. The printer has its limitations and there are some design issues that need to be addressed but overall, it is a very good printer for the price.
Q: How difficult is it to build and get a first print out of it?
A: On a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 being "pull out of the box, plug in and hit print" and 10 being "build from scratch" the Anet is a solid 6. You have to assemble it and the directions are not great. You'll get a crash course in google if you stick with those instructions. Below is a step by step set of videos I used to build mine. I would not recommend this printer for someone who is not comfortable or hates assembling things like this or Ikea furniture.
Step 1: Follow the assembly videos provided or one of the many assembly instructions on YouTube. Don't bother with the assembly manual included on the SD card. It is difficult to follow and can mislead you. I used this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSdP-1c4WQI
Step 2: After you assemble the printer and verify power is good, you'll need to level your print bed. This can be a long tedious process but it is absolutely critical. Take the time to do it well. Here again there are several videos on how to level a bed. I used this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6GJWHwrTmY
Step 3: Print one of the test files on the SD card of your printer. If your card is organized the same as mine, you will find the options here \A8Z-1\Test file GCODE\
There are many suggested upgrades for the A8. So far I have made the following changes to mine:
- Replace the bed connector!!! It will eventually fail and the best case scenario is that you get prints that peel up during printing but the worst case is a fire! Here are some tips on how to fix. I chose to solder the heater wires to the pins on the bed and alter the connector to still be used for the thermostat.
- I upgraded the firmware to Marlin version 1. Don't do this out of the box - get the printer up and going and tested first but I do recommend doing this upgrade. Details on how to do this can be found here:
- Printed a simple X-axis belt tensioner. Very easy to install and will save you loads of frustration later on with a loose belt.
- Simple Y-axis belt tensioner that replaces the front belt pulley.
- Filament guide for keeping the filament in somewhat a vertical feed into the top of your extruder. There are many that will work better or worse than the one I made but I like this one because I can place it in different places on the frame as the need arises.
- I added a layer of glass to the print bed to make it easier to print on and to get a smooth print. If you get this you will want to use Elmer's purple washable glue to coat the glass to make sure prints adhere properly.
Alternatively you can get a buildtak cover which is arguably a better solution. However, when you look at replacing the cover, I'm not so sure.
Lastly, some people swear by PEI sheets as a more permanent solution, but like all things, there are pros and cons of that material too.
- I would suggest also making some spindles for your filament holder so that it turns more smoothly. I am looking through what is out there for this.
Online Design Tools and Guides
If you aren't already familiar with these sources of information and designs, they will quickly become your favorite spots online:
- Thingiverse.com - https://www.thingiverse.com/ - maintained by MakerBot, thingiverse is all things 3D printed designs.
- Inventables - https://www.inventables.com – similar to thingiverse but is also a materials supplier.
- Instructables - https://www.instructables.com/ - this is a great resource to for makers in general and has a new online classes section that, in addition to other cool subjects, has a section for 3D printing.
- There is a really active ANET user group on Facebook that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1068531466501015
Here are some links to basic, non-printer specific, troubleshooting guides.
Here are some more links to some online classes and resources that I hope you find helpful:
These first two links are for classes on Instructables and are good introductions into designing 3D things to print using two different software products. The third link is a more in depth class.
Here is a tutorial on using Cura slicing software which is very popular and easy to use
Here is a Udemy class on vector graphics which is just fun for anything but can also be used to start a 3D sketch. I use it to draw up items I then send to a friend of mine who has a laser cutter.
If there is a resource or tip you think I should include here, please contact me!