304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
The Anet A8 is manufactured by a Chinese company known as Shenzhen Anet. It comes as a full DIY kit meaning you’ll have to handle almost all the assembly on your own. It’s a great pick for determined beginners looking to learn about FDM 3D printing and also anyone looking for a budget friendly 3D printer since it goes for about $200.
It delivers good quality prints, has an open-source design and features a heated print bed which allows it to work with various types of filaments. The major downside is that the frame is made of acrylic – it’s not very sturdy.
The design of the Anet A8 is not the most aesthetically pleasing. It has terrible cable management – the cables are messy and all over, the heated bed and hot extruder nozzle are exposed including the power supply, electronic components and electric wires (which can come in contact with the moving parts). It’s not the safest 3D printer to use, particularly around kids with curious fingers.
The open frame design does have its advantages as it makes it convenient and easy to adjust the moving parts if there’s something that’s out of place. You can also access every corner and all the other parts of the machine. The other advantage is that you can observe the whole printing process easily and clearly.
The unit has a single extruder and a heated print bed with an aluminum base that’s mounted onto bearings. It features an X-axis motor that controls the movement of the print head from left to right and two Z-axis motors each connected to a guide rod that’s then connected to the X-axis.
The two Z-axis motors control the movement of the print head up and down. The Y-axis motor controls the bed movement during printing using a single belt and motor.
While most of the moving parts work fine, there were several reports that the extruder sometimes fails to maintain a constant flow, plus the motion of the X-axis motor isn’t smooth hence the extruder tends to fail to maintain straight lines.
The unit features an acrylic frame. It’s a plastic frame that’s more fragile and breakable than aluminum, making the printer less stable and strong enough to be durable. With such a frame, you will be required to print extra parts to help stabilize the printer.
There are several other flaws in this Anet A8 design. For instance, the fan duct that comes with it doesn’t fit properly on the extruder and tends to hang much lower than the nozzle. Also, the rods beneath the print bed become loose every now and then.
A few other components of the printer like switches tend to wear out over time. Switches as well can become loose during the print process which can result in the nozzle going past points it shouldn’t be able to.
The spool holder is totally separate from the printer. This setup is essential because the fragile acrylic frame is not able to handle much weight – mounting the spool to the top can make the frame unstable and this can have a negative impact on the print. But then again it makes the whole unit less portable as you might require an extra hand to move it at a go. The unit is slightly light; it weighs 18 pounds and also has a small footprint measuring 19.7 x 15.7 x 17.7 inches hence can easily fit on a desk with limited space.
The Anet A8 utilizes a single extruder system. It has a customized MK8 extruder with a 0.4mm nozzle that provides a layer resolution of 100 – 300 microns, so you can print using different layer thicknesses.
Using the default settings of the print, the unit is able to print the small test models included on the SD card successfully. You can adjust the print settings and still manage to get decent quality prints although you have to ensure all the parts are configured properly, especially the print bed. The details are more pronounced and the edges become noticeably smoother.
However, the printer delivers varying results most of the time – you’ll notice a considerable change in print quality at different resolutions when using different filament materials and in objects of different sizes.
The major issue is stringing. For instance, most of the test prints done of the 3D benchy boat model had lots of stringing in the interior parts. Waviness is another issue – a few users reported that some prints tend to become wavy.
It also appears that the unit has an overheating problem and doesn’t have the required amount of cooling mostly for the long prints. You’ll have to get a MOSFET to keep the motherboard from overheating so that it doesn’t crash.
The printing speed of the unit is quite fast, nonetheless – it can print at a maximum speed of 100mm/s which makes it a bit quicker than many other printers that fall within the same price range.
The build area is 8.7 x 8.7 x 9.4 inches which is relatively large for 3D printers in this range such as the Da Vinci Mini (5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches) or the Monoprice Select Mini (4.7 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches). You can create large volume prints and complex models too.
The print bed can be a little disappointing though because the glass surface doesn’t always offer a firm grip to the extruded filament to lay onto. In the process of printing, the model might begin to warp slowly away from the bed or get knocked out of place by the nozzle. You may have to use masking tape to enhance the bed adhesion.
The Anet A8 works with a variety of filaments; PLA, ABS, HIP, TPU, PRTG, PP, Nylon and Wood. You get the freedom to experiment with the printing material you want and you are not limited to the manufacturer’s filament.
The unit accepts third-party filaments as long as they have a diameter of 1.75mm. However, you can expect a mixed bag of results when it comes to the quality or success of the prints due to the adhesion problems of the bed and the open-frame design.
PLA is the filament that seems to give the best results. You may not print successfully with the other filaments unless you make some modifications like including an enclosure using painter’s tape to ensure the first layer of prints sticks to the bed.
The printer features an onboard LCD screen with a set of buttons right beside it for controlling purposes. You can adjust important controls and settings such as modifying the print bed and nozzle temperature control the fan speed and monitoring the printing process on the fly.
It also has a positioning function that enables small movements of each axis, a feature that assists with calibration. The buttons are, however, not of the best quality. They are fragile and sometimes they don’t respond.
On top of that, there’s no power switch, so you have to unplug the power cable from the main switch to turn off the printer. The interface of the firmware is equally not intuitive – it can take a while to figure out the menu system.
In terms of connectivity, you can connect the A8 to a computer via a USB cable and control it from there. It can work completely untethered too using an SD card. It can be modified as well to add Wi-Fi connectivity.
The appealing thing about this Anet printer is that it’s an open source machine. It can support different third-party slicers on the market. It can work with Cura and Repetier-Host which you can download from the web. The printer itself does come with a slicer in a CD. The file formats supported are G-code, OBJ and STL and it’s only compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows XP, Mac and Linux operating systems.
Upon unboxing the printer, you will find three Styrofoam slates compartmentalized neatly and clearly labeled. Every acrylic piece is protected using sticky tape on its surface which ensures the frame doesn’t get scratched – removing them might take a fair amount of time.
The package also includes different nuts and screws, grouped and labeled accordingly. Other parts like the extruder, motors, bearings, the main board and the power source are tucked safely and properly labeled.
The printer comes completely unassembled and setting it up can be challenging especially with no basic knowledge of 3D printing. There’s no physical instruction manual.
The installation guide is loaded in the provided SD card, including a troubleshooting guide and operation instructions. The SD card also contains a few 3D test models, the slicing software settings, and even a link to the video version of the process of installation.
The softcopy installation guide is not very useful. Some areas are not more detailed or lack clarity, especially the ones related to the positioning of the print bed and the rods.
The good thing about the whole set up process is that you handle almost everything by yourself, so you get to learn the printer really works. The whole assembly process can take around 4-8 hours.
Filament loading is a bit tricky too. Inserting the filament into the feeder can be difficult and in a worst case scenario, you have to remove some parts in order to do it right.
For proper printing, the printer must be calibrated and in this case, calibration of the Anet A8 is done manually which can be challenging. The print bed has four knobs at the bottom which you need to gently adjust to ensure the distance between thet bed and the print nozzle is correct.
This is done by inserting a piece of paper at certain areas on the print bed then moving the nozzle over until you feel some resistance. It’s a time-consuming process, but if you don’t want to go through it, some sellers offer a version of the Anet A8 that’s equipped with an automatic bed leveling technology.
Noise levels are certainly noticeable especially during the movement of the nozzle and the print bed and also when the fans are spinning to cool down the print. The X-axis and Y-axis motors can be very loud when operating as well.
The customer service is not badly off. They are responsive and do try to solve most of the issues although some users reported that they didn’t get the help they needed from the customer support team. That said though, the company has a large online community where you can find helpful information and insights about the Anet A8 printer and how you can modify it to improve its performance and overall quality. You can also find tutorial videos released by the company and individuals on their Facebook group.