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Anet A8 3D Printer Review: The best cheap 3d printer?

Thanks to GearBest for sending us this printer for review, you can purchase the Anet A8 here

The Anet A8 is a very cheap 3d printer available for under $160, making it one of the cheapest 3d printers available on the market today.

Initial Impressions

The printer was well protected in transport, as it was split up into 3 separate portions that housed all the components in polystyrene foam. Nothing in our kit arrived broken, and each component was well housed in each section as there was little room for anything to move around during transportation. The quality of the parts looked decent; you can’t expect much from a $160 printer. The acrylic was (thankfully) straight and was well machined, the quality of linear rails we are not too sure of, as we have to no way to test their straightness.  The 3d printed parts were ok, it was clear they had been printed quickly and not for quality, the layer height appeared to be around 0.3mm. However this was not really an issue as you can print some much higher quality ones than when you get the printer working!

The Build

For someone who builds racing drones on the regular, building a 3d printer presented no real challenge. Indeed, all we had to do was follow the instruction videos on youtube. Apart from the irritating elevator music, the build videos were good. In some parts they rushed over complex bits, which did require us skipping back a bit to re-watch it a few times. Overall though the video kept a good pace and was most importantly, easy to understand, despite the language barrier. Building the machine properly is essential for anyone who wants their prints to be high quality. We were keen to make sure all the belts were at the correct tensions, ensure the threaded rods were securely in place and ensure that the Z axis was perfectly level. This certainly helped later on when we got to the hardest part of 3d printing, the setup.

The Setup/Tune

Going into the setup, we were well aware that this was the make or break of the printer, indeed a good setup would ensure our printer worked effectively. One of the hardest parts was already done for us; the machine came preloaded with the necessary firmware with most of the correct settings loaded up. The next step was to level the bed and prepare the printing surface. The Anet A8 is odd in that it comes with an Aluminium top plate; most printers come with a glass surface to print on. The aluminium plate meant we had to line the surface with 3M painters tape to ensure prints would stick to it efficiently. The most time consuming part by far was leveling the bed, unlike most printers which use wing nuts to adjust bed height, the Anet A8 uses threaded holes in the Y axis tray. This mean’t in order to change the bed height you needed to have a screwdriver handy to adjust the 4 screws. We are not quite sure why they did this, we see no disadvantage to wing nuts. Using threaded holes simply adds hassle.

When we loaded up a 10M roll of filament that came with the printer we were interested to see what would happen. To be honest, we were expecting something to go wrong. We were pleasantly surprised that after the printer performed its homing sequence, it actually started printing something! We were even more surprised when it printed well, there was no over extrusion (probably just a lucky guess with settings) and the object adhered well to the bed. After the initial resounding success, we ordered some more PLA filament to further fine tune the settings. One tip we have is read the amazon reviews for the filament you decide to purchase, often people will leave helpful tips with things like good printing temperatures and advice on how to get the best adhesion to the bed. One we had dialled in settings, the printer printed beautifully. We have access to a Ultimaker 3 printer and we are glad to say the quality of the prints was better (yes better) than what we had ever seen printed on the Ultimaker. This proves the point that a printer is all about the setup, it doesn’t matter if you have a $160 printer. Providing you set it up correctly, you can achieve 90% of what a much more expensive printer can do.

One excellent resource is the Anet A8 Support Group on Facebook, it is full of experts who are more than willing to help you solve your issues. We strongly recommend you joining, as there are sure to be some headaches at some point.

3d Printing for the RC hobby

The most common material for printing accessories for race quads is TPU. This is a very flexible filament that can is used as it stretch and absorb the impact of a crash, protecting your GoPro. Unfortunately it can be difficult to print, what worked best for us was setting temps to 190/55 and slowing the print speed right down. We found 30 mm/s was a good compromise between speed and quality of the print. We also had to increase our retraction distance slightly. Once we did all these things, we were pleased with the results. We have printed GoPro mounts, board camera mounts and radio accessories and they all work great.

PLA is also used occasionally to print out parts, however we do recommend against this because it is very brittle and does shatter easily in crashes. If we ever use PLA it is for 3d printing mounts for fpv planes, since the rigidity is preferred for those hard landings.

Conclusion

We have to say we were impressed with the Anet A8. There were gaps in places, especially during the build as well as there was no real information on how all the parts work, such as the filament tensioner knob. If you are willing to do the research on how exactly a 3d printer works and can afford to spend the time to perfect the settings, the Anet A8 performs admirably. If you are looking a printer that you can throw together quickly with limited effort, then we would not recommend you get this printer. For the price, it is unbeatable for anyone who is willing to put in time and money to get it working well.

Thanks to GearBest for sending us this printer for review, you can purchase the Anet A8 here

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