I’d been considering buying a 3D printer for a while but even the cheapest ones were more than I wanted to spend on what would essentially be a bit of an experiment. Then I started looking at the Anet A8 at Gearbest, I did some research and decided to take the plunge.
As is usual at Gearbest the price fluctuates (maybe due to exchange rates?) but when I bought it I paid £127.30. I also paid the £3.34 shipping insurance because I have had Gearbest purchases go missing on their way. As I write this the price is £124.11 so slightly cheaper.
It took exactly two (impatient!) weeks to arrive, I ordered on a Friday and it arrived on a Friday.
Building the Printer
The printer does not have any instructions with it, instead the SD card included with the printer has the instructions on it along with the gcode for some test prints.
The first instruction is to test all of the components. This is worth doing so that you don’t spend hours building the printer then find something isn’t working, this is the video for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1TDuxDN3ww You will need a multimeter for this part.
Next job is to strip all the sticky backing from the acrylic, this is fairly time consuming and frustrating, put aside an evening in front of the TV to get this done.
Then I started fitting it together, first problem I encountered was that one of the “Support Plate Lock Plate” didn’t quite fit, I had to file it down a bit until it went on.
Next issue was a bit more of a problem, the back plate was missing a row of holes! The row that should be along the bottom. To remedy this I stuck some masking tape on, marked on where the holes should be and slowly and carefully drilled new holes.
Building the rest of the printer was fairly simple and went without any major issues.
Using the Printer
Once it was built I attempted my first print! I tried out a scaled down version of benchy. It actually printed really well BUT I had a problem with adhesion to the bed and it came undone part way through.
I changed the masking tape that came with the printer for some painters blue tape, relevelled the bed and sprayed some hairspray on it and eventually prints stuck!
Power Supply Issues
I’d done my research before I bought this printer and was aware that the power supply that comes with it is dangerously overloaded (google Anet A8 fires to see why) but foolishly I thought that it would be OK for printing PLA at lower temperatures. I was wrong. The first full day of using the printer, with the heated bed at 60 degrees, the PSU blew up with an impressive bang and lots of smoke!
After this experience I would definitely recommend that anyone buying this printer does not use the supplied 20A power supply and replaces it with a 30A supply, or gets a seperate power supply for the heated bed. I ended up buying a MOSFET board for the heated bed, I got this one from Amazon and I’m now powering the printer with two computer PSUs we already had. It’s worked fine since then.
I then bought a pack of 4 filaments which was on offer and includes gold, silver, glow in the dark and heat sensitive. I had a few issues with this filament at first because it seemed to be a little damp. Bubbles formed in the filament which just made a mess. Leaving it out in a sunny window for a day did the trick and once they are dry the filaments are brilliant!
Being a bit of a raspberry pi obsessive one of the first things I did was attach a raspberry pi running Octopi to the printer. I also have a webcam attached to it. This is really worth doing as you can then control the printer over your local network, and watch it print with the webcam. It will also generate timelapse videos of your print once it’s finished. There are loads of plugins available, I am using the pushbullet one and I get a message and a photo when it finishes printing. There is also an MQTT plugin which I’ve used to monitor progress with conky, you can see how I did that here.
First job once the printer was up and running was to start printing out improvements for it, there are a vast range of improvement parts available. There are lots of different designs for improved fan ducts, I’ve found this semi-circle duct made a noticeable improvement to the quality of my prints. I also printed out these T corners to add stability and this extruder button and filament guide.