Currently, the benchmark for 3D printer kits is the Prusa i3 MK3. For those who want a cheaper alternative, there are many options out there, but none is as popular as the Anet A8. Priced under $200, this 3D printer kit has a bustling online community growing behind it. The low price, hackability, and compatibility with a plethora of materials has budget makers swooning over this 3D printer.
Needless to say, we were interested to see what all the fuss surrounding the Anet A8 was about. And so, All3DP decided to build up and test out the 3D printer kit. The Anet A8 posed quite the challenge for the author (who, up until this point, had never built a 3D printer from scratch). Luckily, after a few days of tinkering, we got our Anet A8 up and running, and the experience only improved from there.
Are you interested in building your own 3D printer without having to break the bank? Then definitely stick around and scroll through our in-depth Anet A8 review.
Don’t Miss: 25 Must-Have Anet A8 Upgrades & Mods in 2018
For the following critique on the Anet A8, we found it important to focus primarily on both the ease of assembly and overall printing performance. What we soon discovered was that this 3D printer kit was a challenge to build, but could also print like a charm, which was unexpected considering the low price point of the Anet A8.
We will get into the assembly and printing performance in more detail later on, but for now, let us share our overall thoughts from our Anet A8 review. When you take the price, modifiability, and surprisingly good print quality into consideration, it’s hard not to get behind the Anet A8.
However, there were a few downsides to our experience with the Anet A8. The main obstacle to it is finding the time and patience to assemble and optimize the 3D printer. Not only is the assembly process relatively complex (particularly for beginners) but calibrating the 3D printer also takes precision and a certain level of stoicism.
Once you get past the construction and calibration process, using the Anet A8 becomes a total breeze. There were a couple of hiccups along the way, but the best part about assembling the 3D printer from scratch is that potential problems are easily solvable.
Still, getting the Anet A8 up and running properly didn’t come without certain hurdles. But the proud feeling that comes with identifying and fixing a problem on your own helps to make up for the few pitfalls. Based on our judgment, the Anet A8 is an ideal 3D printer kit for eager and determined beginners, as well as for makers looking to print on a budget.
Offering a step-by-step learning experience for a 3D printer kit, the Anet A8 features a black laser-cut acrylic frame and 220 x 220 x 240mm printing volume. It’s compatible with a number of materials, including ABS, PLA, Woodfill, Nylon PVA, PP, and others.
Topline features are all-metal pulleys for enhanced functionality and performance, quick-release feed gears for fast and efficient filament extrusion, and stainless steel rail rods, gears, bearings, and connectors.
In terms of PC compatibility, the options are pretty much anything. The Anet A8 works with Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Mac, and Linux.
Anet A8 Specs
The Anet A8 is a DIY 3D printer kit in every sense of the word. Upon opening the shipping box that the machine arrived in, we found three styrofoam slates neatly compartmentalized with each piece to the puzzle.
Within the box, we found the different parts grouped together and clearly labeled. The surface of every acrylic piece is protected with sticky tape. This helps to protect the frame from being scratched, but removing them also takes a fair amount of time.
With approximately 38 individual acrylic parts, ranging from fixed plates for the motors to the actual frame itself, it definitely takes time to cautiously remove the brown tape from the black acrylic.
The 3D printer kit also includes a vast array of different screws and nuts, each type grouped together and labeled accordingly. Other parts, such as the extruder, bearings, motors, and of course the mainboard and power source, are safely tucked away and properly branded.
Despite this tidy arrangement, there was one startling omission from the 3D printer kit. There was no physical instruction manual provided in the packaging, leaving no immediately accessible manual for the user. However, the Anet team provides a USB stick equipped with an installation guide, operation instructions, and a troubleshooting guide.
Aside from the assembly guide and other instructions, the USB also contained sample 3D prints, slicing software settings, photos, and even a link to video version of the installation process.
Some people might prefer to follow video instructions, but the visual component supplied by Anet is a bit lackluster to say the least. For starters, throughout the entire build process, the Anet A8 assembler doesn’t take the stickers off of the acrylic frame. By the time the 3D printer is fully assembled, it’s impossible to completely remove these stickers with taking the 3D printer apart.
Another issue is that the Anet A8 assembly process has undergone a number of small changes over time, which makes some sections of the video frustrating for some.
However, in our case, we opted to print out the instructions provided on the USB stick. We decided that the assembly guide from Anet was an integral part of our Anet A8 review. For the most part, the manual was relatively easy to follow and understand, but at times a lack of clarity definitely hindered the build process.
At times when the Anet A8 assembly guide didn’t quite cut it, or when we just wanted to double check with a visual source, we used the paper instructions in tandem with a highly rated video guide by YouTuber Osdoyi PhD.
Before we get into the performance of the Anet A8, let’s first take a dive into the expansive assembly journey.
For those who enjoy tinkering around with DIY projects, the assembly process of the Anet A8 is quite an enjoyable experience. However, for those with little experience building 3D printers, presents a worthy challenge.
While putting together the Anet A8, we strived to only use the installation guide provided by the manufacturer. However, there are some sections of the 30+ step assembly manual that lack clarity. When faced with that dilemma, we opted to look at videos and photos of the Anet A8 to ensure that we were on the right path.
The very first step to building the Anet A8 focuses on the foundation of the 3D printer’s acrylic frame. The bottom support plate acts as the base for the two erect side support plates. Step 1 also entails the top support plate, which is where the LCD display will be mounted towards the end of the assembly process.
You’ll use a handful of M3*18 screws and M3 nuts to connect the acrylic frame pieces together. Thankfully, the Chinese manufacturer sends the printer kit with a surplus of these tiny screws and nuts. Next, the two “support plate lock plates” are mounted on top of the frame. This will eventually be used to keep the Z leading rod locked and in place.
Once the basic foundation of the frame is assembled, it’s time to construct the Y axis motor. Using the acrylic back plate, the Y axis motor is fixated between two support plates, along with the Y axis limit switch. This was the first step in the installation guide that we noticed lacked important details.
Although the basic assembly of the Y axis motor is clear, the instructions fail to show how to situate the motor so that the connector pins are in the right place. (Hint: the answer is that the connector on the Y-axis motor should be point upwards towards the top of the frame).
For someone with experience in the basics of FDM 3D printing, this was a relatively obvious adjustment to make. However, it does pose a potential trap for beginners who are unsure of how to position the Y axis motor, among other minuscule details. After the motor is assembled onto the Anet A8’s back plate, we connected the entire part to the main frame structure.
Next, it came time to mount the Y axis belt bearing support to the front plate, which is where the belt will be inserted in later steps. Taking the two 400mm threaded rods, along with an array of M8 nuts and M8 spacers, you’ll run them from the back plate to the front plate. These threaded rods will soon be covered by the print bed, so it’s important to make sure everything is tightened and secure before moving on to the next step.
Once the threaded rods are safely mounted on the bottom of the Anet A8’s frame, the two Y axis guide rods (380mm), each with a pair linear bearings is inserted through the holes that rest beside the threaded rods. These bearings will play a vital role in the next step, assembling the heated print bed.
The heated print bed of the Anet A8 consists of a fixed aluminum plate, which is mounted onto bearings, and the actual print bed that is assembled on top. Underneath this H-shaped aluminum plate is where the Y axis belt fixation clamps will be attached. These tiny acrylic pieces are responsible for holding the Y axis belt tightly in place.
This part can be tricky… The 3D printer comes with one 1.5 m belt, which the user is responsible for cutting to fit both the X and Y axis. According to the installation guide, you should have about 10-20 cm of the belt left after installation.
Just to be on the safe side, we left extra length on the two belts. If you accidentally leave one of them too short, your entire Anet A8 assembly process will be in jeopardy.
It’s also quite trying to adequately tighten the Y axis belt. Once there’s enough tension, close the belt fixation clamp to hold the belt mechanism in place.
After the belt is securely attached, it’s time to mount to hot bed. In between the print bed and aluminum plate are four springs, which are used for manual calibration. The heated print surface is held into place with M3*30 screws and M3 wing nuts.
The following steps focus on assembling the two Z axis motors, which are enclosed within fixed and support plates. These acrylic pieces are made to fit into the frame. Next, the left and right Z axis nut support parts are mounted onto the two Z axis guide rods, which are inserted from the top of the frame into the acrylic enclosure for the Z axis motors.
At this point, the Z axis limit switch is supposed to be installed onto the right Z axis nut support. However, the installation guide fails to mention this in text, leaving us to figure that out through the non-descriptive photos.
After attaching the two X axis rods and linear bearings, we moved on to assembling the Anet A8’s extruder. This step consists of loosening the screw that holds the mechanism together (be careful, the spring tends to pop out during the deconstruction), and fastening the fan, cooling fin, and fan cover to the extruder.
The extruder is fitted into the carriage, which is mounted to the bearings on the X axis rods. From here, we finished this part of the assembly by securing the 5015 air blower and wind mouth to the front of the extruder.
At this point, the Anet A8 is truly starting to look like a 3D printer, but there’s still a couple more steps left before the finish line. The last difficult task is inserting and tightening the X axis belt. Putting two screws in the backside of the extruder carriage, the belt must be wrapped around both sides and zip-tied closed.
Getting the toothed side of belt around the X Axis motor is a bit tough too, but using tweezers or something to help navigate it through the small crevice makes things easier.
After mounting the LCD display, we directed our attention to the motherboard and power supply of the Anet A8.
Thankfully, no soldering or excessive tinkering was necessary, just a bit of wire stripping and connecting. The Anet A8 Installation Guide does a decent job depicting how to wire and mount the power supply.
There’s an array of connectors to plug into the mainboard, but labels on both the mainboard and wires make this as uncomplicated as possible.
However, we did find that the final result to be a tangly mess of wires. This was solved with zip ties and wire tubing sleeves (both of which are provided with the 3D printer kit).
Aside from the spotty instructions and unavoidable wire spaghetti, the assembly process of the Anet A8 was extremely fun and quite insightful. On top of that, the hands-on experience made it easy to go back and fix or upgrade other issues later on.
Some might find the overall design of the Anet A8 a bit too shoddy or simplistic, but we personally found the minimalistic design to benefit the performance. The open-ended style allows you to easily tweak and dig into every nook and cranny of the 3D printer.
For example, after assembly, we realized that the toothed belt was not fastened tight enough. Not only was there a limited amount of rubber belt material (meaning that one screw up would damper the whole project), but you also had to fit the component into tight spaces and ensure that there was enough tension.
Thanks to the minimal design of Anet A8, it was easy to go back and resolve this issue. This accessibility also allowed certain elements like extruder to be disassembled when we experienced a clog.
However, there were some downsides to the design of the Anet A8 as well. For example, the 3D printed fan duct that came with the 3D printer didn’t fit properly onto the extruder and hung down lower than the nozzle. Luckily, there were a number of fan mods on Thingiverse (more on this later), so we were able to overcome this problem.
Other issues include the overwhelming array of wires, the absence of a power switch (you must unplug to turn off), and some rods beneath the print bed that came loose every now and then. One surprise came early on during our printing experimentation. After unclogging the nozzle and reassembling the extruder, we noticed a bit of smoke coming out of the nozzle of our Anet A8.
Clearly alarmed by this hazardous sign, we took the extruder apart and found that the wiring attached to the heating block was loose. After doing a bit of research on Google, we realized this wasn’t an uncommon problem. Although we simply (and carefully) fit the wire in snugly, others suggest using thermal paste to keep the wiring in place.
Still, these minor discrepancies weren’t that surprising for such a cheap 3D printer kit. Considering you’re getting a cheap Prusa clone for just over $200, it’s tough to hold a grudge over these design flaws of the Anet A8.
As for the user interface, the LCD screen was adequate enough but seemed to lack in practicality at some points. The Anet A8 offers many options on the UI, but the clunky buttons make it hard to navigate quickly. Still, you can modify the nozzle and print bed temperature, fan speed, and monitor the over printing process on the fly. The positioning function also enables slight movements of each axis, a nice feature that assists with calibration.
Now that we’ve gone through the assembly process and over design, it’s time to get into the fun stuff: printing performance. Before we could get extruding, our Anet A8 had to be calibrated. The first attempt at calibrating the Anet A8 was a bit challenging and took a bit of trial and error.
When adjusting the height of each print bed corner, we suggest keeping track of your screwdriver revolutions in order to keep the bed properly leveled. To achieve optimal calibration, set the extruder at the home position and use a single sheet of paper to test the height between the nozzle and print bed. Essentially, you should feel a moderate amount of tension when sliding the paper in between the nozzle and bed. Once you reach this and set the print bed to an even level, you’re finally ready to get printing.
Of course, there’s no better 3D model to test out the capabilities of your 3D printer than with #3DBenchy. On the first Anet A8 print attempt (the white Benchy pictured above to the right), the print surface came out with an extremely wavy print surface. The effect was interesting to say the least, but not quite what we were looking to achieve. We soon realized that the streaky effect stemmed from the loose belt beneath the print bed.
After tightening that up, we went for #3DBenchy round two (the red model pictured above). This next Anet A8 print was a major improvement over the first attempt, but we still noticed some stringiness in the interior of our boat. After going to Simplify3D to modify the retraction settings and print temperature, we achieved our best results yet (the purple #3DBenchy pictured to the left). This improved print was also a result of a special modification we created for the Anet A8, but more on that in the following section.
Although it took a bit of finessing to optimize the Anet A8, the purple print showcased surprisingly good quality. For a 3D printer that costs just around $220, the results were quite staggering. After finishing the #3DBenchy test, we decided it was time to enhance our Anet A8 with some 3D printed modifications.
In stock form, the Anet A8 works decently, but you can easily improve both the safety and performance of this machine with a few Anet A8 upgrades. Some of these parts can be 3D printed on your newly built Anet A8, but some of the most important upgrades are not printable.
We’ll share a few of the must-have Anet A8 upgrades in this review, but you can find our expansive list here: 25 Must-Have Anet A8 Upgrades & Mods in 2018
First and foremost, many Anet A8 owners recommend mounting a MOSFET onto your 3D printer. This additional component is critical for fire safety, something that many users are cautious about with the Anet A8.
The MOSFET will reduce fire risk and provide better voltage to the motors. This upgrade regulates the high workload that the heated bed or extruder places upon the mainboard.
Although safety is a primary focus of the MOSFET, it also provides some performance-based benefits. This mainboard upgrade also enables Anet A8 owners to mount a second power supply unit (PSU) to their 3D printer, drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to heat up the print bed.
The MOSFET is available for just $5 – $10, and can be purchased from Amazon.
You can improve the 3D printing performance by equipping the Anet A8 with a better extruder. The E3D Titan Extruder is a popular addition to this DIY 3D printer kit. The lightweight construction reduces nozzle clogging, increases torque, and provides higher resolution print quality.
The E3D Titan Extruder can be matched with the E3D v6 Hotend, which enables higher temperature 3D printing, while also reducing stringiness and clogging.
Another worthwhile upgrade is auto-level sensor. As you’ll soon find out while carefully leveling out the Anet A8 printer bed, manual calibration can be a constant pain in the behind. You can simplify this busywork with an auto-calibration sensor.
Which sensor you should purchase depends on a few factors. If you equip your Anet A8 with a glass bed, a pricer auto-level sensor like the BL Touch would be preferable. However, if you keep the stock bed on your 3D printer, a cheaper sensor should be able to do the job just fine. An adequate auto-level sensor can usually be found for under $10.
You can also upgrade the Anet A8 with 3D printable parts. Many of these 3D models improve performance, others just make this DIY 3D printer look better. Here are a couple of Anet A8 upgrades you can create with the very machine you just put together.
After trawling through Thingiverse to find what unique modifications people were making for the Anet A8, we found a few must-prints in the eclectic mix.
The first thing we printed to upgrade the Anet A8 printer was the Anet A8 Mainboard Cover designed by Lee-R. This mod is a simple cover for the exposed motherboard, using a hexagonal hole shape to ensure that air can still circulate.
The second (and most favorite Anet A8 mod) was the Center Nozzle Fan designed by Arjjck. This component was especially useful because of the issues with the stock nozzle fan duct. This modification to Anet A8 helped distribute the air to the nozzle at the 360-degree angle. Ultimately, the unique enhancement helped us achieve our finest quality prints.
Lastly, we also 3D printed the Extruder Button by dryas, which provided a larger and more comfortable button for the extruder lock. We also printed the Simple Filament Guide by papinist. This Anet A8 mod clips onto the top of the frame and helps ensure that your filament doesn’t get tangled up in midst of a print.
If you’re looking for other enhancements for your Anet A8, there are a plethora of collections on Thingiverse. You can browse through those here. We’ve also compiled a list of our 25 Must-Have Anet A8 Upgrades & Mods, which includes even more ways to make your Anet A8 better.
While shopping for a DIY 3D printer kit, you might have noticed that there is an Anet A8 and Anet A6. The two machines share a similar design and features, however, there are a few differences that set the two machines apart.
The Anet A6 is considered to be a slight step up from the A8, but also costs around $50 more. For those struggling to decide which Anet 3D printer to purchase, take a look at what each has to offer.
Although the Anet A8 is larger than the A6, both 3D printers have a nearly identical print volume. The frame of the Anet A6 is also an improvement over the A8, providing more stability and less vibrations.
The X axis setup of the Anet A6 is horizontal, while the Anet A8 has a vertical design. The horizontal X axis seems to provide more stability to the direct drive extruder.
The LCD display of the Anet A6 offers more functionality than the one that comes with the Anet A8. The former utilizes a knob for navigation, while the Anet A8 is equipped with buttons. The Anet A6 display also includes a tiny speaker that beeps when your 3D print is finished.
Considering that the Anet A6 has better features, you might be wondering why the Anet A8 is so much more popular. Well, there are a few reasons for this…
The most obvious reason is that the Anet A8 is cheaper. Most users looking at this 3D printer are on budget, making the price an important factor.
Additionally, the Anet A8 is also much more well-documented across the 3D printing community, which is especially important for a DIY 3D printer kit. Lastly, the Anet A8 has hundreds of upgrades and mods across Thingiverse and other 3D model repositories. So, although the Anet A6 might be a slightly better 3D printer, there are numerous ways to bring your Anet A8 up to speed.
All in all, while the Anet A8 certainly had a few flaws, the DIY 3D printer experience was one that all aspiring makers and tinkers should take on at some point. While this 3D printer falls short of the renowned Prusa i3 MK2, the lower price point (and timely shipping) makes the Anet A8 a viable option for those looking to spend less and print right away.
However, don’t forget that this is a project 3D printer, and will require constant tweaking and upgrading to optimize performance.
These are our parting words in our Anet A8 review. If you’re looking for an affordable 3D printer kit to build and enhance, the Anet A8 could be the perfect starting point for your additive manufacturing adventure.
What do you think of our Anet A8 review? Anything we missed, or any suggestions you’d like to make? Let us know in the comments below.
License: The text of "2018 Anet A8 Review – Most Popular 3D Printer" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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