Despite causing more than its fair share of house fires, the Anet A8 remains one of the most popular budget 3D printers to date. Between the large build volume, rock bottom prices and effective marketing tactics, this plastic oozing fire hazard has been placed into thousands of homes worldwide. Certain retailers hand out the machine to any Youtuber with a face, in exchange for an “unbiased” review of the product. In doing so, a brief Google search for “Anet A8 review” makes this $150 3D Printer look like the best thing since Cura sliced bread.
It is not without some merits though, it has great potential as a barebones kit in the hands of an experience user. For those willing to replace certain components, upgrade the frame and install fail safes, it can be made into both a reliable and capable machine. The problem however is that it has been marketed to naive buyers, looking to purchase their first 3D printer while maintaining a limited budget.
If you are looking to get into 3D Printing at the lowest possible cost, I recommend checking out our article The 10 Best 3D Printers Under $800. For the rest of you with comprehensive homeowners insurance, we will look into what you can expect when purchasing this 3D printer.
|Platform||3mm Aluminum Plate|
The Anet A8 package contains 3 Styrofoam trays filled with all of the necessary parts to assemble a working 3D Printer. While the included tools are sufficient in most cases, it is preferable to have a sturdy Phillips head screwdriver on hand. It will be used often and the one provided is quite small and uncomfortable to grip.
- 220x220x3mm Heated Bed
- A1284 Mainboard
- LCD 2004 Screen
- 12V Power Supply & Cable
- Acrylic Frame Parts
- 3D Printed Z-Axis Mounts
- (5) Stepper Motors
- (3) Mechanical Endstops
- Premeasured Wires
- Plastic Nippers
- 5x160mm Flat Head
- 3x130mm Phillips Head
- 1.5m USB Cable
- 8GB TF Card & Reader
- Hex Wrench Set
- Filament Spool Holder
- (1) 50G Sample PLA Pack
Anet A8 Assembly
While there is no instruction manual included with the package, there are several official Anet videos on Youtube that cover the assembly process. Although the videos are well produced and easy to follow, they have released several revisions that don’t exactly fit together well. Between part one and part two, I found myself jumping back and fourth, trying to determine where it resumed the steps I was currently on.
Considering that I have built 3D printers from scratch, I expected to breeze through the assembly of this kit. This was not the case, it took somewhere around 12 hours spread across a period of 2 days to complete. The acrylic frame pieces are the most time consuming ordeal, covered in a protective paper that takes at least a couple hours to remove. Once they are unwrapped, the rest is fairly straight forward as long as you can constantly pause/play the instructional videos. They switch between normal and accelerated speeds every few seconds during the 55 minute run-time, making it easy to miss important steps should you happen to blink.
The acrylic frame is designed like a puzzle that simply snaps together, locked into place using M3 nuts and bolts. This is certainly not the most rigid construction, however it does manage to at least hold everything together. Once the frame is done, installing the electric components such as motors, endstops and boards is almost fool proof. Everything has been labeled well, mounts to the frame and is nothing more than a game of plug and play. If you don’t mind a mess of wires, you can shave several hours off the build time. Proper cable management on the Anet A8 is somewhat complex given the lack of places to hide wires from plain view. I picked up some $2.00 split wire loom from Home Depot (personal preference) but they do include spiral loom, zip ties and plastic clips to aid in the organization process.
Anet A8 Build Quality
The materials used in the Anet A8 construction are nothing short of abysmal. A rigid frame is an absolute necessity in 3D Printing, where unexpected movement will create obvious defects. Any machine worth consideration will have a metal frame, often made from aluminum or steel. The choice to use acrylic (plastic) pieces was nothing more than a cost savings gimmick at the sacrifice of considerable product quality.
Although a lousy frame won’t turn your children into orphans, the included electronics are just as inferior if not worse, making use of unrated components that are sourced from the lowest cost manufacturer. The power supply and connectors are not capable of handling the sustained draw of electricity needed to run the heated bed, extruder and more. Best case scenario, this will eventually cause components to burn out without causing any harm. For those less fortunate, a spark ignites something flammable and you become a statistic.
While the above should cause any reasonable person to second guess this machine, those are just the most notable problems to take into consideration. In addition to safety concerns, I found every single bearing in my package was bad, where the balls fell out upon picking them up for installation. Since a 3D Printer relies entirely on smooth motion to operate, the lack of ball bearings means increased friction. As a result, the gantry, extruder and heated bed screech and grind with every movement, making decent results almost impossible to achieve.
Once I have finished replacing the necessary items, the total cost of the machine will have more than doubled. A premade metal frame from Ebay is nearly the same cost as the printer itself. Throw in new belts, bearings and electronics and you could have bought a much better machine for less.
I purchased the Anet A8 3D Printer for two specific reasons. I wanted to (A) offer an honest review in a market that has been saturated with paid feedback and (B) take the opportunity to write a series of guides that cover how to make it safe and reliable. This is one of the most popular 3D Printers sold online, yet the most urgent mods and necessary upgrades are not nearly as accessible as they need to be.
As mentioned in the introduction, I do feel that this 3D Printer has an immense amount of potential with the right information available. Backed by a massive community of owners, there is countless customizations already designed for this platform. To provide examples, the AM8 (All Metal Frame) offers a complete frame replacement for around $55 in total. The dangerous power supply can be replaced on Amazon and cheap MOSFET Boards can bypass underrated connectors to prevent meltdowns. With enough motivation, many of the components can even be used to build an entirely different 3D Printer such as the HyperCube Evolution.
The problem however is the average shopper will have no intention of making any such changes. These are purchased as gifts for loved ones, tools for students and projects for hobbyist. The retailers know this and will make no attempt to emphasize dangerous flaws, but instead highlight the capabilities under the guise of a small price tag.
- Inexpensive Cost
- Large Print Volume
- Heated PCB Bed
- Extensive Assembly Required
- Acrylic (Plastic) Frame
- Unrated Electrical Components
- Cheap Linear Bearings