Computers & Electronics

Beginner's 3D printer ($300 CAD all in) Anet A8 Prusa i3: tips and tricks

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  • Dec 28th, 2017 7:32 am
[OP]
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Aug 30, 2007
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Beginner's 3D printer ($300 CAD all in) Anet A8 Prusa i3: tips and tricks

Image

I just got it from ********, 7 days shipping (DHL), just under $300 CAD all in. See my hot deals thread:

********-a8-desktop-3d-printer-kit-300-cad-all-2055184/

This seems to be the cheapest decent specs 3D printer available, so sure will be popular with people new to 3D printing like myself. Hence the need to have a discussion thread here where we could exchange tips and tricks about the printer.

Important features:
  • Heated bed (allows for printing many kinds of plastics, not just PLA: ABS, Nylon PVA / PP etc.)
  • Large printing volume (much larger than other cheap printers like Mini from MonoPrice): 220 x 220 x 240mm
  • Open Source software and hardware (meaning lots of support online).
To be verified features (from ******** FAQs):
  • (?) seems to have Pause and Stop features;


Help resources:

Upgrades and improvements:

Youtube resources:

Alternative firmware:

It looks like SkyNet v2 (open source Arduino code) is significantly better than the stock firmware on this printer, at least for the two following reasons:
- It supports auto-leveling . (One needs to install a proximity sensor for this to work)
- It has advanced thermal protection code (for cases when the hot end thermistor falls off; this has caused fire in the past, due to thermal runaway).

I think I'll switch to SkyNet v2 right away.

I just tested all electronics in my kit - everything works well. It's time to start assembling the mechanics...
Last edited by pulsar123 on Nov 21st, 2016 11:15 am, edited 2 times in total.
64 replies
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Jun 27, 2011
314 posts
447 upvotes
MONTRÉAL
Thanks for this post.
I submited the proximity sensor deal on the deal page but im glad you posted the switch and the other heat bed relay thing. I ordered them.
I just finished building mine yesterday and im p'aying a bit with the calibration and all.

Its a fun machine. Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes
[OP]
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Aug 30, 2007
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I am almost done building it (I have busy household, so can spend ~1 hour a day max for this). Hopefully tonight. Already got two 1kg rolls of ABS filament (MG chemicals) from amazon.ca, $24 each, free shipping. I don't like PLA (not good for outdoors, and most of my projects involve outdoor usage), so will try to handle the more demanding ABS from the get go.

I am now looking into using a more powerful power source - like ATX PSU (I have one with 300W on +12V side). It sounds like the stock PSU can't really handle ABS (100C hot bed is very power hungry). Already a few people reported failed PSUs in these printers.

Keep posting about your progress with the printer!
Newbie
Nov 14, 2008
21 posts
22 upvotes
London
Thanks for making this post and the summary of reference material...it's quite helpful. I had only known about the Facebook group, which looks like it has a lot of information, but is quite disorganized...The wiki pages you referenced look quite good though.

Like you, I have a busy house, so I haven't been able to complete my build, but I think I'm almost there. Some notes so far:
- the protective layer on all the acrylic pieces are a pain to take off, this took me an hour to remove it all from all pieces.
- the cross rods for the x-axis were difficult to hammer in (my mounts must be a lot tighter than the one in the video). I ended up having to hammer them in on a bench and then install the x axis assembly in one big piece (2 white end pieces, 2 rods + 3 stage sliders).
Penalty Box
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Apr 25, 2013
7398 posts
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Dam, Socialism has even come to 3d printing !

Just a quick survey, are you guys getting these 3d printers in Mech Tech/Mech Eng CNC programmer types or has 3d printing gone mainstream that even hobbyist use them now ?
I remember 3d printing in the early 80's cost $350,000 just to start
A $1,250 pen plotter was the only thing we could afford to bring home back then ! ...LoL

[OP]
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Aug 30, 2007
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EdT586 wrote:
Just a quick survey, are you guys getting these 3d printers in Mech Tech/Mech Eng CNC programmer types or has 3d printing gone mainstream that even hobbyist use them now ?
Sorry, no idea what "Mech Tech/Mech Eng CNC programmer types" are...

These printers use Arduino microcontrollers (one can use open source software, Marlin, with them), and can print either from the internal micro-SD card (one need to generate the gcode first), or from your PC via USB connection, using "slicer" software like Cura.
[OP]
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Aug 30, 2007
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odiovidio wrote: Thanks for making this post and the summary of reference material...it's quite helpful. I had only known about the Facebook group, which looks like it has a lot of information, but is quite disorganized...The wiki pages you referenced look quite good though.

Like you, I have a busy house, so I haven't been able to complete my build, but I think I'm almost there. Some notes so far:
- the protective layer on all the acrylic pieces are a pain to take off, this took me an hour to remove it all from all pieces.
- the cross rods for the x-axis were difficult to hammer in (my mounts must be a lot tighter than the one in the video). I ended up having to hammer them in on a bench and then install the x axis assembly in one big piece (2 white end pieces, 2 rods + 3 stage sliders).
With the enthusiastic help of two of my kids, the step one (removing the protective tape) went pretty fast!

The cross rods were very easy to insert in my case; I didn't even have to use a hammer, just my hands.
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Apr 25, 2013
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pulsar123 wrote: Sorry, no idea what "Mech Tech/Mech Eng CNC programmer types" are...

These printers use Arduino microcontrollers (one can use open source software, Marlin, with them), and can print either from the internal micro-SD card (one need to generate the gcode first), or from your PC via USB connection, using "slicer" software like Cura.
Mechanical Engineering Technologists, Mechanical Engineers, Computer Numerical Control programmers are normally the usual suspects that play with these toys. G Codes were used in CNC programming before more user friendly conversational programming languages like CAD/CAM came along.

CNC vertical milling in action

[OP]
Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2007
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My first test print with this printer - it worked out well:

Member
Oct 21, 2009
206 posts
50 upvotes
Ottawa
Are you going to print the circular fan shaper next?
I just got my box. Only 24$ DHL charge. Might have to wait till weeknd to assemble.
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Feb 1, 2008
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Great thread guys, in getting my boy one for Christmas. Is this still the one to buy at this price. I have access to the US, not sure if one of the monoprices ones are any better. This one can be had at $220 USD with coupon

http://www.monoprice.com/mobile/product/details/13860
Last edited by hyperactiveme on Nov 29th, 2016 1:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
[OP]
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kevinottawa wrote: Are you going to print the circular fan shaper next?
I just got my box. Only 24$ DHL charge. Might have to wait till weeknd to assemble.

In fact the opposite - I removed the stock fan shaper, because I only plan to print on ABS which doesn't use that fan. PLA is totally impractical, only for display (it doesn't tolerate moisture). And I want to print practical things (enclosures for my Arduino projects etc.).

Currently I am working on upgrading the PSU (and also high current circuitry - adding a MOSFET module once I receive it) - the stock one seems to be stretching to its limits when printing ABS, and I heard about multiple cases of PSU failing. I am playing with ATX PSUs for now.

Do your POWER and BED connectors look like mine (green screw terminals)?

ImageUnboxing 3D printer Anet A8 by First Last, on Flickr

If not, you have to upgrade them immediately to high-current (ideally 20A) screw terminals - there were multiple reports of these terminals melting down and even perhaps causing a fire.

It is also recommended to get rid of the connector going into the hot bed, and instead solder the wires directly into the bed, again to reduce the chance of a connector meltdown. I will look into this soon.
[OP]
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Aug 30, 2007
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Anyone else using this printer? What kind of upgrades have you done so far?

My very first upgrade (completely solved the shaved filament issue at the top of the extruder):

ImageUntitled by First Last, on Flickr

My biggest upgrade so far was purchasing a sheet of 0.8mm thick PEI sheet - the "miracle" building surface material for 3d printers (22$ on amazon.ca; https://www.amazon.ca/Polyetherimide-Na ... =pei+sheet). Most glue it to the bed with 3M sticky tape, but I simply use a bunch of bulldog clips along the bed's perimeter, and it works perfectly fine. My aluminum bed had a ~1mm warp, but I managed to flatten it to within ~0.2mm by placing it on two boards and carefully applying a rubber hammer, until it was flat enough. PEI is as magical as advertised: my ABS prints stick well to it when the bed is hot (I'm using 100C), and can be removed without any tools when it cools down. For larger parts, I am adding a 10-15 lines brim. I don't have to use any glue, sprays, ABS slur etc. I don't even have to clean the surface between prints, but I usually wipe it with a rubbing alcohol.

My much more involved upgrade is still in the process. I plan to make my printer much safer both in terms of fire and health safety. I have ordered some parts (12 gauge silicone wires, MOSFET unit for the bed, and a 50A 12V PSU) and will use them to upgrade the high-amperage part of the printer once I get them. I am also designing and making an Arduino based "3D guardian" which will use a bunch of sensors (smoke, CO, thermistors) to detect a potential issue, and to control a powerful 10A/380V AC solid state relay to shut down the printer in case of an emergency. (The Arduino + SSR combo is already working, but for now I'm using it to make our Xmas tree LED lights flicker :)

Finally, I'll be moving my printer to my basement's unfinished cold room (bare concrete floor and walls; air outlets), where it will be placed in a fire proof metal enclosure I am designing right now. It will have a metal exhaust pipe with a small fan under arduino control which will pump the poisonous ABS fumes out. It should also help with ABS warping, as I can keep it warm inside the enclosure.
Newbie
Jul 1, 2015
11 posts
2 upvotes
Toronto, ON
wow, this looks really fun and awesome.. thanks for sharing. i know very little about 3d printing but i have an overwhelming desire to print my own sandals.

any idea if this setup can print flexible materials like recreus fila flex? also what do they mean when they have a picture of a spool of material and they say it's $40 for 0.33 mm?
Deal Fanatic
Nov 17, 2004
7154 posts
1481 upvotes
Toronto
If I had one tip for 3d printing, it is to use PETG filament. Stronger more durable prints than ABS, the bond strength between layers is incredibly high, has almost no warping with good heatbed adhesion, costs maybe $3 more per spool than ABS/PLA on amazon.

PETG prints at higher temp, so a good upgrade is to get an all metal print head and a stainless steel nozzle (get the ones with the anti friction coating if you can splurge). The ugraded print heat is not just for PETG, I have been through maybe 10kg of various filament and I have not had to change my nozzle or the throat yet since i did my hot end upgrade. Prior that that, every 2 spools I would have to change the cheap brass nozzle and the cheap throat.

Another tip is to go to home depot, buy a sheet of thin lexan, cut it and use that ontop of your heatbed using the paper clip clamp things to secure it to the build plate. ABS, PLA, PETG, HIPS are the filaments that I use, and they all stick very well to the lexan plate without any tape/glue/hairspray/etc.. I still use a bit of hairspray just incase. Best of all once the print and the lexan cool, the print just peels off eaisly.
I workout to get big so I can pickup bricks and ****.
Newbie
Jul 1, 2015
11 posts
2 upvotes
Toronto, ON
hmm any advice on softer materials? i want to print a dress at some point too
[OP]
Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2007
1879 posts
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Regarding printing with filaflex - I haven't tried it myself, but judging from its requirements (210-230C heated head, no heated bed) it should be okay. Also I found one comment on the Facebook group: "I'm having a blast with the printer, having already tried PLA and ABS, Filaflex, filaflex45 and Wood filaments...".

You need 1.75mm diameter filament for this printer. I am not sure what they mean by "$40 for 0.33mm" - may be it's a typo? They usually sell by kilograms (0.5, 1kg being the common sizes).
Newbie
Jul 1, 2015
11 posts
2 upvotes
Toronto, ON
pulsar123: thank you very much for that :) i appreciate it...

to start, i was thinking: there are a few sites out there with free models, but it's hard to know which are real or scams.. are there any that you trust? do you know if there are any places online to find free jewelry designs to print?
Deal Addict
Dec 16, 2011
2707 posts
1096 upvotes
QC, Canada
Built mine 3 days ago, already printed lots of mods. The thing that helped the print the most was moving the printer to the top of a drawer where there is less draft and it's a bit hotter than on a coffee table

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