I’ve pondered the idea of owning a 3D printer for quite a while, but I always presumed they were very expensive and probably needed a lot of specialised skills to run them. Recently however, I discovered this was not necessarily the case and that consumer 3D printer kits could be purchased quite cheaply.
In July of 2017 I found a self build kit for around £200 and took the plunge. The kit was an Anet A8.
Assembling it was pretty straight forward following the step-by-step video instructions from the Anet YouTUbe Channel.
Below is the video log I made of the build…
3. Add a MOSFET to the Heatbed
From what I’ve been led to understand, one of the issues concerning the A8 is that the heavy current needed to heat up the hotbed is channeled directly through the motherboard, which apparently can be a safety concern. The solution is to fit something called a MOSFET, which is like a relay switch that diverts the heavy current away from the motherboard and feeds it directly to the hotbed from the PSU…
Anet A8 - Review Notes & Experience
I did a lot of research before taking the plunge and opting to buy the A8. The selling factor for me was that the A8 was extremely popular as an introductory 3D printer and has a large support network within the 3D printing community. I figured if I was to encounter any issues with it, there would be a high probability the solution would be easily forthcoming.
The build only took around 6 hours and the step-by-step construction videos made it pretty easy to put together.
A note about safety:
The more I looked into 3D printing kits, the more I came to learn that there are some cheap printer models out there that don’t have many safety features. At the time of writing this, the Anet A8 also falls into this category and, according to what I’ve read, there have been a number of incidents involving the A8 with circuitry burnouts and even fires.
There are review videos on YouTube done by folks who know a lot more about electrical safety than I do, who have dissected the stock power supply that comes with the A8 and questioned its safety and viability. Many people will replace the PSU altogether for a safer one, as well as making other safety modifications which I will list below.
Below I’ve listed all the safety modifications I’ve made to my A8. These mods were all recommendations that I found from 3D printing communities and forums…
1. Add a fan to the PSU
It was reccomended that if you are keeping the stock PSU that came with the Anet A8, it would be a wise move to at least install a fan onto it to keep things cool. A fan cowling was available on thingiverse by Leo_n so I printed it out and installed an 80mm PC fan, powered by the PSU itself…
2.Add fan to the motherboard
I printed out this motherboard cover by Leo_n and installed a 40mm fan, also powered by the PSU…
4. Solder the Heatbed Wires Directly to the Heatbed
Another potential flaw in the stock A8 assembly is the plug they use to attach the wires to the heatbed. I have read about the wires coming loose and causing a short or even melting the terminal block. To address this, many people recommend you directly solder the wires to the board.
In my case, I used 2 spade connectors (the 2 outside pins are connected together) for the load wires, and I cut the original terminal block so that the temperature sensor wires would still plug in.
5. Replace the PSU
Still slightly nervous about using the original power supply unit after everything I’d read, I eventually decided to replace it with something more beefy that could provide the necessary power without pushing itself to the limits. I used an ATX computer power supply (500w - modular type) and I went for a known and trusted brand.
It was a simple case of just swapping them over and reconnecting the correct wires. I did have to drill a couple of holes in the acrylic bodywork of the printer in order to mount the PSU, but it was all very easy. A quick search will reveal that there are several YouTube videos available on how to swap-out your PSU.
The 3D Printing Experience So Far:
At the time of writing this, I’ve had the 3D printer about a week and I can tell you, you need a lot of patience. 3D printing takes FOREVER! Unlike the replicators you get on Star Trek, even the smallest objects can easily take a couple of hours to do if you have the settings turned up to high detail.
I guess it’s not a problem as such, the printer will quite happily run without you needing you to watch it like a hawk, however if you asked me: would I leave the printer running and go out? or would I leave it running overnight while I’m asleep? I’m likely to reply with “probably not”, and that’s where 3D printing can become a bit of a ball and chain.
It’s one thing to have the printer running in a nearby room where you can still hear it running, you can easily check-in on it every hour-or-so just to make sure it’s still running correctly, but I’m learning that failed prints are an inevitable part of 3D printing. They can and will happen. Combine this with the fact you are running cheap, jerry-rigged moving machinery from China, with high temperature electrical parts; it should definitely make you nervous about completely leaving it to its own devices.
Bearing in mind that it’s not a good idea to pause a print once it’s started, 3D printing can become a bit of a babysitting job. It’s fine if you will be home for the duration of the print, or have someone else that can keep an eye on it, but otherwise you have to choose your prints wisely and plan your timing carefully.
Apart from the need to become a full-time printer babysitter, the world of 3D printing is awesome! You can print almost anything, and with websites like thingiverse.com, there are millions of things you can download for free to print, without ever having to know or understand anything about designing.
My Printing Projects:
After printing a few upgrades for the printer, like a filament reel holder and fan ducting, my first proper printing project was probably quite ambitious. I started printing out an Eagle Transporter spaceship from the old 70’s sci-fi series Space 1999. However I wasn’t content just to just print out the standard model, I was thinking in bigger terms. I scaled it up to 250% (as large as the 3D printer bed could handle) and began printing in in sections.
The finished print took 9 ½ days to complete and is 2 feet long. I painted it using filler spray paint (automotive) to try to even out some of the print lines. From a distance it looks okay but close-up it’s pretty rough and doesn’t compare to the proper scale model kits you can buy.
I think in conclusion, the 3D printer will be good for printing things that are useful and functional, but for anything that requires fine details, they still have a long way to go.
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