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Anet A8 Review – Most Popular 3D Printer of Fall 2018

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.

Top of Anet A8 frame and LCD display.

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.

Heated print bed and Y-axis assembly.

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.

Heated print bed, extruder, and Y-axis assembly.

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.

Anet A8 Z-axis threaded rod assembly.

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.

Anet A8 Z-axis threaded rod assembly.

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.

The stock extruder for the Anet A8.

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.

Anet A8 Mainboard

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.

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