A preview of my upgrades to my Anet A8 with links to all of the videos and articles that I followed to perform the upgrades, as well as to all of the parts I am using. Links to purchased parts are affiliate links. These are all parts I've actually purchased myself and am using, I'll gladly add photos of any part if in doubt. I feel I've spent enough time and money and am trying to help others with a list of resources that helped me. I am also putting the part name so you can search Amazon yourself without going through my links.
Added a section for hotbed wire upgrade suggestion to avoid your hotbed connector from catching fire.
Added section for Titan Extruder assembly video, calibration video, my calibration settings for use with stock stepper motor, firmware settings, mount and photo.
- Added information for the E3Dv6 Clone
- Added section of upgrades not recommended to do towards the end.
A few weeks ago I purchased an Anet A8 for around $140 from Gearbest link. I learned as much as I could before receiving the 3D printer, but as I've learned in the few weeks since I received it... nothing is a good as first hand experience. While the things I learned before the 3D printer arrived helped a lot, I found that there was a lot I still didn't know. So I will try my best to post things I've learned, where I learned them and hopefully help someone else out that stumbles across this post.
Purchased Parts List and Cost including shipping
- Anet A8 - 147.02
- Titan Clone - 26.20
- E3D v6 Clone - 15.98
- Official BLTouch - 48.95 (included 1m cable extension)
- Raspberry Pi Kit - 69.99
- AM8 Frame - 54.42
- AM8 Nuts & Bolts - 13.74
- Rubber Feet - 3.20
- Power Cord - 6.74
- Power Switch - 2.44
- Fuse - 0.08
- Spool Bearings - 1.44
- Idler Pulleys - 6.99
- Mosfet - 8.99
- GT2 Upgraded Belts - 8.99
- Fans (2) - 13.96
Total cost of printer and upgrades:
First thing's first... if you don't like DIY and don't like tinkering and testing and failing and experimenting... then the Anet A8 is probably not for you. It's a DIY project that takes a lot of patience and a lot of finagling to get things running better than stock. There's a lot of upgrades to make the printer better, and a lot of extra money you may need to spend. While the experience building and upgrading the Anet A8 has been fun for me, the amount of extra money I've put in to it, I probably just could have purchased a better printer that works better and is built better right out of the gate. But this has been a journey that I have enjoyed, even if it did make me want to rip my hair out a few times.
If you don't already have an Anet A8, I found the cheapest I could find one was through Gearbest. It did take about 2 weeks to receive it, but during that time I learned as much as possible about the printer and what I would need to do to make it better. A ton of YouTube videos were watched, and a ton of articles were read. To quote the baddest Demon Hunter... You Are Not Prepared!
Here are a few YouTube channels to start with:
There is a TON of information to be learned from those guys.
Now my experience has been a bit of a roller coaster. A couple times I almost threw in the towel and really thought to myself… WHY? Why did I buy a 3D printer? (to 3D print parts for my SteamPunk robot dragon) and Why am I willing to deal with all of this BS? I still don’t have an answer to the second question, but… I’m having fun lol.
Anet A8 Parts
The Anet A8 initially took me about 6 hours to assemble. Mainly because the nuts are a bit of a pain in the ass to keep in the little slots and not fall out. Aligning everything, running wires, connecting wires, redoing parts that I didn’t realize I put on backwards or upside down causing me to take half the thing apart to fix my mistake.
Some pretty good videos to help assembly:
Finally… it was together.
Anet A8 Assembled
After assembly, I had some problems. The left threaded Z axis was sticking pretty badly, and when moving the Z axis up and down it would continuously stick and get out of alignment. Having never dealt with this before, I was pretty frustrated. So I tweaked and tested and tore apart and ripped hair out and finally came to the conclusion that the threaded coupling was out of alignment. I took it apart and found a piece of plastic between the coupling and the part it was mounted to. After removing it and putting all back together, the Z axis movement was smooth as butter. Now I could print.
Just the stock printer really didn’t print too badly...
I probably could have stopped there and been happy printing things for personal use. But no… I’m a glutton for punishment.
Originally I had a list of parts I was going to print out to upgrade, as well as the parts needed to upgrade to a metal frame. Why? because the stock Anet A8 comes with an acryllic frame that isn’t very strong and can be wobbly. Anyways, that list changed over time and so I will post my upgrades that I’m actually using now.
You’re going to need some filament to print parts if you’re going for upgrades first, or even just to play around and start printing some things. I started off with 2 different filaments that were as cheap as I could find just to start off with and experiment with and waste…
Both of these filaments have actually been pretty good. Though with my new Printbite printing surface, I’ve had a hell of a time with the ABS getting it to stick and not warp. PLA and PETG has been just fine.
AM8 Frame & Safety Upgrades
My first priority was to upgrade the frame. I found what I think is a really great metal frame plan called the AM8. It’s more DIY and more money spent though. You can find the information, instructions and BOM here… https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2263216 In the file list there is information where to buy the metal frame parts as well as a list of nuts and bolts to order / obtain. You also need a couple other things such as rubber feet. While you’re ordering parts, you may as well get a power switch (the Anet A8 does not come with one), and a mosfet (regulate power to the hotbed without going directly through the motherboard)
With the AM8 I needed a clip to keep the switch mount against the PSU, so I created one:
I’ve also create a motherboard mount for the AM8 to hold the motherboard and 2 mosfets (some people also mosfet the power to the hotend) as well as an 80mm fan:
I also had problems with the Y tensioner that the AM8 includes, so I changed it to this one:
Cooling & Belts
I purchased 2 fans, 1 to go on the PSU, held on with this part:
and one to go over the motherboard, fiberglass / rubber belt upgrades, and better idler pulleys
After all of my parts arrived and were printed for the AM8 Upgrade… another few hours of taking apart the bed and putting things back together… note, picture shows the original mount I made for the dual mosfet and fan that was a mix of two other parts, you can find this one here:
Hotbed Wire Upgrades
So I knew this was going to happen, so I waited for it to so that I could add this section. The problem... the connector to the hotbed is terribly lacking. The vibration and movement of the bed will eventually either simply fail, or will catch on fire. You NEED to choose how to solve the problem, whether it is soldering the wires directly to the hotbed, using alternative connectors, or using printables to secure the connection. What I chose to do is to cut the connector in a way that I can use the connector just for the signal wires. Then I replaced the connectors on the red and black wires with crimp connectors. I then printed out a hotbed wireholder.
Connectors were purchased from my local hardware store at 0.29 cents each for 14-16 guage.
Z Axis Sensor
I’ve added a BLTouch sensor (pain in the ass to add). I actually tried 3 different sensors, 2 were inductive sensors, a 4mm and 8mm sensing range. Both claimed to work simply by plugging in to the Z stopper, and I setup everything correctly… triple checked with articles and videos… and both of them crashed into my bed numerous times. The first one tore the hell out of my BuildTak printing surface and dug into my aluminum print bed.
BLTouch : Auto Bed Leveling Sensor (With 1M Extension Cable Set) : https://goo.gl/NbUotP
I have it mounted using this part https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2360242 which is also pretty cool because it allows you to just plop in your extruder fan to easily remove it and access your extruder gears. Instructions for Marlin Updates needed for BLTouch and how to zone it in correctly: https://youtu.be/G-TwWfUzXpc
How to wire the BLTouch to Anet A8 motherboard: https://youtu.be/6aofhlAooUE
Rasperry Pi and Octoprint
The Raspberry Pi kit I purchased pretty much has everything you need and then some. The board has built in wifi, it comes with a case, power cord, HDMI cable, 32 GB micro SD and a USB micro SD card reader to plug into your PC. There are extra USB slots to add a web cam as well (I am using an old Logitech webcam I used to use when I was a Twitch streamer)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit - Includes 32 GB Samsung EVO+: https://goo.gl/SYverN
And Octoprint allows you to connect to your printer remotely, control it, send prints, run console commands, etc. It’s been pretty awesome. Initially I used an old laptop and connected to it via Teamviewer, which also worked well.
Getting started with Octoprint and Raspberry Pi: https://youtu.be/MwsxO3ksxm4
Firmware upgrade to the latest Marlin:
Anet A8 Marlin Firmware: https://youtu.be/2uX5_rI1QM8
Finally, Printbite printing surface:
Initially I used BuildTak. It came with an additional free one that I used first. My prints STUCK to BuildTak amazingly well… unfortunately, TOO well. While removing parts, pieces of the BuildTak ripped away with the part. I tore up the free one and placed the one I actually ordered… my first inductive sensor went rogue during a print, carved in a bunch of swirlies and then dug into my hotbed (see above). So I had to find something else, and since the BuildTak ripped apart when I removed parts, I found a bunch of positive reviews of Printbite so I got one. They didn’t have the specific bed size to order, but in the notes when I ordered it I told them my bed size and they cut it exactly to my dimensions, which was awesome of them. So far with PLA and PETG the parts I’ve printed have stuck GREAT, and when the bed cools the parts are SUPER EASY to remove. Some of the bigger parts even release themselves. It’s pretty awesome. With my ABS though, for some reason every part I’ve tried to print has released by layer 3 or 4. I’m thinking maybe my bed isn’t hot enough, as it didn’t have to be as hot with the BuildTak.
E3Dv6 Clone Hotend
My E3Dv6 Clone arrived, and while I haven't had any problems with the hotend itself, other things have been driving me nuts. I initially printed out an X-Carriage that had the LM8UU bearing holders as part of the carriage... that ended up being a big mistake because the alignment was off (distance between smooth rods was off by a couple mm or so) which caused my X-Axis to seize up and cause terrible prints. Then I had printed a hotend fan duct that the X-Carriage I'm using below linked to, and it was way too tall. I tried to print something without it on, and too much heat travelled up the hotend that it caused the clips to warp and make my extruder wobble... so I had to reprint the clip. I designed a hotend cooling fan duct to use, as well as a part cooling fan duct that curves around the back of the hot end instead of to the side or front so that I can still see my tip.
- Wangdd22 E3D V6 Hot End Full Kit 1.75mm 12V Bowden/RepRap 3D Printer Extruder Parts Accessories 0.4mm Nozzle - http://amzn.to/2EPt32k
- EAONE 2 Pcs PTFE Teflon Tube (2 Meters) with 4 Pcs PC4-M6 Fittings for 3D Printer 1.75mm Filament (2.0mm ID/4.0mm OD) - http://amzn.to/2GBXUjI (Mainly I just needed the fittings since the clone didn't come with any for the extruder side, extra tube is bonus for me)
Optional Purchased Parts
- Extra Parts - Zomiee 5pcs Length Extruder 1.75mm Tube + 5pcs 0.4mm Brass Extruder Nozzle Print Heads M6 Threaded + 5pcs Aluminum Heater Block - http://amzn.to/2CDCeBp
Titan Extruder Kit
I finally got my titan extruder kit clone, the one I used is from Gearbest and it took 2 1/2 weeks to get it. I used the stock stepper motor that came with the Anet A8 and calibrated it. Below are the parts I ordered, the mount I printed and the videos I used to assemble the kit and calibrate it.
Additional firmware change: #define INVERT_E0_DIR false was changed to true.
Titan Extruder with stock motor
Someone asked me if all of the upgrades were worth it, and what my goal was... pointing out that for a bit more, a Prusa Mk2 wouldn't have needed the upgrades. So I'd like to add my response here...
To answer your first question, the goal of my post is to share information to others that may be going down the same path as I went through and hopefully make the process a little easier for them with the information I gathered. The goal of buying the printer and doing all of the upgrades was just to learn and gain experience with the 3D printing world.
Yes you are correct. For another $150 a Prusa MK2 is definitely a better buy in my opinion. And for a bit more the Mk3 is even better, especially with all of the new features, build plate, sensors and other upgrades that it has. When I initially purchased the printer, I didn't plan on all of the upgrades, but then once I got it and got onto thingiverse and watched a bunch of videos... the bug hit me. Had I known then what I know now, I would have just gotten the Prusa MK2 or splurged even a bit further for the MK3.
Has it been worth it? Maybe not all of the upgrades, I've even wasted more money on parts that didn't work... such as the 2 inductive sensors and the BuildTak. But... I HAVE seen improved printing quality, reduction of noise, safety, and after the new hotend and titan extruder get here, I can currently only assume that the quality will be even better according to those I have read opinions from.
On top of that, I've gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about 3D printers that I didn't know before. I've had to debug things and troubleshoot things that had a bought a more expensive printer, had something gone wrong... I wouldn't have known what to do about it. So there's value in that as well. IF I can figure out how to make a profit off of 3D printing, I'll purchase a better printer in the future. For now, I enjoy creating things, crafting, and tinkering with the printer.
Things I don't recommend doing: (so far)
Don't use Igus Drylin Polymer bearings - If they work, apparently they work great. Unfortunately, with an Anet A8 and printed parts being used, alignment is probably going to be even a hair off... which is bad news for these types of bearings. I have tried them, and to me they were a waste of money. Since I've switched to a bowden setup with an E3Dv6 clone, I am using a printed x carriage and I cannot get a perfect alignment which causes the X Axis to seize up frequently which makes the X axis to get out of synch with its actual position, so the layers shift... badly.
Don't use a printed X Carriage that has built in bearing holders. I tried 3 different ones before giving up and using a bowden X Carriage that allows for screwing on the bearing holders. The 3 I tried, none of them aligned right on the X Carriage and caused my X Axis to seize up frequently.
Don't use a cap that stabilizes the threaded Z axis rod. They float free for a reason. The Z axis already has smooth rods to keep the axis from wobbling. The threaded rods purposly are free on the high end to account for threaded rods that may not be perfectly straight. The Z motors connect to the threaded rods using couplings that move as the threaded rods sway. It's the smooth rods that keep your movement straight, the threaded rods just move the axis up and down. By capping the threaded rods and holding them in place, you are potentially introducing wobble to your prints.
Additional tools I’ve ordered just to make life easier