Having owned the A8 now for around a year and a half I think I’m ready to add my overall thoughts to the mix. Now seems a better time than ever as I have been thinking a lot about the future and where I want to be heading with it. How deep and profound is that eh?
In short, I am definitely a fan. However, it does not come without its negatives. The Anet A8 still sits at around £120 (plus £20 customs fees) which is impressive for what you get. Once you’ve spent a little time putting the pieces together and tweaking the final build you can pretty much start printing from the get go. This doesn’t take into consideration the need to replace the power cable, check the current throughout the electrical system, replace the noisy metal bearings, print and fit various upgrades and disassemble and reassemble numerous times. Oh and various other recommended safety enhancements. This does mean though that when it does work, there is definitely an overwhelming sense of pride and joy. The feeling of accomplishment when you successfully remove a finished print that made it to the end without any hiccups is not something to be taken lightly.
Honestly, my feelings towards this printer are neutral. When I say I am a fan, I say this more as a fan of desktop fabrication as a whole and this little beast has helped me jump in with both feet. What makes it neutral is the sheer magnitude of time and research you need to put into it, it is not in any way a plug and play machine. Fortunately for anyone that has one or is really thinking of taking the leap, there is a plenitude of free information available online to answer most, if not all, of the questions you may conjure up, you just need the time to search and sift.
What gravitated me towards this printer was not just the price but the sheer response across the internet. I talk about it a lot but when you’re in a pickle and need help, the fan club is enormous. My research showed me it was simple, configurable, upgradable, scalable and affordable. You could easily find and replace ANY components throughout the build from the mother board to limit switches, cables and frame. These were also inexpensive (assuming you were willing to wait for them to be shipped from China) so you could easily buy a quantity of them to keep as spares.
In terms of simplicity, you will realise as you’re building it that it is essentially a load of nuts and bolts, bits of plastic and some electronics with common connector types. 90% of it is labelled so you are just matching up the corresponding letters. A laser cut acrylic frame, a number of rods and some bearings later and you have yourself a printer. Even the SD card reader you get free with the kit is so simple I lost the SD card inside it at one point whilst trying to insert it (buy a better one of these straight away if there isn’t one on your computer already).
The concept of REPRAP brings about the idea of self replicating machines. Not in the Syfy sense but it probably wont be long. This printer falls into this category which in simple terms it means that you are able to print upgrades for the printer using the same machine. I guess one of the perks of the Anet A8 being simple is that you can adapt and modify it adding your own improvements and giving it your own personal touch. All you’ve got to do is pick your favourite colour and away you go.
Moral of the story is if you’ve genuinely got enough time to tinker, and I do mean a lot of time, and you’re hoping not to splash out too much money, at least not until you know you take a proper liking to 3D printing, then I would definitely recommend this printer to you. If you are mechanically minded with an understanding of electronics then I would also recommend this printer. If you can spare a little extra cash, go for something better, even if it’s a Creality which is double the price. A know a couple of people who would happily recommend it. Finally, if money is a little more freely available or you want to invest a bit more money, go for the latest Prusa. It’s got to be good if the man uses them on an industrial scale.