With the Anet A8 being a basic DIY kit it provides the perfect foundation to upgrade and modify until your hearts content. Unlike a lot of the mainstream 3D printers, the A8 keeps the whole chassis simple which allows you to identify areas of weakness and come up with your own methods of improvement. If you don’t feel confident doing so yourself there are tons of existing tried and tested ideas available free from other A8 owners. Just simply download, slice and print. A number of these upgrades have been tweaked and remixed so many times that they are ultimately the best they can be so it’s a no brainer to use them instead of attempting to do so yourself.
Not all of the best upgrades can be printed, a number of them need to be purchased. The benefit of this community though is that the cost of these items is relatively cheap. I have documented the upgrades I have made so far and why, starting with the chassis.
- Frame Brace – Front and Back
- Buffer Stops
- Fan Nozzle
- Belt Tensioners – X and Y Axis
- Extruder Button
- Filament Spool Holder
- Linear Bearings
- T Corner Stabilisation
Frame Brace – Front and Back
Both of these are printed upgrades and can be done on the A8. They bolt into the chassis without the need to purchase any additional materials to fit them and provides the entire chassis with a much firmer foundation. You will have to purchase some screws if you intend on fixing down the front brace. As my Anet is situated on an 18mm thick wooden board I fixed it in place with 4mm x 20mm wood screws. The 2 braces I used are as follows:
Front Brace – For the front I used this one which is provided by Thingiverse user Puddlefist. It is a remixed version of the original from Leo_N which has received a large following for its simplicity and accuracy. I opted for the remixed version as I found the mounting holes to be very useful in providing additional support. If you don’t intend on fixing down your printer then opt for the original.
Rear Brace – another one from Leo_N, the rear brace I use is the original this time. Careful consideration has gone into design of this to ensure the structure and stability it provides are applied in the right places. It also allows for the power and Z Axis motor cables to travel uninterrupted from one side to the other.
Due to the size of both of these they will need to be positioned diagonally on the bed in the slicer and printed off one at a time. As they don’t require fine detail I printed both of these with a 0.8mm nozzle and applied a 6mm brim. Each of these took 3 hours to print perfectly and fit flush on the chassis.
Not a very common one you see and can easily be done yourself, I designed and printed a small cross that matched the dimensions of the gap available between the smooth rods that the bed travels on and the chassis flap that locks it in place.
The way I positioned the front acrylic panel as seen in the picture above meant that I was able to tighten the belt without the need for any additional upgrades. The downside of this is that an air gap formed between the end of the smooth rod and the cover which in turn caused the rods to rock back and forth with each movement of the bed. It is likely that you may not be experiencing this issue but I thought I’d add it just in case. Depending on the depth of this gap you may be able to use a washer in the same way, a flat M3 washer has an outer diameter of 7mm which fits nicely in this gap. Which ever method you use, just make sure that there is no room for movement by the smooth rod.
This will no doubt be one of the most common upgrades you’ll read about and for good reason. Cooling during a print is very important and its crucial you have the most control over the flow of air as possible. Two of the more common types are the full and semi circle fan ducts which provide a greater coverage to cool the printed filament quickly. Ideally, one of these fan ducts should be one of your earliest prints as it will aid in the success rate of your future prints.
Also highly recommended as an early print once you get up and running are belt tensioners. There are 2 belts on the Anet A8 as with a lot of rep rap printers, one for the bed (Y axis) and one for the extruder carriage (X axis). There are add ons available that are designed to clip directly onto the belt to tweak the tension but I am unfamiliar with just how useful these are assuming the main tensioners are built and fitted correctly.
Y Axis Tensioner – this upgrade replaces the bracket that holds the bearing which the heat-bed belt uses to move back and forth. Options for this upgrade predominantly use the existing bearing and screw but provide the addition of a printed means of adjustment on the front of the chassis. A popular design available on Thingiverse is this Y Axis Tensioner from user Photograaf16 which uses all existing parts that aren’t printed.
X Axis Tensioner – popular versions of this tensioner rely on the stability of the smooth rods which the extruder carriage uses for travel. It sits neatly on the very end of the rods attached to the right hand Z axis connector block and uses the existing bearing similar to the Y Axis Tensioner. It’s simple to use by tightening the two screws equally which then push off the end of the rods. If you have already cut your belt to size and don’t have enough spare you may need to purchase a replacement belt as this upgrade needs the belt to be longer then when its in its original position. This X Axis Tensioner was remixed by me to make a few tweaks.
A massive plus for this upgrade, a printed button that sits on the filament loading mechanism. It’s quick and easy to print and will save you a lot of agro. You will end up pressing and holding this button more times then you would ever believe and the pressure caused by the compression spring paired with the small surface area of the screw can begin to cause a fair bit of discomfort in your fingertip. Get yourself a nice sized ergonomic button and relish in just how much difference such a simple upgrade can make.
Filament Spool Holder
This upgrade is only really necessary if space can sometimes be an issue. The Anet A8 comes with a very nice external spool holder that does the job perfectly but if you are looking for something slightly more integrated then printing your own one may be a way forward. It’s important to understand that in order to print efficiently the filament spool needs to be able to not only rotate smoothly and uninterrupted but the filament path from the spool to the extruder also needs to be as simple as possible. To achieve this, it is very common to see filament brackets that attach directly to the frame above the print bed so that the filament travel is literally straight down reducing any chance of resistance on the feed. The one I designed to fulfil this sits directly on the screws that hold the control panel to the chassis replacing the need for the 7mm spacers. For this upgrade you may need to purchase slightly longer M3 countersunk screws but this additional length is not entirely necessary.
It’s important to know I have created a separate left and right version (when looking from the front) of this bracket due to the position of the ‘Enter’ button. The right side bracket, seen in the picture below has a simple cut out that is designed to slot perfectly round the panel on the PCB that supports the button.
This design is a little tricky to get on but with a good pair of long nose pliers it is made a lot easier. It is also design to perfectly fit a spool with an outer diameter of 20cm.
As described in the mechanical section, there are 7 LM8UU linear bearings used on the Anet A8. 4 on the heat bed and 3 on the extruder carriage. The ones supplied with the kit are all metal and make up a fair amount of the overall noise of the machine. This upgrade is quite a common purchased upgrade and is best done during the initial build, meaning you will have to have purchased the new bearings prior to building the kit. In the picture below you can see the existing supplied bearings at the top and the recommended purchased bearings on the bottom.
The bearings you should be looking to buy are a set of plastic Igus Drylin RJ4JP-01-08. This set matches the dimensions of the existing metal bearings so no need to buy any additional fixings. You will need to take the existing bearing block, remove the circlips on both sides and with a bit of force, remove the existing metal bearing. Then simply slot in the Igus bearing and replace the circlips. Sets of these bearings are commonly available throughout the internet and have prices that range from £8 to £20 for a full set.
T Corner Stabilisation
An upgrade that you have probably spotted on a number of A8s if you’ve been looking around, the T corner stabilisation upgrades are a pair of printed brackets that are fitted at the top, inner left and right of the frame.
The ones above I designed to use the existing screw for extra support. They slot onto the uprights and then get pushed upward until they click into place, flush with the cross brace. The screw will fit nicely back in so no need to change it. The objective of these are to provide additional stabilisation to the upper section of the frame which reduce wobble during X axis movements. The file for these T Corner Stabilisers are on my Thingiverse page.