I was introduced to 3D printing 3 years ago at work. They have a 3D printer which cost over $60,000. I was in awe and figured I would never get the chance to own one myself. Then last year I decided to do some research into 3D printing. To my surprise there was actual 3D printers almost within reach of my $500 budget. Those printers were the Anet series printers.
What can you do with a 3D printer? Well the common thought is they are only good for printing trinkets and not much else. I’m here to say that is not true. They are useful for printing things from household items like replacement knobs to educational props and even custom and affordable prosthetic for amputees.
What did I want one for? I wanted one for printing cosplay props and costumes and yes – trinkets and toys. So after talking my wife into getting one for the house, I decided to choose the Anet A8 which was the cheapest printer at the time. It’s cheap because it is a kit and you need to assemble it yourself. After using the A8 for a while and learning a lot, I was asked if I would like to review the Anet A6. The A6 is the bigger brother to the A8. And of course I said yes.
The Anet A6 is an entry level I3 style 3D printer kit the user needs to assemble.
The Anet A6 is not for everyone. Users who want a printer you buy and start printing right out of the box will not want the A6 or any kind of a kit printer. But kit printers are great for people to learn the inner workings of the printer. This is a good thing because when something goes wrong, and something always does, even on a printer already built, the user will have a better understanding on how to fix it.
Kit printers can print nice prints right from the start however. I printed this awesome dragon head with no modifications at all.
Yes prebuilt printers have a warranty but they don’t last forever. The Anet printers have a couple of great Facebook groups that are filled with users that will assist you through almost every issue you may run into. I know this as I am a part of those groups and I like to help when I can.
The box full of pieces look intimidating when you first open it but don’t fret.
The kit includes all the tools needed as well as an SD card with the test prints and documentation needed to get your A6 up and running. The SD card also has the free slicer software with profiles for the printer.
Although I would download the newest versions from the company offering that software (Usually Cura). As mentioned above the people on the Facebook groups are happy to help with the build and give you advice if you are unsure of any part of the build and as it’s worldwide there is usually someone there available to help you out.
So what is 3D printing? Well 3D printing is like 2D printing (on paper) only it puts melted plastic down line by line and layer on top of layer. As one layer cools the next layer is being lay-ed down. This is the most common style of 3D printing (Fused deposition modeling (FDM)) but there are other ways that we won’t get into during this review. If you want to know look up SLA and DLP printing.
In FDM printing the plastic is fed into a heated tip at 1.75mm and 3mm diameter strips rolled onto spools. It works the same way a hot glue-gun works. The printer prints models people create one of a a couple ways. The first being CAD (computer-aided design) software. They are very intimidating to look at and some are very expensive to buy. But there are good free programs like Googles Sketchup to Autodesk 123D that have a lot of free online training from sites like YouTube.
Another way is to scan objects into the computer with scanning tools. Scanners range in prices from professional ones that cost thousands to Open source community driven ones that use scanners like the Xbox/Windows Kanect. There are also ways to do it with series of images at different angles. I have tried it with the Kinect and it’s very cool.
There are a lot of sources online for models to print. Basically you download (create) 3D models in .stl file format then slice it into layers and .gcode file format that your printer understands. Places like MyMiniFactory and Thingyverse. That’s all find and dandy, but what if you need something not in one of the usual places?
Well there are great applications to build 3D models that are not hard to learn, such as Fusion 360 and 123D design and even an online tool called Thinkercad that is beginner friendly. Any of those tools has many easy to follow tutorials on Youtube. I have been having fun learning Fusion 360.
Anet A6 Specifications
- Printer model
- Printer size
- Packgage size
- Printer Weight
- Package Weight
- Print Area
- Print speed
- Nozzle diameter
- Layer thickness
- XY-axis positioning accuracy
- Z-axis positioning accuracy
- Material diameter
- Printer Frame Material
- Platform board material
- Operating Temperature Range
- Printer navigation
- Reset printer
- LCD Screen
- Extruder type
- Supplied memory card
- Nozzle Temperature
- Heatbed Tempeature
- Auto leveling sensor
- Operating system
- File type
- Offline printing
- Retail price
- Model variation
- Anet A6
480 x 400 x 400 mm
18.9 x 15.7 x 15.7″
450 x 446 x 215 mm
17.7 x 17.5 x 8.5″
220 x 220 x 250mm
8.6 x 8.6 x 9.85″
- 20 - 100mm/s
- 0.012 mm
- 0.004 mm
- Anet v1.0
- 10 to 30°C
- G-code, OBJ, STL
- rotatable knob
- on the mainboard and on via the menu
- MK8 (parallel mount)
- ABS / PLA / Wood / Nylon PVA / PP / Luminescent
- Windows XP / Windows 7 / Windows 8/Windows 10 / Mac / Linux
- no variations
The A6 has pretty good specifications for a cheaper 3D printer. It is more than enough for the average user.
Assembling Anet A6
The A6 took me about 5 hours to build. One of those hours was removing the protective paper from the acrylic pieces. Some people just leave it on, but I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing without it. Some even build the printer with it on then remove it after it’s together. I don’t think that is an advantage either. What I will say is that I found removing it all at once as apposed to removing it as you build did seem faster. I took them off as I went with the A8 and it seemed longer to me. As mentioned above I had no washers with this printer. That wasn’t a problem as I had my own and most places I find leaving them out gives a snuff fit.
One thing you don’t want to do is over tighten the screws holding acrylic pieces. To much force will snap the part in two. It was a pit faster for me then the average person as I have done this before. As long as you follow the videos and/or the guides you shouldn’t have any trouble assembling the printer. It’s basically turning screws.
A good thing to do first is to connect all the electronics and test them before you start the build. It will save you hours if there is a problem with say the power supply or motherboard. Just be careful not to heat the hotend past 70 when testing. 40-50 should be enough to know if it works correctly. Same goes for the bed. Put them on something that can handle heat as well. Most people skip this step, it’s up to you.
Here are the videos you’ll need to assemble your A6. If you’re having trouble understanding some part of the video, take a look at PDF manual which you can find on an SD card.
- Anet 3D Printer A6 Assembly Video 1
- Anet 3D Printer A6 Assembly Video 2
- Hot Bed Level Adjustment and Print Test
My first print from this printer went well. I printed the box from included SD card. This print turned out pretty good for a first print. It was printed with the rill of PLA that came with the printer.
My second print didn’t turn out so well. It was also printed with the PLA material that came with the printer. The problem here is the most common among FDM printers. It’s what’s known as a nozzle blockage. At least that is what it looks like. Only in this case it was not enough tension on the filament. The spring that comes with the printers are by default not putting enough pressure on the filament for the gear to push the filament into the nozzle.
This was fixed with a tightening down drive gear (Red) by stretching the spring (Green) a bit. I had to do the same on my A8. Some may think turning up the heat will fix it. And technically it will help by making it easier to push through. But this also makes the filament to hot to cool before the next layer is put on top of it. That can lead to other issues. Best to fix the real problem.
After fixing that issue I tried reprinting that file only to notice something else. As seen in the image below the rounded parts were miss-shaped.
After that my prints came out great. I printed three more files provided on the SD card with the included PLA. One is a pencil cup with a bear on it. The second is a puck with chines text.
The third print I did with the PLA is another popular benchmark test. This print test many different things like overhangs, thin walls, small texts, pointy post and more.
I also printed this ghost with a different roll of Purple PLA I had laying around the house. It turned out pretty great don’t you think?
Printing with ABS
After printing a few successful test prints with the included roll of PLA (Polylactic acid) I decided to test a couple different types of filaments. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is the second most common type of filament next to PLA.
This little boat is called a Benchy. It’s short for Benchmark. It is used to test different aspects of printing. Things like overhangs (the bow) and bridges like the roof of the boat.
After that I printed an autolevel sensor holder. I will install it after this review.
Printing with flexible filament
Another filament and the one I’m excited for is PTU (Polyurethane). PTU is a flexible filament which is great for things like phone cases and tires for RC cars.
Most common problems
As an active member of the Facebook group I see common issues with these printers. One being faulty parts. But when you buy one of the cheapest printers on the market you can’t expect top of the line materials. The good news is it’s still cheaper to replace a few faulty parts then buy one if the more expensive $1000+ printers.
Here is a list of the A6 parts in case you encounter an unfixable problem and need a new part :
If you are facing the print quality problem, check this troubleshooting guide.
Anet A6 Printable Upgrades
One of the best things about this printer is the community full of makers who love to make printable upgrades for this printer. Things like the clamps mentioned above to fix circle problem. These are the most common parts people print to update their printers
- First is the Y axis belt tension add-on.
- A frame brace to keep the acrylic from bowing from the belt pulling on it.
- A circular fan duct to cool the print filament from all angles and not just the side.
- Bed level nut and spring holders for easier bed leveling.
- Power supply cover. This protects the wires to prevent people from touching the wires and being electrocuted. Specially important if you have little ones.
- Z adjustable endstop. As mentioned in the cons the Z endstop is not adjustable. But this is easily fixed by printing and installing this mod.
Those are a few of the most common printable modifications for the A6 printer. There are many more one the sites mentioned. Simply search the term “Anet A6”.
Recommended Hardware Upgrades
Other modifications people do to this printer are not printable but are recommended.
The first and most important mod is for people who want to print ABS prints. This is called a Mostfet. I don’t know the details but it helps control the high currents going to the heatbed when you run it at 100°C or more. It’s also recommended to change the wires to 12 gauge or stronger. A Mosfet is under $10. To install a mosfet, follow this tutorial.
Buy mosfet | Click Here |
Another common upgrade is the an autolevel sensor. The sensor replaces the Z endstop which tells the printer where the nozzle reaches the bed. The sensor probes the bed and tells the printer at what angle it sits so the need to adjust the bed at all 4 corners to the nozzle.
Buy autolevel sensor
The next upgrade I recommend depends on the choice in the last. That is a glass bed. Have a 4mm glass cut 22cm X 22cm. It is great for printing on but only some sensors work with glass. The link above tells you which ones will. Go to a local glass or hardware store to buy them. I say them because it’s best to buy 2 because they are cheap and it’s great to have one to print on as the other cools down.
A common upgrade people in the community update that I don’t have experience with is polymer bearings called Igus bearings.
Anet A6 Summary
Print Quality: 8/10
I give this printer an 80 for print quality. At first build this printer prints at a 60 but after greasing the rods and clamping to a piece of wood the prints went to 80. You can get it to 90 or more by updating some features like the E3D style extruder.
Build Quality: 7.5/10
I love this build because it feels solid enough that you could pick it up while printing. I give it 75 because although solid in the end it is acrylic.
User interface and Navigation: 5/10
I give the interface and navigation a 50 because you can’t do fine control for movement because each click of the dial moves 3-4 positions. So if you want to move the axis .1mm you can’t unless you control it over USB.
Value for the money: 9/10
I give this printer a 90 for value because it is the best printer for this price point. The Tronxy and other knockoffs are cashing in on the success of Anet printers.
Final judgement 7.5/10
Overall, I give this printer a score of 75. If not for the navigation and Acrylic frame this printer would compete with printers 3-4 times it’s price point.
Pros and cons
So what are the pros and cons of the Anet A6?
- Solid frame. Even though it’s acrylic the A6 has a solid frame.
- Solid X carriage. The horizontal x carriage makes for a smoother more precise movements.
- The full graphics display has a nice interface and control over the little brother A8.
- 1/2KG roll of filament included. It’s nice to know you have the filament to print with in case the printer arrives before the filament order.
- Filament support. Doe to the heat bed and nozzle that reaches 250 there is a wide variety of filaments supported although ABS works for small prints. Large prints would require an enclosure to prevent warping.
- Print Volume. The A6 has a good print volume.
- Tools and USB. The kit comes with the tools needed to assemble the printer which aren’t to cheap feeling like you get with most furniture that needs assembled. It also has a USB SC card reader and a 16GB card for putting files to print on.
- This printer plays a cool tune at the end of each print. While the loud volume is good if your not in the room when it finishes it’s pretty loud when you are sitting beside the printer.
- Long heatbreak aka Throat. This printer has a 40mm heatbreak as compared to the 30mm one on the A8. This means it will be closer to the drive gears making flexible filaments easier to print with.
- Great online community. Lots of help with problems you may have or a place to show off your prints.
- Loose screws. While not a huge deal it’s still annoying. The printer has some pre-assembled parts such as the X and Z carriage. These parts have some loose screws so it’s recommended that you check each screw including the tiny screws holding the pulleys onto the stepper motors.
- The odd time you will come across a broken or missing part. In my case the printer didn’t have any washers. Which isn’t that bad. If a piece of the frame it may be a bit more of a show stopper.
- Some sub par parts. One of my smooth rods seems to be a bit bigger in diameter than the others. This makes the bearings harder to slide. A bit of grease seems to help until I get a new one ordered.
- Manual bed leveling. This day and age most printers have auto bed leveling. The A6 comes stock with a manual level system. This can be fixed by ordering a sensor for under $10 and flashing a community made firmware to the printers motherboard. Very easy to do and lots of info at the Facebook group mentioned above. This tells the printer if the bed is angled in any way and compensates for it.
- Z endstop not adjustable. When the nozzle homes it hits switches at the end of each axis. Because the Z moves when you adjust the bed it’s handy to have a Z endstop that can move and be fine tuned. This is easily rectified with the auto level sensor.
- Bed wires tot right for the current. The wire on the bed doesn’t handle the current from ABS printing very well. It’s recommended you get a proper Mosfet. Searching Printer Mosfet on Ebay and Gearbest.com will get you the Mosfet recommended for most printers. They are cheap (around $10) and easy to install.
Where to buy Anet A6?
Currently there are few places where you can get genuine Anet A6.
So, would recommend the Anet A6 printer? Hell yes! After owning the A8 for a year and all the fun I had with it I was impressed ate the prints I could accomplish with a Sub $500 printer. I thought the A6 would be a marginal upgrade. Boy was I wrong. The A6 is a large update from the A8. From the full graphics display to the Horizontal X axis. The A6 printed the flexible PTU and ABS were the A8 struggled or failed completely.
Other then that the A6 has nice touches the A8 is missing like branding of the Anet logo on the stepper motors and the Spool holder as well as the software on the display. The A6 also has a similar build volume with a smaller footprint. It will be my primary printer from here on out.
If you are really strapped for cash then you can’t go wrong with the Anet A8. But if you can afford the difference then go for the A6. Be warned, 3D printing is an addicting hobby. It should be in all the schools as it will be a common part of most household item. So buy a printer and join us on Facebook for fun and interesting things. Or join to help you make the decision.
Here are more Anet related articles.