A great-value 3D printer that’s capable of printing very large models in nice quality. It does require some assembly, but it’s not too taxing.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: Anet A8 Plus
Although we haven’t reviewed it, Anet’s A8 3D printer is a popular choice for many thanks to its low price and potential for customisation. But it also had its fair share of problems, all of which are fixed in the A8 Plus we’re pleased to say.
3D printing has come a long way since the early days where you had to find someone to 3D print parts so you could build your own printer, but these are still largely enthusiast products. That means there’s quite a steep learning curve: it’s not as simple as finding a model you like online and hitting the print button.
However, if you’re prepared for that, and also to do a little reading around the subject, you can fairly quickly be in a position where you can get the results you want from the A8 Plus.
Price & availability
The A8 Plus costs $249 (discounted from the regular price of $310). If you’re in the UK, you’ll still pay in dollars, but it works out to be approximately £200. You can pick which warehouse it ships from, and there’s no extra charge for the European one, so you shouldn’t have to pay import duty.
This is the price for the partially assembled version: you can save $30 buy opting for the DIY kit where you have to assemble the individual parts.
We’d recommend going for the pre-assembled kit, however, as even that can take an hour or more to put together.
It’s very similar – although larger – than the Creality Ender 3 which costs around £200 from Amazon.
Anyone looking for a significantly cheaper way to make 3D prints could take a look at 3D pens, such as the 3Doodler, reviewed.
Features & design
Many 3D printers look similar, but it’s the details which are important. The A8 Plus has an aluminium frame which is a lot sturdier than plastic. It also helps with precision when printing, and that’s crucial if you want good quality prints.
It’s a big frame, allowing for a build volume up to 300x300x350mm. If you have space for it, it’s a definite bonus to be able to print larger objects even if you won’t do that most of the time.
As you’d expect at this price, it’s an FDM printer (as opposed to resin) which uses standard 1.75mm filament. You can buy this easily from many places, including Amazon. Loading and unloading is automatic, and for the most part, this works well. Just make sure the filament is nice and straight and you should have no problems.
The A8 Plus has a heated bed and comes with a piece of tempered glass that’s held on by four bulldog clips.
Both of these features are great at this price: they both help the print to stick to the bed. But we still ended up reaching for the hairspray to ensure that all-important first layer didn’t come unstuck half way through the print.
Anet says it has redesigned the motherboard compared to the original A8, and there’s overcurrent and short-circuit protection. You’d have though those would be standard fare for any circuit board, but at least the A8 Plus has them.
The display and controls are on a removable magnetic panel and this allows you to change options (such as the temperature of the extruder and heatbed) and load and unload filament.
A microSD card is included – it slots into the motherboard – and Anet supplies a few test files so you can start printing immediately. Again, the dial beside the screen makes it easy to select a file to print.
Just be careful of the button below it – it resets the printer and is not a back button. Really, it should be located somewhere out of reach.
There aren’t many advanced features: it’s possible to pause and resume prints, but there’s no resume function after a power cut.
We opted for the pre-assembled kit which comes with instructions (including photos), but we found the YouTube video much easier to follow. Do refer to the printed guide as well, otherwise you’ll forget certain steps such as tightening the grub screws in the Y-axis motors.
All the necessary tools are supplied and the assembly isn’t difficult: you need to attach the two frame pieces together, plug in the wires between the screen, motors, heatbed, fans and motherboard and attach and adjust the Z-axis endstop – a simple microswitch. All the wires are labeled, but you’ll still need to watch the video to know how to properly route them and what to connect them to.
It’s a bit fiddly, but if you take the time to run the wires and wrap them neatly, you end up with a decent finished product. The filament reel can be mounted to the side or on top, depending upon where you have the most space.
Only a small length of white filament is included, so make sure you buy one or two reels of filament at the same time so you can print some test models.
The final job is to level the bed, which has to be done manually using thumbscrews beneath the bed. This is another fiddly job that you’ll wish was automatic (as it is on the XYZprinting Da Vinci mini w+) but once it’s done, you shouldn’t have to re-level it very often.
Wingnuts allow you to adjust the belt tension on the Y-axis.
Printing & performance
On the microSD card you’ll find the full manual and the installer for Cura, a popular slicing app. There’s also a profile for the A8 Plus which you’ll need to import into Cura.
This is another part of the steep learning curve if you’ve never used a 3D printer before. It’s far from obvious how to import the profile, or what exactly you need to do to print a 3D model.
However, the process is actually quite simple: you import your downloaded STL file (they are freely available from sources such as Thingiverse https://www.thingiverse.com) pick your Cura settings and then save the ‘sliced’ model to the microSD card.
Slicing is the process of turning the 3D model into layers which the printer can print. You can go for the recommended settings or dive into the custom settings if you have problems. Some models will need supports – because you can’t print into thin air – and you might want a brim or raft to form a stable base for some models. If those are unfamiliar terms, that’s more bedtime reading for you.
If you like, you can connect the A8 Plus to your PC or laptop with a USB cable, but we preferred saving the gcode to the microSD card (using the supplied USB adaptor) and then choosing the file on the printer itself.
The advantage here is that you don’t need to leave your PC on for hours: some prints can take a very long time depending on their size and the layer height you’ve chosen. Printing something fairly small might take an hour, but a model which approaches the maximum volume could well take several days.
Also, note that you can only print in one colour at a time. You load a filament of your choice and although you can pause the print and load a different colour one, you’ll probably find it’s too much hassle to change filaments during printing.
With a power supply fan, plus two fans on the extruder, the A8 Plus is quite noisy and not something you can really use in a communal room in your home.
Print quality, though, is very good. Considering the low price, prints are pretty accurate and high quality.
We saw the usual ‘spaghetti’ in overhangs where there’s no support, and more stringing (like a spider’s web left as the printhead stops printing and moves to a new position to resume printing) than we saw with the Da Vinci mini w+, but overall we were happy with the quality for the price.
More complex models, such as this Surprise Egg with a working hinge, can be printed successfully if you use custom settings in Cura and set a resolution of, say, 0.1mm and reduce the extruded temperature to around 190°C.
Resolution and infill values will radically change the amount of time taken to print a model, so you can experiment with these to see how they affect quality. This dog phone stand was printed with a layer height of 0.4mm to speed up print time:
The A8 Plus is a great 3D printer that offers very good value for beginners looking for their first model with a large build volume.
As with many entry-level 3D printers, the learning curve is quite steep, but as long as you’re ready for it and enthusiastic, you’ll be very happy with the prints it can produce.
Anet A8 Plus: Specs
- FDM 3D printer
- requires 1.75mm PLA/TPU/ABS filament
- 300x300x350mm print size
- USB-B port or prints from microSD (card provided)
- max travel speed 120mm/s
- layer thickness 0.1-0.4mm
- nozzle diameter 0.4mm
- precision ±0.1mm
- max nozzle temperature 225?
- max bed temperature 110?
- AC 110-230V input
- 360W power consumption
- machine weight 10kg