In recent years, the popularity and easy availability of parts has driven the price of many 3D printers down and down. A machine that may cost £300 two years ago may now only be £200, or in some cases, even less.
The Anet A6 slots into the super-budget category, currently retailing for £160.33 from Gearbest.com. With the surge in 3D printing popularity driving prices lower and bringing about a swell in machine names, brands and types, all vying for your attention.
So, what, if anything, makes the Anet A6 stand out in a field packed with competition?
- Type: DIY
- Brand: Anet
- Model: A6
- Frame material: Acrylic plate
- Nozzle quantity: Single
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
- Nozzle temperature: Room temperature to 260 degree (C)
- Product forming size: 220 x 220 x 250mm
- Layer thickness: 0.1-0.4mm
- Memory card offline print: TF card
- LCD Screen: Yes
- Print speed: 40 – 120mm/s
- Supporting material: ABS, HIPS, PLA
- Material diameter: 1.75mm
- Language: Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish
- File format: G-code, STL
- Model supporting function: Yes
- XY-axis positioning accuracy: 0.012mm
- Z-axis positioning accuracy: 0.004mm
- Voltage: 110V/220V
- Working Power: 150W
- Host computer software: Cura
Specifications are pretty much what you would expect for the price bracket with very few surprises in terms of features.
Software is included on a bundled 16gb USB stick containing copies of just about everything you would need to get running.
- Assembly guide
- Troubleshooting PDF
- USB drivers
- Setup guide
Short documents providing links to YouTube videos are also included in the USB stick to access videos of the unit being assembled to aid as a visual guide.
The video links are a nice extra touch to aid in assembly though would have been better if supplied as AVI or MKV on the USB rather than just hyperlinks.
Initial Impressions and Assembly
Don’t worry, we are not going to bore you with a million words and images describing every step of the process.
Assembly was straightforward and most components assemble exactly as expected with any i3 clone type of machine.
Quality of the laser cutting on the frame is excellent for the price bracket with no scorching and a very good fitting tolerance between parts.
All rails on this machine are a generous 8mm giving some much needed solidity to each axis.
The most striking and unusual part of the unit is the all acrylic Z axis carriages. Even more unusual is that these come pre-built despite being very easy to assemble.
To add to the already sturdy construction, the X carriage is a single piece of aluminium with bearings pre-mounted.
Cables supplied are nothing special in terms of super duper high spec shielded, but they are the correct gauges for the currents they will see. With one of the number one causes of printer fires being incorrect gauge wiring, the A6 having the correct guages is a massive plus
Another surprise is the belts. The belt supplied is steel wire reinforced. This will drastically increase the lifespan of the belts preventing overstretching.
A final note for now on mechanicals. The Z screws are not bonded to the stepper shaft making upgrading and servicing the Z axis an easy job.
The mainboard is an Anet branded early Smoothie clone in terms of layout style (sporting an ATmega rather than a Smoothie ARM) Solder joints are reasonable and excess length on component legs has been trimmed. Our sample had a lot of excess flux residue on the boards, this is not a problem in itself though you may wish to clean yours off with some alcohol.
Display is provided by means of a 12664 LCD screen, very similar in capability to the SMART LCD displays but with an elongated PCB and no card reader. (Card reading duties are taken up by the microSD slot on the mainboard.)
Print Performance and Quality
Super cheap 3D printers have a reputation for poor quality, and sometimes that reputation is deserved. Whilst assembling the axis I noted that the rails were, as expected, slightly loose fitting with each having approx 0.5mm play. This is a remarkably easy fix, tape ….. simple, humble, clear tape. Wrap the ends of the smooth rods in 4 windings of tape and bingo! Perfectly seated rails.
Now, having done that, lets see how she prints on all default settings. And it turns out, not bad, not bad at all. I have seen far more expensive printers do far worse out of the box.
Ok, let’s tighten settings up a little and try again…… Much better.
Whilst not absolutely perfect and dialed in yet it is quite clear that the A6 is capable of far better quality than it’s price tag would suggest. And bare in mind that this machine, bar some good old tape on the ends of rails is STOCK, no mods or upgrades.
And after a little more tuning.
For a final shot of print quality let’s try some stress testing. And everybody loves frogs.Printed at 70mm/s 0.05 layer height
Super low budget does not have to mean super low quality, and the Anet A6 is a shining example of this. Whilst the A6 not a perfect machine (What machine honestly is perfect?) it is a great machine for the money.
Whilst corners have obviously been cut over “Top of the range” machines to save production costs, the Anet A6 sacrifices very little in terms of print quality. And with good reason. As demand has increased for 3D printers production costs have fallen dramatically. Two years ago this machine could have easily been in the £300 bracket with the same components.
The only real issue impacting quality out of the box is that there is approx 0.5mm play on all holes holding smooth rods, this is easily corrected with a little tape around the rod ends, so really, a non-issue.
Assembly is straightforward, though the PDF manual could use some TLC to up the detail of the images to aid in construction for the novice. Details on how to affix the X belt are also terrible and in need of a clearly written instructions. Cable routing is vaguely covered, however the frame does offer plenty of routing solutions and cable wrap is supplied in sufficient quality to wrap all cables three times over.
Overall print quality is very passable for most medium quality printing (0.2mm layer) and the provided 0.4mm nozzle is a good all rounder for speed/quality. I would not recommend printing in excess of 70mm/s as you begin to see noticeable resonance after that point. It can be pushed to 0.05mm layer heights but this is pushing the limits a little.
- Great price
- Quality parts
- Plenty of spare fixings included
- Heated bed
- Large screen
- SD support
- All metal X carriage
- Instructions could be better
- Integrated stepper drivers make servicing blown drivers impossible
- Endstops can not be physically adjusted
- Confirmation presses on the LCD are answered by a very loud BEEP that can not be easily disabled
All in all this is a great machine and an absolute gem in the price bracket. Ideal for beginners and even fantastic just for the value of parts. I can happily recommend the Anet A6 for novices and above.
A huge thank you to our friends at Gearbest for supplying the Anet A6 for review.
The A6 not for you? We have you covered, the A8 is also available and you can get an exclusive discount with this code GB3drA8fr