Review of the Anet E10 from GearBest.com

Recently I picked it up the Anet E10 from Gearbest.com here just after the launch special for $290.00– that’s AFTER applying the coupon “ANETE10” to lower the price. I’m one of those idiots who always misses the train, but luckily GearBest always seems to have some kinda promotional special going.

Why the E10? My first printer was an Anet, and I’ve been printing with them since 2015. I am also the admin of an Anet-focused group on Facebook (Anet A-series 3D Printer Help & Discussion, (RepRap, Prusa, & Other Clones), and People often ask me “a $200.00 to $300.00 printer? it must suck, right? Those things are at least $1k+ for a decent one!”

They don’t- but you get what you pay for. But considering I am running 5 chinese-based printers at any given point, I would say that they work pretty well. Call me biased, but I really like what they have to offer for what you pay for them:

All day and all night!

In terms of other Anet machines, I own an A8 (which now has a custom frame!) and an A2. I’ve helped a friend build the A6 and and now the E10 (duh..)

Thankfully, It’s an all-metal… mostly (has some printed parts)… printer that burst onto the scene to mixed reviews. People dismissed it as a Creality CR-10 clone, while others said it was a logical progression and were excited. I am in the latter group, but my thoughts on that further in the article.

Any time I order a new build it yourself printer, I dread having to assemble it. I spin wrenches on countless other machines every day, so doing it as a hobby is like pulling teeth for me. But for the E10, my immediate reaction when getting this printer: “Wow, it’s mostly put together! Awesome!”, and assembly was measured in minutes instead of hours- had it together within 30 minutes. Don’t believe me? Watch how simple it was:

I’m also super happy that it has NO acrylic parts. I loathe acrylic now. I despise peeling off the paper. I abhor how brittle it is, and I detest the creaky sound that hurts your teeth when you pick it up to move it. But time to close the thesaurus on all the synonyms I want to use to describe acrylic and just say this: It sucks. Avoid it. Metal frame master race!!!!111one.

Other minor but cool points- a stock Y-axis tensioner! And thumb screws on the bed leveling springs that aren’t complete garbage! It’s the small things in life that add up to being awesome.

So let’s cut to the chase– here’s what you can do with a stock Anet E10:

Fox – some stringing on the ears. Sue me.

Majora’s mask half

Pretty impressive quality for a 220x270x300 printer for around $300.00 dollars. My A8 did not print nearly as good as the E10 did, but it is also an old design that’s now 2+ years old and i’m much better at doing this now.

Let’s get it out of the way. Is it a Creality CR-10 clone? ….maybe? Then again, is the TronXY X3 that I reviewed recently ripping off the CR-10? My only connection is the “10” designation, but it’s a long shot.

Side-by-side, all of these printers look pretty similar. I would say that this is just how all of them are starting to look– like how all modern cars look the same. I feel like Anet isn’t trying to punch out of their weight class and take on the titan that is the CR-10, but is instead trying to dominate amongst their peers.

Can YOU spot the difference?

So like in typical fashion with these chinese printers-  The Anet E10 wasn’t straight-out-of-the-box awesome. There’s a few rough points that had to be smoothed out. My first print did NOT go well, as the filament immediately jammed in the hot end– but strange thing is, I could not get it to feed, so perhaps when they were testing this at the factory, they withdrew the filament too slowly and clogged the throat. Were I a beginner, this would have perplexed me, but eh- not a big deal.

I discovered these use an all-metal hot-end. This is awesome since you can print all sorts of advanced materials that require higher temperatures. Problem is- the Anet E10 struggles to even hit 200C, which is what I print PLA at. This is due to the hotend cooling fan (not the print cooler!) being mostly enclosed and directing air down.

You’d think it would be awesome to have a powerful fan to help keep the extruder cool, but it’s NOT.

There will be issues with your plastic not hitting it’s glass temperature and melting properly, and your prints will come out brittle, as my first print crumbled apart like stale bread. Without addressing this issue, you can forget about printing with anything else which makes having an all-metal hotend a moot point. It’s a little funny, but I applied a hack to mine to help it come to temperature by putting tape over the fan grate to limit the airflow– which reminded me of my carbureted bike days in the winter with cardboard over the radiator to limit the cooling system efficiency:

 

It turns out, another person had already came up with the same solution!

I can’t help but feel a little salty about this, as it goes to show that whoever designs these have no clue of their operation. Why wasn’t this corrected in the design phase? Don’t they know that you benchmark these and push them to their upper limits before manufacturing?

Another bizarre thing that happened while printing as the bowden tube ferrule (the blue-capped bit that holds the tube) physically POPPED OUT 21 hours into a 25 hour print. This shot the filament out, which kept extruding– wasting about 7-9 meters and ruining the print. I have no idea how it managed to do this (badly cut threads..? walking back out due to vibration / movement?). Really strange that this happened, as I have never seen it before. Maybe I forgot to resecure it after opening it up… in any case, ARGH!

Another thing to address is the firmware is STILL MISSING THERMAL PROTECTION- MORE ARGH!!!

When you see these horrible scenes of fires from “crappy chinese printers”, it’s not because they just decide to blow your house up (though don’t quote me on that– electronics do all sorts of wacky stuff and can blow up any time they feel like), but it’s likely something else– like the hotend heater pulling out of the block and getting SUPER HOT as the system merrily keeps supplying voltage, causing a meltdown as it gets dragged around while glowing red-hot.

Why do you need this? Thermal protection limits this by detecting discrepancies in the temperature. If something isn’t right like your hotend suddenly getting cold, or the temperature not rising to the target even when the system turns the heaters on, it will shut the entire system off and prevent your house from being a fireball.

But I cannot for the life of me figure out what firmware they are using (Marlin, maybe..?), and why they disable this feature. Granted if they enabled it on this E10, it would throw an error every time since the stock fan cools it down too much, and will confuse the system into thinking there’s a problem.

Not an issue though- you can very easily set these up to use Marlin or RepetierServer, since it uses the same 12864 smart screen controller that’s popular (and also widely supported!).

Getting a little more technical, another whining point from people is the printer using T-slot aluminum extrusions instead of the more popular V-slot. Here’s the difference:

V-slot extrusion – notice the channel? Groooovy…

 

 

T-slot extrusion- again, look at the channel. Not so groovy.

I can see their complaint– it’s not standard, so most wheels you would use to upgrade your moving parts may not fit quite right. Does it break the printer? Not at all. The print quality above shows this. It may get worse as time goes on and everything begins loosening up, but from what I can tell- it’s not that big of a deal.

Here’s an abridged list of things I noticed above that need addressed (rated from easy to hard):

  • Flipping the Z-motors around so the bed won’t hit the motor wires.
  • Securing / insulate the hot-end with Kapton tape to prevent thermistor from pulling free.
  • Limiting the airflow from the extruder cooler to keep hotend from overcooling using tape over the fan grate (TEMPORARY HACK / FIX!!!).
  • Replacing the firmware to have thermal runaway protection.
  • Replacing the entire hotend setup to be more conventional (better solution than tape above).

It’s not a bad printer- in fact, I think it’s pretty awesome if you just need a printer up and running. Considering that I paid $300.00 for my Anet A8 2 years ago, I am absolutely stoked at the price for this. However- it has rough points. It is NEW, and everyone is still discovering the various quirks.

If you’re a little familiar with 3D printing, you should be fine with this printer. It’s a breeze to get running, and all of the issues are not deal-breaking. I didn’t have to change anything major (unlike my TronXY X3, which required an entire Y-axis overhaul) to get it up and running, but it’s major Achilles heel is the hot-end cooling issue. For the price, it’s a good stop-gap between your typical Anet / chinese offerings, and the Creality CR-10 (oh no, making that comparison again!).

We’re hard at work finding solutions to address these problems in the group, so drop in and see what we’re up to!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 Reviews Comments Off on Review of the Anet E10 from GearBest.com

TronXY X3 Review from GearBest.com

I can’t stop 3D printing. I print so much, in fact, that I’ve needed to buy 2 new machines recently to meet demand- an Anet A2 and a TronXY X3.

Why 2 different brands? While as I do favor the Anet brand as workhorses, I also have that urge to play the field and see what the other offerings look like. After browsing Gearbest.com for popular printers, I came across the TronXY X3:

The TronXY X3 from GearBest.com was $211.82 + $5.90 shipping when using the coupon code “GBTE”, which was 12% off the normal price of $240.00. It was inexpensive enough to justify, and with a 220x220x300 build volume, I was really curious.

I’ve had prior experience with TronXY in the past, with an XY-100 sitting next to me on my desk, also known as the Startt. It’s been a fantastic little prototyping printer with very high-quality output, so i figured one of it’s bigger brothers should be just as good.

Initially, I was wrong. Just to get this out of the way– this review will seem like I am complaining and that I hate this printer. I DON’T HATE IT. IT HAS POTENTIAL with some work! This is NOT a printer you want to buy as your first, but as a supplemental that you mod to your liking with another printer that can make parts for it. 

This printer redeemed itself. Here’s proof from some of the prints it’s produced just playing around:

My goal for this review is to show what it can become- not what it is. If you want a good review/build video from the eyes of a beginner, I suggest watching TopHATTWaffle’s review:

Without further apologies…

Let The Complaining Begin!

So, out of the box, is it as good as the TronXY XY-100/Startt? No. Not at all. Faaaaarrrr from it.

It’s all from a few issues that put me off and delayed me from even wanting to use it. As soon as you begin, this printer is an undertaking.

Assembly was a mixed bag. The supplied instructions are counterintuitive, and I had to backtrack a few times to undo a few stupid mistakes I made. Mind that this is around my 10th printer that I’ve assembled, but I had to shelf it for a few days from frustration caused by trying to follow along between the paper instructions and the video instructions.

I skipped doing a build video because it would have been chock full of footage featuring me yelling, throwing tantrums as well as objects, and being overall miserable with trying to get everything together. I would frequently start down a path and realize I was doing it wrong, only to backtrack and lose some time.

My advice is to watch the video first, and read the paper instructions second, and to really familiarize yourself with how the printer looks from all angles. With those in mind, you should be able to avoid the landmines I stupidly stepped on.

 

My first issue that popped up was that the supplied screws to mount the end-stop switches are too short and make it impossible.I thought it was just me, but I confirmed this with a friend’s brother who has the same printer and same story. I zip-tied mine on through the holes, but the slight offset this introduced caused the arm to sheer off after a few runs from the carriage glancing it, so I ended up just zip-tying to the X-axis with double-sided tape for now.

I was initially delighted to see that the printer came with metal Z-axis motor holders, but realized something terrible as soon as I went to mount them. It absolutely sucks trying to get them to line up properly and not cause binding when the screw rods engage. It would make sense if you could set the rods in and then adjust the mount position to relieve any pressure, but the motors cover the screws and make it impossible to get to them.

It would make sense if you could set the rods in and then adjust the mount position to relieve any pressure, but the motors cover the screws and make it impossible to get to them.

I ditched them and went with some printed ones from Thingiverse that featured a locating tab (will get to that). These worked perfectly, and I highly recommend them (and is why I say you need a functioning printer!).

Spelling error aside, it works pretty well!

The defining flaw of this printer is the poor design of the bed carriage. It uses wheeled bearings that have grown in popularity over linear rods due to their simplicity and cost. I want to love them- like I said in my Anet A2 review, However, the X3’s bed carriage is really badly designed– the holes for the wheels are spaced too far apart, and there is considerable slop between the wheels. I noticed this as I was building it, and tried my best to correct it with a few mods I found, to no avail. All prints were a mess, and the carriage wobbles more than a bed at a 5 dollar motel.

I decided to ditch this design and go with the tried-and-true linear rod and bearing setup, which cost me around 24 dollars. Another problem fixed!

Another issue I have is with the electronics. The end-stop switches use microscopically small wires and are quite easy to snap. I had to resolder them multiple times throughout the build as I accidentally snagged a wire and OOPS, ripped it right out. I really wish they would have used a thicker gauge just to reduce this headache.

A bizarre occurrence is that 2 of the motors in my kit would spaz out when trying to home. I thought it was the control board at first but I switched in some spares that I had and they worked fine. Really weird, but oh well. Always test your electronics beforehand before getting deep into a build and disappointing yourself.

My last whining point is… TronXY- seriously, you use 2020 extrusions but M4 screws and hammerhead nuts? WHY? These things are a PITA to locate properly and are TOO SMALL. They never feel like they’re wanting to bite down and often just turn and tighten, slipping out of the channel. I scrapped a lot of them on printed parts and went with the more-proper M5, and those parts are held on quite solid.

So, What Can It Do? What Should I Do?

When everything is corrected, The X3 can be a decent printer. has a solid frame and a decent setup. Most of the parts supplied are pretty strong and have no issues. It fits the bill as a workhorse printer that will churn out parts reliably and without question.

The initial thing to address is the wobbly bed, as it has the biggest impact on your print quality. There are a few methods available like converting to a linear rod and bearing system like I did, or a double rail system to lock the wheels down.

Here’s the Y-carriage mod I used: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2395455

Beyond that, the Z-axis motor holders are the next thing. The stock ones aren’t bad if you can get them centered on the rail, but any slight deviation and you WILL have binding as the carriage travels upwards.

Here’s the holders I used with the locating tab: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2222104

Venturing into the realm of nice but not necessary, another popular mod is auto-leveling. Luckily, Marlin has support for the Melzi board and has recently included the “Anet 2004 LCD” pinouts so configuring the firmware to fit the printer is easy.

One more missing element is the lack of a print cooler. This is essential for high quality prints when using materials like PLA or PETG as the plastic needs to be cooled to prevent smearing and sagging. Compare these two prints below:

Left is without, Right is with, printed with the exact same settings. Here’s a look at how I have my autoleveling / cooling fan setup. There’s 2 holes conveniently placed on the side of the stock extruder fan that can be utilized using M3 bolts, whch you should have left over from building.

Another popular mod that i’ve done on mine is adding some legs to lift the printer up and allow the control box to sit underneath.

 

Overall, the TronXY X3 is not a bad printer. It has a lot of potential and is good value if you are looking for a supplemental printer to add to your workshop. Overlooking all of it’s problems, it’s a solid little printer that holds it’s own even alongside the more popular Anet / Tevo offerings. I am impressed by how solid the frame is, and save for the initial annoyance of building and ironing out the bugs, it’s just as good as all of the other printers in my workshop.

A lot of people hate on GearBest for having horrible support, but it seems a lot of these complaints are from countries that have import laws. Having just shipped something to Germany and hearing that my buyer was hit with a customs levy, I realize that it is outside of their control.

After bringing up these problems that I had with this printer, GearBest was apologetic and sent me replacements- albeit, it took a solid month for them to arrive, so if you’re in a hurry, be prepared to shell out some money to make it work and use the replacements as spares just in case.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 Reviews Comments Off on TronXY X3 Review from GearBest.com

Review of the ANET A2 from GearBest.com

I love 3D printing. So much in fact, that I somehow ended up as admin of an Anet A-series help group. Go figure!

It all started when I purchased an Anet A8 after breaking a part on my motorcycle. Instead of paying 40 dollars for a stupid plastic piece that broke, I pulled the trigger and purchased my first printer on sale from Amazon for $295.00. But that’s a story for another day. A year and a half later full of tinkering, experimenting, and burning through multiple rolls of filament, I make a decent amount of side cash printing various things; from spare one-off parts for people in the area, to cosplay masks:

Painting done by Etsy user Archnui

I’ve recently outgrown my need for just one printer from the amount of demand, evident by the amount of new models i’ve been buying recently. First it was the custom build I did, dubbed the RSP-01, then the iMakr STARTT, but these both came with their own set of growing pains.

In search of a replacement workhorse

My A8 has seen some action. With well over 3,000 hours total runtime and countless rolls of filament passing through it’s grasps, I can honestly say it’s been a reliable workhorse. Unfortunately, during all of this, it developed a crack in the frame and is now in parts waiting for a new chassis to be built.

While I’m waiting on new supplies to arrive to upgrade my faithful little A8 to the AM8 build on Thingiverse, I needed something comparable as a replacement, because orders pile up and business doesn’t stop.

The STARTT is too tiny for most jobs, and the RSP is too unstable to print at higher speeds and is relegated to slow jobs.

I needed something I knew could work for my purposes out of the box, and a platform that I am familiar with.

Enter the Anet A2:

Quick history: Anet has been around for a quick minute, and dominates a large portion of the chinese 3D printer Prusa i3-style RepRap printers with various models.

This particular one has a frame made of both 2020 and 2040 Aluminum extrusions in lieu of the popular acrylic, and uses roller bearings instead of guide rods. I’ve always been curious about them, having experience with it’s older brothers, the A8 and A6- but i’ve never even seen an A2 in the flesh. They’ve always interested me with their weird but cool setup and no guide rods but wheel bearings.

Curiosity got the better of me, and so I chose this unit from GearBest after I saw that it was on sale for $175.00. It’s now $195.00 at the time of writing as sadly, the sale ended (UPDATE JUNE 04 – SEE NOTE AT END FOR A COUPON FOR $165.00). With shipping on top, it’s around $215.00 dollars total- far short of the $295.00 I paid for my Anet A8 on Amazon a year and a half ago. Ordering on GearBest isn’t too hard, and thankfully they accept PayPal if you want some kind of buyer guarantee or money arbitration.

Concerning shipping, if you absolutely need it now, you can spring for the expedited shipping that arrives in 3-7 days, but that’s close to $50.00, so I recommend just being patient and reading up on what you’re getting into while waiting for your printer to arrive. Come say hi to us in the group!

Let’s get building!

Section Preface: I will NOT be going into detail with building with beautiful timelapse videos and step-by-step plays, but simply commenting on the process and things that stand out. I’ve supplied the build videos to help you with that.

I was too busy catching up on orders to count the days, and before I knew it- a DHL truck showed up at my door and asked me to sign for the package.

The first thing I noticed after I gleefully accepted the parcel is that it was packaged nicely. When compared to my first 3D printer, which suffered some battle damage during transit, this was practically art.

I promised myself I wouldn’t spend the day putting it together and that I had things to do, but oops- it’s raining out. Let’s just see what’s in the package aaaand….

Yeah, I’m building it. How could I not? and wow! They actually separated the hardware into smaller baggies!

Call me dumb for getting excited over this, but you won’t believe how much this saves on overall headache. One thing i shirked a little at were the acrylic pieces. I don’t MIND them, I just really prefer to steer away from how brittle and flexy they can get on bigger pieces. But on this printer, they’re not frame pieces under considerable, only one-off parts, so I can forgive it.

Supplied with it as per usual was a USB stick. This isn’t my first rodeo, so i knew that the instructions were stowed away somewhere within along with installations for Cura and the USB drivers.

I tend to be the type to dive in both feet first and go for it, but again- since I’ve done this a few times and know the problems, i went ahead and printed out the parts list to run through and check. Believe me when I say how much it sucks getting hours into a build only to realize you don’t have a piece. I’ve done this so much that the guys at my local hardware store know me by name.

Another nice touch with this particular A2 is that they’ve made a guide with actual picture instructions. People complain about the videos being hard to follow, but if you’re used to YouTube hotkeys (hint hint.. use your LEFT/RIGHT arrow keys on laptop and desktop to jump back and forth), they’re not that bad. You can also slow them down and watch what he’s doing in slow-mo.

But before I even think about assembly, I knew I had to peel all the paper off of the acrylic pieces. Trust me, DO THIS FIRST! You won’t be able to effectively once the printer starts going together.

Ugh… so after 30 minutes total to complete this, I was finished peeling paper. If you lack any length to your fingernails like I do, this can be a real chore.

Also, a fun little thing to point out– check this out:

Hidden Two-in-one screwdriver! Shih-shah!

With that out of the way, I sorted them into different pieces and set to work. I started by separating the hardware into a tray to be more organized and for easy access. I got the tray from my local dollar store, so check yours or any hardware store really.

Another recommendation is to go ahead and assemble the corner pieces for the A2 by putting the washer and bolt through and barely threading on the square pieces. Be sure you’re not mixing up the M5x16mm with M5x12mm – it DOES make a difference as one will bottom out, and the other will fit perfectly:

 

Here are the two videos that I used for assembly:

I noticed that the aluminum frame is surprisingly simple to assemble, especially if I compare it alongside the acrylic counterparts of the Anet A8 / A6 (which I will keep doing). Another bonus is that you don’t have to worry about cracking anything from overtightening! (but I still don’t recommend hulking out and overtightening for obvious reasons).

One super-awesome point that I absolutely love is how compact and thought out everything on this model is. The belts run through the frame and are out of the way when moving it around, and some of the electronics utilize the channels. It’s just really cool to me and looks clean. I’m terrible at cable management and even I was able to make it presentable!

Call me a stickler, but I also like how it doesn’t use any 3D printed parts. Sure, if you do any amount of modding, you’ll end up with printed parts, but MASS PRODUCED printed parts often look rushed and aren’t quite perfect. No worries though, if you don’t like it- make your own!

A minor negative I notice at this point though is how the endstops mount. I absolutely HATE the tiny screws and having to drive them into the end stop acrylic pieces– which most likely won’t ever come back out due to how easily the heads strip. I know this from experience from, you guessed it, my A8.

A possible suggestion is to handle it like how the STARTT/TronXY 100 did, with M2 nuts/bolts instead of SCREWS that need to tap into a hole.

I suppose if you’re feeling bushy tailed, you could drill the pieces out and do this, but unless you have M2 screws and nuts laying around and a steady drilling hand, you’re stuck.

Or if you have another printer, you could always just print your own. Whatever fits your fancy!

A Few Curious Quirks Apart From It’s Brothers, But the Same Family Issues.

As I continue to build, it dawns on me: I really like how these extrusion pieces allow for expansion. I’ve honestly never played with these extrusions, and this build has me excited for upgrading my overly-mentioned A8 into a powerful and sturdy AM8.

Granted, if you can get more of these small square nuts with teeth and M5x12 / M5x14 bolts, you can easily build onto the frame. Thankfully some were left over from the build process. When I change to another board to allow for multiple extruders at some point and perhaps fix a filament holder to the top, this set-up makes it easy-peasy.

The extruder design is another curious point for me. It’s a bowden-style (remote tube fed) extruder that’s rather compact. Not quite an E3D-style with the iconic circular cooling fins, and I am not sure what throat it’s using, but I thought it was pretty neat. I’ll have to take it apart fully sometime and study it some more.

I’m not sure if I LIKE or HATE how the belts go on and all of these idler bearings everywhere. It’s easy, sure, and I did hate messing with the teethed designs. Using zip-ties is a lot simpler, but like all stock setups, it’s nearly impossible to get good tension unless you have 3 hands. Just enough should be fine until I am able to print a tensioner.

Concerning the extruder heater, be VERY mindful and inspect where the thermistor and heater cartridge go in.

Notice they’re held in by a tiny grubscrew that can wiggle free under heat and vibration, and then the entire assembly can fall out and drag across your bed and other parts.

This is a potential fire hazard! The old ANET firmwares did not have any thermal runaway protection, and worst- if the thermistor remains close to the heater, it can continue on as though nothing is wrong, dragging around a hot heating element all over the table and potentially burning your house down.

I highly recommend you buy some Kapton tape and wrap it around the block and wires to keep them from pulling free, just for some insurance.

Another warning before you wire everything is to CHECK YOUR MAINS VOLTAGE SWITCH ON THE POWER SUPPLY. Not doing so can fry components. I’ve seen a few posts on the group from people who overlooked this step and paid for it.

Last, when wiring the power to the mainboard, double-check your polarity on the main power as reversing these will release the smoke and kill the mainboard. The Bed / Extruder heater are not polarized so they’re fine either way– just be sure to tighten them down and not pinch any material, as this will create an air gap and cause the connector to heat up and melt, sometimes rather dramatically!

When Finishing Is Only The Beginning

My total build time was around 6 hours with minor distractions and taking a break for food. If you’re new at this, be ready to put aside at least 6-8 hours total and find a nice quiet workspace that you can leave the unassembled printer in without fear if you need to get up.

Now you’re probably thinking: Did anything go WRONG during assembly?

Well.. yes.

One of the M5x30mm screws that held the wheel bearing on the extruder was missing a head. This required a trip to the hardware store to replace. However, when compared to my Anet A8 that I ordered from Amazon with having 2 guide rods that were bent and unusable, this is utterly trivial.

Like with any DIY kit, just be ready to possibly supply a few small parts yourself or find a work-around.

After a quick check to make sure everything was tight and in place, I adjusted my bed. People often wonder how close to the bed you need to place the nozzle and the only answer I have is very close. My method involves manually moving the bed and extruder around in a cross formation from the center of the bed and noting any dragging spots. Some tips:

  • If the tip clicks or hangs against the side of the bed when moving over an edge, it’s too close and may be compressing your bed. Adjust it upwards.
  • Measure from all 4 corners, and also measure in both directions from the middle. You can use a piece of A4 printer paper to judge dragging as well.
  • Remember that turning the butterfly screws right will “raise” the nozzle by tensioning the bed and pulling it away, and left will “lower” it by releasing tension, which causes the springs to push it up.
  • When setting up, fully tension your bed springs until reasonably tight and then move your Z-axis endstop down. Manually turn the Z axis screwrod to park the tip as close to the bed as possible and then find the moment the X-axis presses the switch before tightening the Z-endstop. This will give you a wide range of adjustment upwards.
  • It’s possible to add autoleveling to these units (which I love), but more on that in the future!

Once I had the bed leveled out, it was time to print. Rather, it was time to find a model to print.

I used the same profile I had for the Anet A8 in Simplify3D, as everything SHOULD be around the same. Just to note, they include some files on the USB stick if you don’t know where to look (I recommend Thingiverse for most things).

Sidebar: Which Slicer is the Sharpest?

For newbies who don’t know what a slicer is: it’s what generates the commands for your 3D printer to work and which paths to take.

There’s huge debate over which slicer you should use and which produces the best results in terms of quality and speed, has the most features, is easiest to use, etc.

I’m a Simplify3D guy myself, but with it’s $150.00 price tag, it tends to turn a lot of beginners away. But once you grow and find yourself needing higher quality and more control, I definitely recommend it.

Here are the other popular choices of slicers:

Let the Printing Begin!

Once the slicing completed, I saved the .gcode file then uploaded it to my Repetier-Server install on my Raspberry Pi 3.

All I needed to do was click print, and the A2 sprung to life and whirred away, happily depositing molten plastic in precision patterns layer-by-layer. I had an order going out so I skipped the normal test print of a 3D Benchy and went right into a horn and well…

Notice the pattern? This is a severe case of “ringing”, or patterns caused by some kind of vibration or jerk when the printer changes direction, any jerkiness will be translated into the print head. It looks cool, but this is not ideal as it means there’s slop.

A caveat for any of these printers. One of the first things you should ever print if your model did not come with it is BELT TENSIONERS, which allows you to tighten up any slack in the belts, which are just held on by zip-ties:

So searching around on Thingiverse, i found the following tensioners. Note that both of them may require a run to the hardware store to get extra nuts and bolts, which should be outlined in the descriptions:

X-axis tensioner: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2201478

Y-axis tensioner: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2157807

Here’s how it looked after printing and assembling the Y axis. All of the parts came from the stock piece on the printer, and a few left over screws :

 

And mounted on the printer, which shows how it works:


Another issue the A2 has stock is that it does NOT come with a print cooler. This is necessary for cooling the plastic down on sections that are hanging off the side or bridging over gaps. Without one, the plastic stays warm and malleable, which affects your quality as it sags and doesn’t set properly:

I figured while I was at it, I should do a few necessary upgrades. I installed a custom firmware (Skynet), which is based on Marlin, and gives you autoleveling. The stock setup, like a lot of printers, requires you to manually level the bed using thumbscrews that adjust springs. This can be tedious if you print a lot as they change tension and throw your settings off.

Thankfully the autolevel mount supplied with the firmware came with a very nice solution to mount a cooling fan for prints:

I also printed the X-axis tensioner, which was kind of strange to figure out. There’s a collar that fits over the assembly to lock it in place. Really neat design, and shows that there’s multiple ways to approach this!

I ordered a print fan off of Amazon and waited a few days for it to show up. In the meantime, I tried a few prints to test autoleveling and get it dialed in.

It seems having adequate tension on the belts did the trick:

Not too bad- shows a noticeable improvement, though still has a texture. I chalk this up to the bearings needing to wear in and find their tracks. I could dry-run the printer at different speeds to help this along, but it’s usable for now.

Once the cooling fan came in, i quickly installed it and ran the first test that I wanted to do: a 3D Benchy. I did one without a cooling fan (above) and it turned out horrible, so let’s see how this one will turn out:

Definitely an improvement There’s still a strange ringing pattern, but it’s definitely a usable model. The cooling fan helped dramatically, and there’s no sagging on the bow like above. I do notice that there’s some odd layering on the Z (up/down) axis, and i’ve heard its from the wheels causing it. Some of this could be from my settings, as I need to learn the nuances of the machine and really tune the settings in. Overall, the quality is getting better.

The Verdict

Overview – ★★★½☆☆

The Anet A2 is a strange machine to me. I’ve never really been around many 3D printers that use wheels like this, and it’s a new experience. Sure, i’ve seen people with Tevo Tarantulas, which is what I think they were trying to imitate with the A2. It’s a strange design that I love a lot about, but hate a few design choices- I’ll break those down below.

Out of the box, it has issues- as with most chinese printers. It’s not without printing some mods to increase the quality that this printer really begins to shine. Luckily people have covered the basic needs I think are paramount: Tensioners, and Autoleveling-– everything else is easy enough to roll your own.

I feel like people are right- the wheels just aren’t the right size. They feel tight, and shaved material off for the first few hours of printing, which made me have to disassemble and clean the race. I was instructed to loosen the wheels, which helped some, but going too loose and you get lateral slop.

The print quality isn’t bad, but I haven’t cranked the speed up to above 60mm/s or played with acceleration settings. I feel like if this were my first printer and I didn’t know any better, i could excuse it, but I’ve seen what these cheap printers can do, and they can crank out some impressive prints. This one, however, is middle of the road, and I feel it’s going to take a bit to work out all the bugs.

Purchasing and Shipping – ★★★★★

When it comes to purchasing, I had no real issues with GearBest like i’ve heard from others in the past, and it arrived safe and intact in a reasonable amount of time. Considering it was cheaper than my first Anet A8, arrived sooner, and wasn’t missing too many pieces, I am quite impressed. I would knock a star off for the broken bolt, but if you’re so helpless that you can’t go to your local hardware store, 3D printing is NOT for you.

Assembly – ★★★★☆

Very straightforward and easier to follow than their previous product lines that used.. ugh.. acrylic (I’m biased against it now, considering my A8 frame cracked!). I docked a star because they still make you watch a YouTube video with some guy assembling the printer. It’s not terrible, but sometimes things can get a little vague, and it would be nice to have some sort of guide. They DO include one on the flash stick, but it’s also vague and does not follow along with the video, which is really bizarre why they’d bother.

Usage / Beginner Friendliness – ★★★★☆

If you’ve never printed before, I can assure you this would be a mild trial by fire. If you’re not mechanically inclined, there may be a few expletives blurted out. But again, if you are not- why are you 3D printing?

I knocked the point down because of the issues at hand, and the total lack of the print cooling fan kills the quality and overall damages the package as a whole. You’ll definitely learn the in’s and out’s of 3D printing, but this style just isn’t popular enough to give you an idea of 3D printing. Where’s the linear rods? Where’s the bearings? I thought I’d be happy to throw those away; to laugh and say “Those are for plebs! Wheeled bearing systems are the only way!” but now, i’m not so sure.

Print Quality – ★★★☆☆

This is where the A2 suffered the most for me. Out of the 4 chinese printers I have in my workshop, it’s the one with the strangest defects. Perhaps it’s the hotend? Or maybe it’s the frame design? Who knows, but without some further experimentation to pin down the problem, I have to adjust my expectations to decent quality and delegate any higher quality jobs to another machine. It’s sad when a printer I slapped together using spare rodstock is being used more due to quality issues.

The Good

  • Love the extruded frame. Feels really solid, and because it’s 2020/2040 extruded, it allows for easy expansion as you can just use T-nuts to drop into the channels and tighten on. I’ve even picked it up and moved it around, and it still felt pretty solid with zero flex
  • The lack of linear rods means bed size can be easily expanded once I get the wheel issue sorted out. Just buy some more aluminum from MiSUMi and recut some belts. Really cool.
  • It feels like they thought a little more about design. Everything fits tightly and in tolerance. The way everything meshes shows that they had to give SOME thought in the design– a point I felt they overlooked on their prior models.
  • Other than that, it’s a ~$200.00 workhorse printer, what can you really expect?

The Bad

  • Still using the stock Anet 1.0 board and bad firmware. It’s not TERRIBLE by any means, but the lack of expansion means you’re stuck with the same setup. It does it’s job, sure, but it has a few design flaws (such as using those crappy power connectors) that seems to be breezed over. It would also be nice to be able to change out your drivers. The stock firmware SUCKS for one major reason: It does NOT have any sort of thermal runaway protection that will detect discrepancies in your heating systems and if it finds an error, will shut the system down. I find this to be downright dangerous.
  • The stock hotend leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve had it jam a few times, and they use a PTFE-lined throat instead of an all-metal one. My first one melted the first time I printed ABS and had to be replaced. Blah.
  • The lack of a print cooling fan. If I were new, I would be appalled trying to print with PLA and seeing the awful overhangs.
  • The wheels. Sure, I love the extruded design and the fact that the X/Y carriage ride on them, but these wheels SUCK. I’m in the camp that they are not the proper ones for the job and instead just some off-the-shelf shower door wheels that Anet decided would work. Sure you can live with your door skipping on the track, but not with a jittery print.
  • Lack of support from the manufacturer. If there’s an inherent issue, don’t expect a company like Anet to care. That’s why there’s Facebook support groups. It would be nice if they’d listen to some of the common issues and strive to correct them
  • The stock belts. I didn’t really touch on this too much in the article, but I wish these chinese manufacturers would just use GT2 belts for everything. They’re a standard for a reason, and they’re awesome. These stock plastic/metal belts stretch out and begin to screw up your prints. I’ve even had one snap before.

 

*Article Update: June 04, 2017* A rep from GearBest contacted me about this review and offered a coupon that puts the price at $164.89 for anyone who is wanting to purchase one. Use code “AnetA2” at this link http://www.gearbest.com/3d-printers-3d-printer-kits/pp_447850.html?lkid=10768741.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 Hobbies, Reviews Comments Off on Review of the ANET A2 from GearBest.com

Review of the Micro-Motor-Warehouse CL-0820-17 “Dark Edition” Motors

Despite having some recent issues with these motors that were resolved, I’ve finally repaired the 180QX! Woo! Micro Motor Warehouse sent me a replacement set of CL-0820-17 Dark Edition Motors, but I had to wait on the replacement booms (screw paying $10.00 / 2 from a hobby shop- I snagged them online for $4.88 / set). Here’s how I set everything up:

Some assembly required

A fair warning for these motors: To use them with the 180QX, you’ll need to trim off the Latrax connectors and roll your own solutions. My previous idea was to solder them directly onto the boom wires- bad idea, as it’s not serviceable and leads to all sorts of problems. Since I wrecked the booms with my first attempt, I stole the wiring and clipped off the lame little connectors Horizon uses on all of their stuff (I’ll save that rant for another day). I clipped the motor wires down to around 2cm, and used a jet lighter to burn away the wire sheath since it’s so tiny and fragile.

I cleaned it with 98% Isopropyl and set them all aside. For the connectors, I measured out 1cm above the heatshrink and clipped them. Again, I used the jet lighter to remove the sheathing on the eye-strain-o-vision magnet wire (which usually caught fire and burned it all away! Careful with leaving too much exposed wire.)

I placed some heatshrink over each motor wire and slid them down, then looped the magnet wire around and fed the motor wires into it to “tie” into a knot, and tamped it down before soldering it together. I isolated them with the heatshrink and used liquid electrical as both strain relief and extra protection against bridging.

Quad set-up

Another important note is the direction of the motors. Where you had a “white/black motor”, you would place a “red/blue motor”, or reverse of what Horizon initially had. Remember that White and Red are POWER (+) and Black and Blue are GROUND (-). The Black and Blue wiring runs up to the control box on the side painted Green on each connector. I had to negotiate the wiring around a bit, and the connectors were not making a solid connection inside of their respective female plugs. I bent them out so that they were snug, and placed a bead of liquid electrical to keep them firmly in place. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to jerk these out while placing the motor mounts back on!

First Run

My initial test failed- Front right motor wasn’t spinning. Turned out, one of my FETs blew on the mainboard during the previous explosion, and I had to spend a few moments of cursing as I attempted to negotiate the tiny SMD part into its place. Pro tip: VERY LOW AIRSPEED and around 350 centigrade heat, and hit it directly from the top while holding it down- otherwise, the air catches underneath and throws it across your workstation. Trust me- I’ve had plenty of practice thanks to this. After a bit, I had it back together, and hovering lightly in my bedroom. Time to take it outside for a real test!

The Real Test

Josh agreed to film me, and we took it outside. I couldn’t resist the urge to beat on it and really test the motors out. After getting it all trimmed up, we went into the street and started cutting up. I bit it a few times, and accidentally hit my ad-hoc cameraman after telling him I wouldn’t– oops!

I continued to fly it after this, much to the delight of a curious neighborhood cat who loved to chase it. I could definitely feel it recovering better and slicing a lot more aggressively. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep an eye on my battery and I had a bit of a fly-away followed by a loud CRUNCH, which caused a gear to hop oddly. I switched it out and it went back to normal, so no biggie.

Final thoughts

These things definitely zip! I can’t wait to take them to a larger area and really give them the stick. I haven’t tried any hard launches or intense maneuvers yet, but in the test video above, there was a very noticeable wind that would have usually knocked it around. Coupled with the LP5DSM controller I’m using now (get away from that stock MLP6 POS- it causes heaps of grief!), the 180QX performs great. Recovers are smooth, and switching direction feels a lot more responsive with the dark edition motors in place. I have sort of gotten used to how sluggish the stocks are, so I’ve had a few close calls already as I overcorrect- so take it slow and get used to these! Here’s my breakdown of the pros/cons of the CL-0820-17 Dark Edition Motors:

The Good

  • Great performance.
  • Costs less than stock.
  • Awesome support from the company.
  • Looks great.

The Bad

  • Requires some modification to adapt it to the 180QX. If you have a Latrax Alias, though, you’re golden.
  • The plastic pinions tend to sheer material if you crash.
  • Fits a little snug into the motor housing. Be VERY careful when removing, as the wiring can come out.
  • Directions for the 180QX are switched. Do NOT follow the 180QX’s motor wiring colors- You have to reverse them. (this isn’t standard! The motor wiring is CORRECT from Micro-motor-wareouse.com, this problem is with Horizon!)

If you’re looking at replacing your motors and getting a little more bite out of the 180QX, let Benedikt Haak and his team at Micro-motor-warehouse.com hook you up. A full set costs $37.00, and ships quite quickly. If there’s any issues with them, too, they’ll take care of you.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 Hobbies, Reviews Comments Off on Review of the Micro-Motor-Warehouse CL-0820-17 “Dark Edition” Motors

Why passion for your product is good for customer satisfaction

As you can tell, I have many hobbies, one being RC planes and helicopters. I recently picked up a Blade 180QX Quadcopter to play with and learn how to do stunts with.

After a nasty crash that destroyed one of the motors, I took it as an opportunity to upgrade, and opted for the Black edition motors from micro-motor-warehouse.com. They arrived rather quickly, but I noticed that they required some work to adapt, since the connectors were for a LaTrax Alias, not a Blade 180QX- but they were the same size and gearing, so they could be made to work.

I spent some time soldering everything together and adapting them to fit with my setup. Initial tests were promising- they spun quite well and seemed to perform much better than my stock motors.

I assembled everything and went for a test flight. Sadly, an oversight was that the polarity was reversed, which caused the quad to crash violently and destroy itself. Something happened, and the mainboard fried. 3 of the support beams were cracked, and I had to resolder a few wires. I had an old broken mainboard, which I salvaged some parts from to get it running again. After a few hours, I had it running again… sort of.

After 5 minutes of stable flight, the motors stopped responding properly, and down it went again. One motor stopped completely, and the other ones cut out erratically. I saw red and immediately fired off an angry email to MicroMotorWarehouse to vent.

Benedikt Haak, the chief scientist at MicroMotorWarehouse, responded 19 minutes later. I was offered a full refund, which made up for the day. Sure, I cracked a few beams and wasted my day repairing it, but I was happy about this, since I hate wasting money. Since the motors were the extent of the damage, recovering on those was my main priority.

I responded, and Benedikt offered to send me more motors once I get the quad back together. I was floored by this; you don’t get this level of customer service much nowadays. This was the response I got:

I fully understand your frustration.

We should have known about this issue, but didnt pay attention.
There is now an additional section on the relevant motors pages to warn other Blade pilots.

I have just issued you a full refund on you purchase.
However, I think there are good chances that your board is still OK. Stuffed motors will make it act erratic.

Our goal is not to make money from selling motors.
We make money so we can keep selling motors. Because we want to spread the worry-free fun of flying micro quads.

If you discover your board is still working, and you want to get your 180 back into the air,
Im happy to send you another set of motors on top of the refund.
Just let me know 😉

Cheers
Benedikt

 

Their mission isn’t to get your money, but to truly provide their audience with a quality product. I was impressed with how quickly I was being taken care of, and the level of commitment Benedikt was showing. As a customer, I went in steaming and wanting to spit venom, but came out an advocate. I’ll have to buy parts today to repair it, and am definitely going to tell everyone about what Micro-Motor-Warehouse.com did for me. Thanks again, Benedikt!

 

 

 

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 Hobbies Comments Off on Why passion for your product is good for customer satisfaction

Website Finally Back!

We’re finally back on FearTheMongoose.com, so to celebrate, here’s a mongoose to fear:

Tags:

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 Website No Comments