My first 3D Printer – ANET A6

Finally, it’s here. I’ve always wanted a 3D printer, would be useful for a lot of my electronics projects, and being able to fabricate my own parts. Plus I have an active interest in communities supporting others. I’ve been interested in e-NABLE and Team UnLimbited communities for a while and wanted to join in.

Originally I wanted a Creality Ender 3 Printer, but when the COVID outbreak hit the world, all the printers were sold out. I wanted a printer and financial situations changed, so I ended up purchasing an Anet A6 3D printer from reprapworld.co.uk

It arrived (eventually), 3 weeks after ordering it. I can’t complain here, COVID has slowed everything down, I was just getting impatient waiting for it.

I started assembling the printer, in total it took me about 9 hours to build this (including troubleshooting). Admittedly, about 2 of them was removing the stupid paper film on the acrylic. If you’re thinking about doing this, stick it in some hot water and peel it off, way faster. I didn’t do it, because I was worried it was wood not plastic. I’ve since found out otherwise.

I assembled the printer using the 2 videos on the web. 1st video was great, the 2nd video was terribly poor. It was almost rushed for completion and I had to check a few steps. I had very few hitches, but I will note a few things to watch out for

I’ll be adding pictures as I go along

Notes for future builders – This may seem obvious to a lot of people. However the online manual doesn’t really help much when it comes to troubleshooting. So these are the things I noticed to help others

WIRE LENGTHS – The videos mentioned the first cable they said was 900mm. It didn’t match the “Endstop” that it was listed for. Example, they said it was a “Y-Stop” and it the length of cable they gave was an “X-Stop”, or something like that. Whatever it said in the video was wrong. The cable length didn’t match for the long one to what it actually was. Fit the parts based on what they’re needed for (for reference, the Z-Stops are at the sides), the Y-Stop is at the rear, and the X-Stop is attached to the extruder. The first part you fit to the device is the Y-Stop.

REMOVING FILM – This is purely down to preference, I liked mine all black. I removed it. Use water if you want to do yours, or spend forever

DAMN NUTS – Seriously, those M3 nuts are a pain in the arse to fit, they’re so small my sausage fingers kept dropping them. really annoying which didn’t help when building the damn thing

ORIENTATION – Pay special attention to the orientation of all the parts, especially where the holes are. It helps clarify which part you’re fitting and where they fit together. Saves you dismantling at a later date

CABLE MANAGEMENT – Try and make it as neat as possible, it will help later

Problems I came across – Again, this is my first printer. So I’ve been troubleshooting each new problem I find and I’m trying to put it down with every problem I encounterd to help people in future if they need it themselves. I’m also trying to put them down in the errors I encountered them.

PSU FITMENT (WRONG HOLES) – Not sure if I just misread the video, but you put the screws into the PSU from behind it, the holes mentioned are offset and there’s no physical way you can screw them in from the bottom

JAMMING Y-STOP – When I was busy testing out the bed, the Y moved back and then just whirred as if belt slipping. This was because I fitted the cable above the threaded rod and not under it, so it was catching when the bed was moving back

JAMMING Z-STOP – When I was trying to “Auto Home” on the device to test the stops out, the Z-Stops were failing. The threaded rod kept jamming, and the motors would just whirr away because they couldn’t move. I tried adding lubrication, and filing down the rods using emery paper which helped a bit. It was always the right hand side rod though. In the end I swapped it with the rod from the “Left” Z-Stop and put them at the top, then when I auto-homed it worked fine. Go figure

UNABLE TO PRINT FROM SD CARD – This is a simple one. Basically the printer can deal with STL/OBJ files, however in oder for the 3D Printer to print them off, you have to create “Machine Code” that it can read – aka GCODE. Basically, all you do is open the application (on the USB Pen I received, it was an application called Cura), you open the file. Then there’s an option at the top (something like File –> Create GCode). All you do then, is save it back on the pen, and you can access it from the SD Card

WRONG PRINT HEIGHT (PRINTING IN THIN AIR) – The first time I printed, it was printing in thin air. This was because the extruder was the wrong height, basically to fix this, you “Auto-Home” the board, and then set the print head height using the “Control –> Move Axis” menu, the X-Y Axis can be adjusted in all 3 increments (10MM, 1MM, 0.1MM), the Z-Axis can only be adjusted in 2 (1MM, 0.1MM). What you have to do, is move the print head near the corners, and then loosen each bed screw from underneath until the print head is almost touching the bed (the online videos suggest as thick as A4 piece of paper). After this it prints fine.

HEATED BED (OVER-HEATING, NOT HEATING WHEN REQUIRED) – This was probably my error. When I assembled the kit, I fitted the power supply and then hooked up the heated bed and controller board cables to it. When I ran my first test print, I encountered a problem. The heated bed would power up as soon as I switched on the printer without setting the temp, and also the bed would just constantly get hotter and hotter going way above the temp specified. I eventually worked out the problem after troubleshooting, basically on the controller board there are 3 terminal sockets “BED”, “EXT” and “POWER”. You have to attach the power wires from the extruder into the “BED” terminals, and then let the board control it. The B_T connector (Bed Thermistor) acts as the feedback wire, and then the board controls the temperature via these power terminals. When connected directly to the PSU it powers the board, but there’s no way for the controller board to stop it. So it just keeps heating until it shuts down, catches fire or the PSU shits itself