Anet A6 (In-Depth Review)
The Anet A6 is a Prusa i3 clone and is essentially an update to the popular A8 that was released earlier last year. In fact, both the A6 and A8 are very similar with only a few differences setting them apart. The A6, for example, has a dial control instead of buttons for menu navigation.
Like other DIY 3D printer kits, the A6 is shipped mostly unassembled. Only a few components like the z-axis motors and extruder come pre-assembled. Assembling the A6 isn’t too hard since there are plenty of instructions and videos online for references. Anet even provides installation instructions in the supplied micro SD card that comes with the A6. Assembling it takes between 3 and 6 hours, depending on how proficient you are with 3D printers.
I purchased my A6 from GearBest during the recent 3rd Anniversary Sale (got a massive discount). Depending on which option you choose, the A6 currently costs anywhere between $190 and $260 at GearBest and other online stores.
- Build size: 220 x 220 x 250mm
- Technology: FDM
- Layer thickness: 0.1 – 0.4mm
- Extruder(s): 1
- Extruder drive: Direct
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
- Filament diameter: 1.75mm
- Maximum nozzle temperature: 240C (standard hot end) / 260C (with E3Dv6 hot end)
- Maximum bed temperature: about 105C
- Print speed: 40 – 120mm/s
- LCD screen: Yes (monochrome)
- Printer dimensions: 48.00 x 40.00 x 40.00 cm
- Gross weight: 9kg
- External memory: TF card
- File format: GCode
For a printer that costs about $200, the quality of the parts and components that come with the A6 isn’t too bad. Just don’t expect class-leading quality. There is some inconsistency in the quality of the small screws and bolts — some are tight while some are loose. However, over-tightening is something that should be avoided with these screws and bolts. They are also somewhat fragile and prone to damage.
The frame of the A6 consists of various pieces of black acrylic which look nice and shiny when fully assembled. There is a metal cover for the power supply but most of the other components are exposed or partially exposed.
I find the rails and pieces that hold the heated bed in place to be a bit flimsy. It’s very important not to move the printer or even apply any pressure or force on these rails when you’re printing something as doing so will cause the bed to shift slightly, ruining your print.
The heated bed is capable of going up to slightly over 100C and is made of aluminum. I find the bed prone to warping, so getting an aftermarket glass bed or installing an auto-leveling kit is a good idea if you want to deal with complications that arise from warped bed surface.
One key feature on the A6 is the menu dial which I find more efficient in navigating the menu options compared to the buttons on the A8. Turning the dial left or right lets you scroll through menu selections while pressing it lets you select an option. The dial works quite well although it tends to over-scroll when navigating menus.
The A6 comes with a direct drive extruder and for its price point, prints remarkably well if everything’s set up properly. This is one printer that offers the print quality and speed of ready-made printers that cost 3 to 5 times its price which is great value for those looking for a bargain deal.
Due to its exposed design, getting the heated bed to reach 100C for printing materials such as ABS can be time consuming but there are tricks to help it heat up faster. Some owners make their own tent-like enclosures to keep the heat from dissipating. Some install insulating material underneath the bed. My preferred method is to just put thick newspaper on top of the bed. I find this method greatly reduces the amount of heat loss from the bed and helps me reach 100C in just 10 to 15 minutes.
With its standard extruder, the A6 is capable of printing at nozzle temperatures of up to approximately 230C. This means it can handle materials such as ABS and PLA or simply any material that prints at 230C or cooler. Although product pages state that the A6 nozzle is capable of reaching 260C, I wouldn’t recommend doing so since the PTFE tube in the extruder has a breakdown point of about 240C to 250C.
With that said, the A6 is not capable of printing materials such as nylon which needs a printing temperature of at least 240C or higher. To print such materials, you’ll need to upgrade to an E3Dv6 hot end which is capable of handling temperatures of up to 280C.
One upgrade that I plan to print for my A6 is the Frankenstein extruder carriage (pictured above) by NickRimmer at Thingiverse. The Frankenstein uses a Bowden setup and was designed to be used with the E3Dv6 hot end. It uses parts and screws from the original A6 extruder and carriage so there is no need to purchase any extra set of screws and bolts for it.
Online Community and Support
The great thing about using open designs such as the Prusa i3 is the wide support you get from its user community. The A6 (as well as A8) has a large base of owners and a number of online support groups run by enthusiasts who can help new owners in troubleshooting or setting up their printers.
There is also a wide range of upgrades created by A6/A8 owners that you can print yourself and plenty of third-party accessories and parts that were designed for the A6. One popular upgrade is the E3Dv6 extruder which can be used to print materials such as nylon. Some users have also created 3D-printable extruder carriages for the E3Dv6 with Bowden setups that can be downloaded from 3D file sharing sites such as Thingiverse.
The Anet A6, in its original setup, is capable of producing decent prints but it is the wide range of upgrades and tweaks that can be done to it that makes it very popular. The wide range of upgrades, parts and online support for the A6 make it an excellent 3D printer for those who like tweaking, upgrading and modding their 3D printers.
The Anet A6 is a 3D printer that I’d recommend to anyone looking for decent print quality and speed on a tight budget. The build quality and design won’t win awards but when set up properly, the A6 is capable of performing as well as printers that cost 3 to 5 times more. There are also plenty of user-created upgrades and mods that can be installed on the A6 as well as plenty of aftermarket parts that can be bought online, making the A6 an excellent choice for those who like modding and tweaking.
Since the A6 is a DIY kit, I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners with no experience in 3D printing. Beginners are better off starting with ready-made 3D printers like the Iceman D150 which are essentially plug-and-play printers that require almost no setting up or building. Such printers tend to cost a lot more but the learning curve is less steep and they are excellent for new users who want an easy introduction into the world of 3D printing.
The A6, like any other Prusa i3 clone, is meant for those who are already familiar with 3D printing. Still, it’s not impossible for a total beginner to learn the ropes of 3D printing with the A6 although the learning curve will be steep.
The Anet A6 is available at GearBest in US, UK or EU plugs. Prices start from $186.99 for the US plug option. Click here for more details.
Features and Performance8/10
Community and Support9/10
- Very affordable Prusa i3 clone
- Plenty of upgrade options
- Great community support
- Decent print quality and speed
- Poor quality on some components and parts
- Steep learning curve (for beginners)
- Exposed design (not enclosed)
- Heated bed prone to warping