Almost 2 years has passed now since I had my first and only 3D printer, an Anet A8. Sadly, I cannot afford any other printer, but I'm still happy of the final product. The Anet A8 isn't that bad out of the box, but real deal is its cost (usually under 150$) that allows new members of the 3D printers community to start learning more about this world. Thanks to its large community the Anet A8 has tons of models and tutorials that allows you to transform this printer entirely and create something different. You can change the extruder from direct to bowden, you can change the frame from acrylic to metal extrusion, you can add mosfets for safety just by printing a support and wiring them properly. I changed almost everything of my Anet, and I'll probably change the board, which is the last original part remained, with something more quiet. Yes, probably the most annoying cons about Anet A8 is the noise during the printing process, that and the safety measures almost absent, so you need to make some modifications to be sure to print in total safety. But for learning, the Anet A8 is a good challenge, because it forces you to learn how a printer is made and how it works to be able to customize it and calibrate in every aspect of it. The results are stunning.
It doesn't have fancy things like silent drivers, yeah, good, old, loud, Anet, nor touch lcd, or auto bed leveling sensors; but you don't need any of that to start printing and learning, plus all that stuff might be a pain to resolve if you have some problem while still learning. Anet A8 is a work horse, you can do anything by using some love and akwnoledging your passion through this journey.
For filaments I often use Tianse because it's cheap (yeah, always that money thing *sob*) but also gives some good results with a fine tuning; by tuning I intend calibrating you extrusion multiplier, then measure your filament diameter to be sure tu perfetly match the width specified in your slicer settings, after that you should make some temperature tests to see which range prints better with that spool (spools are not all the same, remember to do this with every new purchase). About Tianse I don't like that its melting temperature is too low (190° for first layer and 185° from the second layer on), but at least it doesn't variate from spool to spool.
Software wise I use Ultimaker's Cura slicer, it's free, it allowas a decent customization and allows you to import custom plugins made by other users (for example the wood effect for wood filaments), awesome!
I started learning some 3D modelling with Fusion 360. I'm still an amateur but I'd been able to achieve some pretty good results! I've also used Fusion 360 to make remixes of existing models on Thingiverse. Honorable mention to my SOLID EYE replica with battery slot that allows you to implement a small circuit in your prop!
My favourite tool, and companion, is probably the caliber, you can't print without that! If you need proper calibration and checking axes correct position, he's the guy!
Speaking about the advantage of having a 3D printer: even if I'm still a student, I'm currently working as an IT technician for 7 schools simultaneusly. This pandemic situation forced schools to move towards technology in way never seen before, my job is to help them keep running no matter what, to guarantee the right to education to all students. With more than 6'000 students in total, is pretty hard, wearing those masks for hours and hours is starting to chop my ears.
Lucky for me, I'm a nerdy guy who made his own 3D printer, so mask straps are coming!
The next challenge I would like to take, when I'll get the time to print, is the IronMan Mk85 suit (already done the electronic schematic and some Arduino/Raspberry tests). I was thinking about an Ender 5 Plus thanks to its printing dimensions and the firm bed which only moves in Z axis direction (resulting in a quality improvement by reducing the model's inertia).
Happy Printing to you all!
Anet A8 page from Anet's site:
Fusion 360's site:
Article about Cura's plugins:
Link to All3DP's article about my Solid Eye: https://all3dp.com/project-of-the-week-3d-printed-solid-eye-with-led-from-metal-gear-franchise/