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Anet 8 Trials & Tribulations: My Adventure into 3D Printing

#1
I decided to document my adventure in learning 3D printing with my Anet A8 and figured there is no better place than here to do it. I want to document my plan of modifications and improvements, implimentation of said plan, and venture into the first prints.

Printer:
Purchased my Anet A8 off eBay that came with an auto-leveling kit, .25 kg roll of random filament, and an 8GB SD Card.

Printed Upgrades:

Printed in MakerGeek Dark Blue
Printed in TIANSE Fluorescent Yellow - Decided to lump my order on Amazon with other parts, and decided I wanted the upgraded parts to pop out more.

X Belt Holder
X Belt Tensioner
Y Belt Tensioner
T Frame Support
Semi-Circular Fan Duct or Full Circle Fan Duct
Lower Filament Guide
Upper Filament Guide
Filament Release Button
Y Axsis Cable Chain
X Axsis Cable Chain
Mainboard Cover
Spool Holder
"BULK" Frame Brace
Anti Z Wobble

Purchased Supplies:
Upgraded PSU - Ordered
5A Plug - Ordered
MOS Tube - Ordered
Upgraded Belts - Ordered
Bearings - Ordered
Heat Sinks - Out of stock right now
PEI Printing Surface Sheet - Decided to try tape method before doing this one.



Sources:
OpenTechLab
Reality Check VR Upgrades
 
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#4
I'm sitting here getting ready to kick off a print job with a bunch of part upgrades. I've done a few already,
I purchased mine from GearBest it did not come with the auto level but I will be ordering one this week and printing a bracket for it and upgrading to SkyNet. This leveling the bed stuff is for the birds and takes up a ton of time. So far I'm pretty happy with it. Getting some of the tweaks done hopefully will take it to that next level. I'm also running OctoPrint using the OctoPi image for the Raspberry Pi.

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#5
I've been debating the Octoprint update. I am sure I will want it after a short bit but didn't want to put that on on my original update cycle yet.

Are you doing it just so go straight from slicer to print? I have seen some setups where full remote printing is done.
 
#6
I've been debating the Octoprint update. I am sure I will want it after a short bit but didn't want to put that on on my original update cycle yet.

Are you doing it just so go straight from slicer to print? I have seen some setups where full remote printing is done.
Right now my workflow is Cura Slicer -> Save GCode to file then upload to OctoPrint and Print. I haven't tried printing directly from Cura, I like it because I can monitor the print job and I'm buying a Pi Camera so I can watch the prints remotely as well and I like the fact that it gives me the ability to control the steppers from the web interface.
 

rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#7
I had some troubles with printing directly from Cura where my print would stop somewhere in the middle and lock up the desktop computer too. Never did get to the real reason why it was locking up (this was a couple years back with a Kickstarter PrintrBot), but doing the print to SD card format, and then sending in the completed file solved that problem for me and I've never gone back.
 
#8
I think the OctoPrint method you are using kevinc35 is where I will go, but I want to take it in some degree of steps.

The good news is everything is arriving Friday for a weekend of printer building! Did free shipping on Amazon and original date was 7/14 delivery but just got updated to 7/7 today. So all purchased upgrades part to-date came to just under $75 and that includes the roll of filament for printing the printed upgrades.
 
#9
I've been printing with cura from the start with no probles. I use the usb cable connection to my pc. It's much faster and easier than copying to the sd card. The only issues I have is when there is a glitch in a stl file from sketchup. So far I am very happy with my A8. I might look into a bed leveler in the future.
 

jhitesma

Some guy in the desert
Mentor
#10
I printed maybe two things over USB before switching to SD...but I have a VERY unreliable computer near my printer that crashes several times a day - so the chances of me trusting it to stay up while a print is going are slim to none :D

Printing from SD tends to give the most reliable results and some tests have shown it can actually give better performance as well on some printers. But...it's so tedious to transfer gcode to the SD card and move the card back and forth from computer to printer. You can send gcode to the card over USB - but it's REALLY slow due to how the arduino handles USB.

So fairly quickly I switched to a server approach. Instead of a RaspPi though I use a C.H.I.P. (www.getchip.com) which is only $9 and has built in memory and wifi - so no need to add an SD card like a pi and doesn't have to be near ethernet (though mine is only a foot or so from my router so it wouldn't be a big deal - but the flexiblity of not being tied down other than power is still nice!)

I tried both octoprint and repetier-server and found I actually preferred repetier-server. I wanted to like octoprint since it was more open - but the performance wasn't as good and it was more of a hassle to get up and going. Also all of the android apps for octo were out of date and clunky and the web interface wasn't as nice on mobile as repetiers. Even better I liked using repetier-host for preparing prints and it could send right to repetier-server and would show progress during prints as if I was hooked up over USB. So it was like the best of both worlds. I had the reliability of printing off SD but it felt more like printing off USB.

Then repetier server came out with a new version and dropped a lot of functionality. It's still available but only in the paid version. I knew they were planning on doing it but what upset me was they also disabled the functionality in older versions. Not releasing new functionality I could understand - but disabling already working functionality...that really rubbed me the wrong way. Still...I planned on getting the paid version eventually and started moving those plans up.

But then I got a macbook from work which is nicer than any of my own computers at home so it became my primary computer...and repetier-host for mac is TERRIBLE. It's way out of date and doesn't even support uploading to repetier-server :( The developers have basically abandoned it and instead say they want to focus on making repetier-server advanced enough so you can use it entirely over the web and not need repetier-host. So they're supposedly focusing on that instead of updating the mac version of host.

But I don't want to slice on server. The C.H.I.P runs server great but it's not really powerful enough that I want to slice on it. And since the mac version of repetier-host is so horrible I switched to just using slic3r straight without using rep-host as a plater. Thankfully the prusa updates to slic3r have really made it a lot nicer and I don't really miss rep-host now. Except slic3r can't upload to rep-server and since rep-server is closed source now the devs from slic3r have said they won't merge code that adds that functionality. slic3r does support uploading directly to octoprint though.

And there's a new android app for octoprint that's actually updated regularly and is pretty slick. In a lot of ways I prefer it over octoprints own web interface. It does have some quirks - like it doesn't always "reset" after a print so if it alerts me that a print finished it won't notice the next print unless I clear the notification from the previous print first. But overall it's pretty good. So I've switched back to octoprint again...and my biggest complaint is I have a really hard time getting it to play nice with a ssh tunnel.

To access my printer from anywhere I can get an internet connection I use an SSH tunnel. I have a $5 a month linode server I use for various things - so I just open a ssh tunnel on my C.H.I.P. redirecting a port on the linode server to the C.H.I.P. With rep-server I just had to make port 3344 on my linode direct to port 3344 on my C.H.I.P and boom - I could access my printer anywhere anytime. Was nice being able to slice a file at work and upload it so when I came home I just had to start a print.

With octoprint...things are trickier. I had to setup a proxy on the C.H.I.P. for security because octoprint isn't as locked down as repetier-server. And getting the proxy to redirect over SSH turned out to be a bigger pain for reasons I still can't figure out (though I did eventually get it working.) what took me an hour or so to setup with repetier took me 3 evenings of frustration with octoprint :p

But, I've got it working and I'm mostly used to it. The one thing that still bugs me is I can't use the octoprint API unless I'm on my local network for reasons I've yet to debug. It should work from what I can tell...but slic3r gets tangled up with the http authentication over the non-local connection (long story I could go into but this is pretty long already!)

Bottom line is...I love having a dedicated mini-computer like a Pi or CHIP for the printer - and I preferred repetier-server...but with their bad macos support and removing features from older versions don't want to give them any money now. So octoprint is tolerable...but is a bigger pain to setup and has more quirks IMHO.

octopi would make that a lot easier if you have a RaspPi on hand...since then almost everything is setup out of the box. Installing Octoprint on the CHIP isn't hard...but does take some unix knowledge to figure a few things out. And you have to do all of it manually, which again isn't hard but is a bit tedious.
 
#11
Thanks for the quality post jhitesma. Always impressed with your thoughtful posts and insights. Gives me a bunch to mull over.

Do you know if the older versions of the RaspberryPi are good for this or does it need to be a more current version? I have one from ~5 years ago that I was going to make a media player out of, but then the ChromeCast came out and that was way easier.
 
#12
So fairly quickly I switched to a server approach. Instead of a RaspPi though I use a C.H.I.P. (www.getchip.com) which is only $9 and has built in memory and wifi - so no need to add an SD card like a pi and doesn't have to be near ethernet (though mine is only a foot or so from my router so it wouldn't be a big deal - but the flexiblity of not being tied down other than power is still nice!)
I'm using a RaspPi 3 but the CHIP is certainly cheaper that the PI.

I tried both octoprint and repetier-server and found I actually preferred repetier-server. I wanted to like octoprint since it was more open - but the performance wasn't as good and it was more of a hassle to get up and going. Also all of the android apps for octo were out of date and clunky and the web interface wasn't as nice on mobile as repetiers. Even better I liked using repetier-host for preparing prints and it could send right to repetier-server and would show progress during prints as if I was hooked up over USB. So it was like the best of both worlds. I had the reliability of printing off SD but it felt more like printing off USB.
So far I like OctoPrint the lack of an decent mobile app is pretty annoying, but I'm a mobile developer for my day job and I'm MAC/iOS predominatly so I'm really thinking of eventually making a iOS app.

Then repeater server came out with a new version and dropped a lot of functionality. It's still available but only in the paid version. I knew they were planning on doing it but what upset me was they also disabled the functionality in older versions. Not releasing new functionality I could understand - but disabling already working functionality...that really rubbed me the wrong way. Still...I planned on getting the paid version eventually and started moving those plans up.
Thats really stinks. Thats pretty slimy in my opintion. I can see turning it off in new premium versions, but to turn it off in older versions is pretty lame. Just deprecate the version and drop support for it.

And there's a new android app for octoprint that's actually updated regularly and is pretty slick. In a lot of ways I prefer it over octoprints own web interface. It does have some quirks - like it doesn't always "reset" after a print so if it alerts me that a print finished it won't notice the next print unless I clear the notification from the previous print first. But overall it's pretty good. So I've switched back to octoprint again...and my biggest complaint is I have a really hard time getting it to play nice with a ssh tunnel.

To access my printer from anywhere I can get an internet connection I use an SSH tunnel. I have a $5 a month linode server I use for various things - so I just open a ssh tunnel on my C.H.I.P. redirecting a port on the linode server to the C.H.I.P. With rep-server I just had to make port 3344 on my linode direct to port 3344 on my C.H.I.P and boom - I could access my printer anywhere anytime. Was nice being able to slice a file at work and upload it so when I came home I just had to start a print.
I have not done anything with SSH yet with it other than SSH to the Pi directly. I know there are some plugins that will aid in linking it up with sound of the Cloud based services to allow anywhere access.

But, I've got it working and I'm mostly used to it. The one thing that still bugs me is I can't use the octoprint API unless I'm on my local network for reasons I've yet to debug. It should work from what I can tell...but slic3r gets tangled up with the http authentication over the non-local connection (long story I could go into but this is pretty long already!)
I have not looked at their API yet at all is it REST based?

octopi would make that a lot easier if you have a RaspPi on hand...since then almost everything is setup out of the box. Installing Octoprint on the CHIP isn't hard...but does take some unix knowledge to figure a few things out. And you have to do all of it manually, which again isn't hard but is a bit tedious.

OctoPi was a piece of cake. I essentially imaged the SD card booted and was pretty much ready to go. I've been installing some additional plugins. I need to look into their API some and figure out whats going on with that. I'd really liike a good native app for iOS. The TouchUI plugin and the Anywhere plugin are nice but I'd still like to have the ability with the app to use it as a joystick for the steppers and move it with out having to have the mac next to me.
 

jhitesma

Some guy in the desert
Mentor
#13
Thanks for the quality post jhitesma. Always impressed with your thoughtful posts and insights. Gives me a bunch to mull over.

Do you know if the older versions of the RaspberryPi are good for this or does it need to be a more current version? I have one from ~5 years ago that I was going to make a media player out of, but then the ChromeCast came out and that was way easier.
I didn't mean to get quite that lengthy with it...but sometimes I just can't help myself once I get started - so glad to hear it was helpful :D

I'm not sure what the hardware requirements on octoPi are...I have an original RaspPi myself (model A I think...maybe a B...not sure anymore) which I use with an RTL-SDR as an ADS-B receiver - and it just barely has the power to keep up with that. But...that's a lot more intensive of a computing application than just running octoprint - unless you're slicing in octoprint. My gut tells me just about any Pi should work...the site seems to imply as much too: "Compatible with Raspberry Pi A, B, A+, B+, B2, 3, Zero and Zero W."

My big concern would be mjpeg streamer if you want to use a webcam or pi cam for watching prints. Using a USB cam with my chip noticeably affects it's performance. The pi cam may be more optimal on a pi though since you don't have the overhead of USB to deal with.

My ADS-B receiver is actually floundering right now...the latest update from flightaware isn't very happy with my old hardware. I've been meaning to bring it in and replace the SD card too as I think the card might be failing. If I have a suitable card laying around maybe I'll give it a go with octopi if I get bored this weekend ;)
 

jhitesma

Some guy in the desert
Mentor
#14
I'm using a RaspPi 3 but the CHIP is certainly cheaper that the PI.
Yeah, I'm cheap and had the CHIP on hand looking for something to do with it :) I've never been a huge Pi fan...I want to be a fan but ... it just doesn't "fit" for anything I can think of to do with it. It's not really powerful enough to be used as a "computer" and lacks the I/O to be used like a micro. It's just kind of this halfway thing that tries to be both but fails. At least, the original Pi. The 3 seems like it may be powerful enough to be interesting...but I'm just not in a big rush to pick any up. Icee keeps trying to talk me into building one of his FlyingPi's (https://forum.dronin.org/forum/d/20-flyingpi-advanced-flight-controller-for-robotics-machine-vision) which is one of the few applications for the Pi that seems to make some sense to me...but I'm still not convinced it actually has enough power to be worthwhile. Though it is tempting having a full linux system to work with on a FC.

So far I like OctoPrint the lack of an decent mobile app is pretty annoying, but I'm a mobile developer for my day job and I'm MAC/iOS predominatly so I'm really thinking of eventually making a iOS app.
Printoid for android is the one I'm using and am quite happy with. I like macos (though admittedly I still HATE finder and apples keyboard handling drives me up the wall...but iTerm2 with zsh freaking rocks!) but I'm not a fan of iOS. I do web development and some system administration for my day job and have dabbled in mobile development with libGDX - but never tried building for iOS since I didn't have a mac to build on at the time I was dabbling. Now I've got a mac but haven't got around to messing with mobile again. I'd dust off my old game project...but libGDX has changed so much it would probably just be easier to start from scratch than try to update my code :p My daughter still enjoys playing it sometimes though so the week of free time I spent on it was time well spent :) (Side note...wow...can't believe that was 4 years ago I did that...feels like it was a lot more recent!)

I'm not sure what iOS options there are for octoprint...I was under the impression there were better options there than for android when I first tried it last year and the only android options were outdated or really clunky.


Thats really stinks. Thats pretty slimy in my opintion. I can see turning it off in new premium versions, but to turn it off in older versions is pretty lame. Just deprecate the version and drop support for it.
Yeah, really soured me on them. repetier started as an open source project but has slowly gotten more and more closed. I respect that they're trying to make a living out of it...but that kind of strong arm move is a bad way to try and influence potential customers IMHO. They did say that they were beta features only available until the release came out...but they never said that they'd take the features out of the beta when they did the release...and they didn't really do a release. Just declared the beta good enough and renamed it as a release more or less with no new features. If they had added some new functionality it would have helped soften the blow.

I was actually considering trying repetier firmware on my machine I was so happy with host/server....it looks like a pretty slick setup with much easier configuration than Marlin. But don't see myself doing that anytime soon now. I was actually getting ready to test using repetier-server to flash new versions of marlin - but that was one of the things they removed when they left beta :p

I did get that kind of working on octoprint with a plugin...but I've had mixed results with it and sometimes it just hangs. It isn't in the official plugin listings but there is a flashing plugin on github: https://github.com/OctoPrint/OctoPrint-FirmwareUpdater

I've also switched from using arduino's IDE to platformIO and deviot in sublimetext for building Marlin which is quite nice since the arduino IDE has always bugged me. My only complaint is platformIO leaves the .hex file in a non-obvious place and I haven't had time to figure out how to make it copy it to a better location after compiling. One more thing on my list of things I'll probably keep putting off :D


I have not done anything with SSH yet with it other than SSH to the Pi directly. I know there are some plugins that will aid in linking it up with sound of the Cloud based services to allow anywhere access.
Yeah, there are a couple of different plugins for octoprint that use various cloud services. And there are things like ngrok and pagekite...but I'm not a fan of relying on a proprietary 3rd party service when there's an existing tech that already "just works" like ssh port tunneling. Though for people who don't already have an internet accessible server like my linode those are great options.

There's also the option of using dyndns or noip to just make your local network accessible...but I've never had good luck with my routers built in support for those services and don't like having to run an app on one of my computers just to keep my IP updated with them. Plus it's kind of a pain to safely and securely configure the firewall in my router going that way.

So for me using an SSH tunnel which I'm familiar with is the easiest and quickest way :) But it's probably not the best bet for everyone ;)


I have not looked at their API yet at all is it REST based?
Yes it is: http://docs.octoprint.org/en/master/api/index.html

The problem is the way I have HAProxy configured right now is forcing htaccess authentication on the API requests...which is silly since the API has it's own key based system for security. I just pretty blindly followed the info in the octoprint wiki on how to configure HAproxy instead of taking the time to actually understand HAproxy though....I'm sure a bit of time looking at it and I can tweak the config to allow API traffic through without authentication....(like give it an exception when the X-Api-Key header is set.) I just haven't felt like putting any time into it since it's a minor annoyance.


OctoPi was a piece of cake. I essentially imaged the SD card booted and was pretty much ready to go. I've been installing some additional plugins. I need to look into their API some and figure out whats going on with that. I'd really liike a good native app for iOS. The TouchUI plugin and the Anywhere plugin are nice but I'd still like to have the ability with the app to use it as a joystick for the steppers and move it with out having to have the mac next to me.
Printoid on android has really impressed me....but....octoprint overall is a bit slow for my tastes. Even going through the web interface I find it annoying how slow the machine is to respond to inputs from the motion controls in the GUI. Commands sent directly through the console seem to work quick so I'm not sure why octoprint's GUI is so sluggish on the CHIP. The load on the CHIP is almost non-existent so I don't think it's a processing power issue. Just something about octoprint is non-optimal with how it handles some things it seems.
 
#15
Icee keeps trying to talk me into building one of his FlyingPi's (https://forum.dronin.org/forum/d/20-flyingpi-advanced-flight-controller-for-robotics-machine-vision) which is one of the few applications for the Pi that seems to make some sense to me...but I'm still not convinced it actually has enough power to be worthwhile. Though it is tempting having a full linux system to work with on a FC.
Well thats interesting I'll have to go look at that. I have not seen that. Shoot with the 3D printer and a Pi that could be a fun project.


I'm not sure what iOS options there are for octoprint...I was under the impression there were better options there than for android when I first tried it last year and the only android options were outdated or really clunky.
There are a few. I may just end up getting one of them to try and if I don't like it write my own. I would do it for iOS and Android.

There's also the option of using dyndns or noip to just make your local network accessible...but I've never had good luck with my routers built in support for those services and don't like having to run an app on one of my computers just to keep my IP updated with them. Plus it's kind of a pain to safely and securely configure the firewall in my router going that way.

So for me using an SSH tunnel which I'm familiar with is the easiest and quickest way :) But it's probably not the best bet for everyone ;)
Yeah it never seems to work real well and I'm with TimeWarner and they don't give static IPs. All my equipment is technically enterprise grade but low end enterprise. So I'll likely just do some port forwarding. If I get super slick I'll stick this in its on DMZ of my Firewall.


Yes it is: http://docs.octoprint.org/en/master/api/index.html

The problem is the way I have HAProxy configured right now is forcing htaccess authentication on the API requests...which is silly since the API has it's own key based system for security. I just pretty blindly followed the info in the octoprint wiki on how to configure HAproxy instead of taking the time to actually understand HAproxy though....I'm sure a bit of time looking at it and I can tweak the config to allow API traffic through without authentication....(like give it an exception when the X-Api-Key header is set.) I just haven't felt like putting any time into it since it's a minor annoyance.
Yeah you would think that would work together.

Printoid on android has really impressed me....but....octoprint overall is a bit slow for my tastes. Even going through the web interface I find it annoying how slow the machine is to respond to inputs from the motion controls in the GUI. Commands sent directly through the console seem to work quick so I'm not sure why octoprint's GUI is so sluggish on the CHIP. The load on the CHIP is almost non-existent so I don't think it's a processing power issue. Just something about octoprint is non-optimal with how it handles some things it seems.
On the 3 there is just a slight delay when I use the manual controls on the steppers. I've not really noticed to much of a delay at all but I might be biased since I work with software every day and expect things like that. ha!
 
#16
So. First twist. I evidently can't read as I ordered a Tronxy P802MA printer and not a Anet A8.

Anyone know anything on it? I haven't done anything with it yet so may still be able to return it and get a Anet as planned.

My research shows the general opinion that the Tronxy is "better" than the A8. More sturdy construction, better board, better extruder, and requires less tinkering to get up to 100% capabilities. Biggest con is that the community is much smaller.
 
#17
So. First twist. I evidently can't read as I ordered a Tronxy P802MA printer and not a Anet A8.

Anyone know anything on it? I haven't done anything with it yet so may still be able to return it and get a Anet as planned.

My research shows the general opinion that the Tronxy is "better" than the A8. More sturdy construction, better board, better extruder, and requires less tinkering to get up to 100% capabilities. Biggest con is that the community is much smaller.

What you mentioned is my understanding as well. My guess is its pretty close to the A8. There is definitely a good community behind the A8. I know eventually, I'm going to buy a second printer and was looking at the Tronxy just to compare.

My A8 is in torn apart right now, had a print go bad and didn't catch it and clogged my extruder.
 
#18
Think I am going to give it a shot.

Have to shelve the stuff I bought to upgrade the A8, but if I end up not liking the Tronxy after setup I think I will sell and re-invest into an A8. I am thinking I can recover almost 100% of the cost of the printer if I sell it as "saved you the setup and tweaking time".

I can use the bearings for an upgrade and the 3 prong power input and switch and maybe the power supply. It is much better than the stock on the A8, but I have seen some come with a short in them.
 
#19
Time to dust this off.

Update: I built the Tronxy and within the week the board blew. Got a new one out of them with some insistence that shouldn't happen. Instead of kicking it back off I decided to sell it off like I had mentioned before. It had a weird habit of not finishing the roundness properly on a cylinder on the back side, Thingiverse had a fairly limited number of upgrades available, and the user support just seemed lacking. I was going to stay out of the 3D world, but so many uses keep presenting themselves.

For Christmas my big gift was a A8. So I am going to give it another shot. Hopefully being on the more supported platform I can get further.

Hope to begin the build tonight.