Archives March 2020

Best Anet A8 Upgrades and Mods [2021]

When it comes to technology some people like to use their devices just as they’re supposed to. Then, three are those who have to see exactly what they can get their tech to do. These are the over-clockers and people who find innovative and creative uses for their gadgets.

One of the more common devices that people like to upgrade is their 3D printers and the Anet A8 3D printer is no exception. This budget-friendly printer is great for beginners who want to get into the 3D printing niche without spending an arm and a leg.

When it comes to the Anet A8, upgrading the machine can make it more stable while providing additional functionality and features. Of course, upgrades on a 3D printer involves more than just changing out a few pieces. It can be much more complicated than that.

Don’t worry though. Even though it sounds a little daunting, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. For starters, you can print most of the mods for your A8 right on the device itself. That’ll help keep your overall expenses down as you go about upgrading your 3D printer. With that said, here’s our list of the best Anet A8 upgrades.

 

Safety Must-Haves

The Anet A8 upgrade options in this category are the ones we consider to be some of the most important for this machine. They make it more stable and protect your device from failure.

MOSFET

This add-on is one you simply must get. The default print bed is heated, so it draws a lot of power. Unfortunately, the manufacturer didn’t make the mainboard durable enough to handle that amount of power.

If you often print materials that require the bed to sustain heat for a long time, the mainboard may get overloaded, meaning catching fire to your A8. The MOSFET adds an extra layer of protection to your printer. It prevents the mainboard from getting overwhelmed with the amount of power needed to keep the print bed heated and is a necessary safeguard against burning the whole house down.

The extruder on the A8 also has a heating element, so installing a second MOSFET could be extra precautionary, but not absolutely necessary. While the A8 mainboard can handle the power that the extruder needs, they’re only $20 each, so it’s a worthwhile investment.

MOSFET | Amazon
$11.99

Completely solve the hot bed power is too large and load current problems, and can well protect the connectors on the controller board from overheating.

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05/16/2021 11:12 am GMT

Marlin Firmware

The default firmware on the A8 comes with the thermal runaway protection disabled, making it unsafe. It could be another reason why your equipment catches fire. At the very least, it can cause hardware failure.

Upgrading the firmware is essential for a safer and more stable experience. Marlin offers the best compatible firmware for the A8, but Repetier is another great option.

Power Supply Unit

The Anet A8 printer is like a lot of other cheaper DIY 3D printer kits. It’s limited to 3D print PLA filament out of the box and it comes with a PSU that’s simply not powerful enough to handle high-temperature prints. If you want to print with high-temperature materials, you need to upgrade the PSU first.

There are several options out there. The Mean Well LRS-350-12 is less than $50. Even if you don’t plan to print with high-temperature materials like PETG, Nylon, or ABS, upgrading your PSU to handle more power consumption is a good investment in the long term.

Meanwell PSU | Amazon
$33.99

The Meanwell PSU is a great and easy way to upgrade your 3D Printer, so you can get the best of it!

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05/16/2021 07:10 am GMT

Performance Must-Haves

These don’t make your machine safer, but they enhance performance, making it easier to use and more versatile. These upgrades increase your print quality, giving you increased functionality that you will quickly learn you can’t live without.

Bowden Feeder System

The direct feeder system on the Anet A8 printer puts more weight on the print head, slowing the print speed. You can boost your print speed by switching to a Bowden feeder system instead.

Take a look at Thingiverse for several different Bowden mounts. The modular Bowden mount by TNS is one of the most popular. It’s important to remember that the Bowden setup does have some disadvantages, so take a look at the pros and cons before making a decision. The primary benefit of the Bowden system is increased print speed.

Belt Tensioners

Providing enough tension on the X and Y axis ensures that your belts stay tight. This can improve both print speed and quality. If you mount belt tensioners on your A8, you can adjust the tightness of your belts as needed.

If you do plan to install belt tensioners, make sure you also install a brace to give your Y-axis more stability. Belt tensioners can add strain to the frame. You should also replace the stock belts when you add tensioners because the stock belts stretch faster as you increase tension.

AM8 Belt Tensioner | Amazon
$30.89

Aluminum Belt Tensioner for AM8 Extrusion Metal Frame 3D Printer which is used to tighten the Y-axis belt to improve print quality.

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05/16/2021 11:11 am GMT

E3D Extruder and Hotend Upgrade

We already know that out of the box, the A8 can really only handle PLA. Once you perform upgrades to handle more advanced materials, your stock extruder may not be equipped to handle it.

It’s hard to print with exotic filaments such as Nylon, ABS, TPU, or PETG with that stock extruder unless you replace it with an E3D Titan extruder and an E3D v6 hotend.

Combining these upgrades allows you to print with a wider array of materials and your extruder is less prone to clogging. While the upgrade will cost more than $100, it’s well worth it if you decide to branch out on materials.

E3D All-metal v6 HotEnd Full Kit | Amazon
$54.00

 A sharp thermal break gives better control over filament output so you get more immediate start and stops when extruding as well as retracts that are more effective in combating ooze. This means sharper, more accurate prints that have less stringing, oozing or blobbing.

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05/16/2021 02:09 am GMT

Center Nozzle Fan

You can also improve your overall print quality with a centre nozzle fan. It improves the cooling system by acting as an extension of the existing extruder cooling fan. You can get a full circle cooling fan or a half-circle version.

Gimax Fan extruder 40x40mm-9 Blades | Amazon
$26.89

High quality 3D printer 4010 Cooling fan, Original boutique. Mute, environmental protection, safety, high-quality raw materials, fine workmanship.

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05/16/2021 03:09 am GMT

Filament Guide

Poor cable management plagues the A8 because of the small profile of the machine. There’s no filament guide at all on the stock machine. You can’t expect the filament flow to be organized without one.

You can address the issue with a dedicated filament guide. Mount it on the frame for a smoother filament flow. It increases performance and can also improve your print quality.

Fiberglass Reinforced Belt

The A8 comes with stock belts that stretch quickly and easily. If you’ve already done the belt tensioner mod, you should have already replaced the belts. If you haven’t done that yet, fibreglass-reinforced belts are a great option.

You can get 5-meter fibreglass-reinforced belts for less than $10 each, so it won’t cost you a lot. It will run smoother and quieter, and these belts will last for a lot longer than the stock belts.

Fiberglass Reinforced Belt | Amazon
$13.88

This is the most common and most widely appreciated type of reinforcement.

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05/16/2021 03:09 am GMT

Linear Bearing Upgrade

The A8 makes a lot of noise, which you should probably expect for something in its price point and with such an open design. However, it’s easy to fix with an upgrade. Swap the stock bearings with Igus bearings. A seven-pack will cost less than $10.

These bearings are self-lubricating and made of solid polymer. They offer smoother performance and much quieter operation.

Linear Bearing Upgrade | Amazon
$13.99

Used for the design of linear motion products, it can cooperate with linear bearings to ensure excellent sports performance under high load or long stroke occasions.

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05/16/2021 03:09 am GMT

Frame Braces

The unstable frame on your A8 can cause poor quality print jobs, but you can make it more stable by purchasing braces for the front and the back, as well as a T-corner brace for your Z-axis.

3D Printer Solid Polymer Bearing 8mm shaft | Amazon
$9.68

High Quality RJ4JP-01-08 Sold polymer Linear bearing a direct replacement for the metal LM8UU bearing commonly used in many 3D Printers. Ideal for RepRap, Prusa, Mendel, etc. 

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05/16/2021 05:10 am GMT

Print Bed Upgrade

Switching to a glass print bed offers a platform that’s easy to clean and a flatter surface for increased print job quality. They’ll cost you less than $30, but it does have a few downsides. Glass has slow heat distribution and you may also want to add extra wires to your bed connector.

Glass Printer Bed | Amazon

This is a universal print surface for 3D Printing. Almost all types of filament will print to glass in one way or another. Just place the Glass Print bed on your print board and clip it in place!

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Best Anet A8 Upgrades: Nice to Haves

While you don’t have to perform the following upgrades, they do enhance your user experience. It makes your A8 easier to use, but you’ll have to evaluate our budget first. Some are pricey.

Bed Thumbwheel Upgrade

Levelling your bed manually can be hard. Thumbwheels are hard to turn if you can even get a good grip on them at all. The entire process is a huge hassle. Replacing the thumbwheels with a brand new set of those you 3D printed yourself could make your bed calibration more tolerable.

Anet Aluminum Heated Bed | Amazon
$18.99

Large-size aluminum printing platform which can bear higher temperature.

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05/16/2021 11:11 am GMT

Auto-Level Sensor

Skip manual bed levelling altogether with auto-levelling technology. While the A8 comes with a manual system that often can take an hour to complete. Installing your own auto-level sensor makes the whole process easier, but make sure it’s compatible with your print bed first.

Anet Auto Leveling Position Sensor for Anet A8 | Amazon

This auto-leveling device can only be used on Auto-leveling Anet A8, other 3D printers are compatible, need your own control parameters, and to confirm whether the machine has automatic leveling function. 

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Extruder Button

Sometimes it’s the little things that improve your experience the most. Upgrading your extruder button with a mod you print yourself can make your filament changing easier and much more comfortable on your fingers.

Raspberry Pi Camera and Bed Mount

You can already control and monitor your A8 remotely with OctoPrint, which is a nice feature given how loud the machine is. If you upgrade your Raspberry Pi camera to v2, you can also watch the print progress. The downside here is that there’s no mount for the camera module on the A8, so you have to build your own.

Raspberry Pi Camera and Bed Mount | Amazon
$8.19

This interface uses the dedicated CSI interface, via the CSI bus, a higher bandwidth link which carries pixel data from the camera back to the processor, high data rates, and it exclusively carries pixel data.

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05/16/2021 03:09 am GMT

Alternative: You can sub an Arduino kit instead.

Power Switch

Out of the box, the A8 doesn’t even have a power switch. If you want to turn it off, you have to unplug it. It’s a crude design feature, but it helps keep the price down. It’s pretty easy to install your own power switch, and it costs practically nothing.

Pretty Upgrades

These upgrades make your printer much nicer to look at. Let’s be honest. It’s not the most attractive 3D printer on the market. These upgrades are by no means necessary for increased performance, but it might make you feel like your machine is more premium than it is.

Not only that, but it definitely helps to make your A8 look more organized, which is a big deal for people who like a neat and clean look.

Cooling Fan Cover

This mod doesn’t need an explanation. Cover up your cooling fan with a printable piece you can make yourself. Covering up parts like fans that are normally covered on other machines makes it look more sophisticated.

Cable Chains

Your A8 already has poor cable management. Using cable chains can keep all of your messy cables organized. Your frame will look more organized, too. Instead of wrapping them with electrical tape, look into using cable chains to keep them in check.

3D Printer Timing Belt | Amazon
$13.88

This low-maintenance, cost-effective alternate drive great for positioning and linear movement for your 3D Printer.

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05/16/2021 03:09 am GMT

Electronics Case

Exposed electronics aren’t attractive, but they’re not safe either. You can get electronics cases everywhere, but c_wolsey designed one that includes an OctoPrint Raspberry Pi camera mount. Best of all, it’s on Thingiverse.

MOSFET Holder

Mount your MOSFET upgrade using a MOSFET holder. You can mount it on the frame either horizontally or vertically, whichever you like best.

M8 Nut Cap

Cover your exposed nuts and bolts with the M8 Nut Cap. You can pick a color that matches your printer or you can choose a contrasting color to spice it up.

Power Supply Cover

Cover your power supply with an upgrade made by the same designer of the M8 Nut Cap and the cooling fan cover we mentioned above. It covers your power supply and has an opening for your power switch upgrade, too.

Not For the Faint of Heart Upgrades

These advanced upgrades should be performed after you have a better understanding of how your A8 works. They require time and money, so you’re going to need to be committed. However, they will make your machine feel brand new, so they offer a lot of long-term value.

Controller Board Upgrade

The stock controller board on the A8 isn’t built for long-term use or durability. It’ll last for a few months, but you’ll eventually want to upgrade to something that is more capable. The UltiMachine Rambo is one of the most popular boards, but it’s more than $150, which is as much as a brand new A8.

Aluminum Frame Upgrade

The A8 frame is acrylic, so it’s not super durable or attractive. You can improve stability and durability at high temperatures. Switching out the frame isn’t easy. You have to make sure your measurements are precise or the parts won’t fit.

However, this upgrade is not nearly as expensive as the controller board upgrade, and it’s still just as functional.

ANET A8 3D Printer | Amazon

Made from piano-black laser-cut acrylic frame. To maintain the garage-built feel and the handmade charm.

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FAQs About the Best Anet A8 Upgrades

How do I improve my Anet A8 print quality?

There are several upgrades that help to improve print quality. Because of a lack of stability and cable management, the upgrades that do the most to improve print quality are those that stabilize the frame, organize the cables, and control the filament.

How do I make my Anet A8 safe?

Lack of safety in the A8 stems from how much power the heated bed draws. Installing things like MOSFETs to help control the power and protect your machine from malfunctioning or catching fire.

Upgrading firmware and the power supply can also help keep your machine safer.

How do I update firmware on Anet A8?

The stock firmware is based on Marlin, and there are several Marlin firmware upgrades available. Here’s how to upgrade your firmware with ease:

  1. Choose which firmware you want to use.
  2. Download the firmware.
  3. Configure the A8 configuration board.
  4. Overwrite the current Marlin code.
  5. Connect your printer to your computer via USB.
  6. Upload the code to your printer.

How do I use Anet A8?

The Anet A8 reads gcode files. Here are the steps for printing from a gcode file:

  1. Make sure the gcode file is on the root of your SD card.
  2. Put your SD card in the Anet A8 printer.
  3. Press the centre button to get to the main menu and select SD Card>Mount.
  4. Go to the Print File access.
  5. Select the gcode file you want to print.

The A8 will respond accordingly and begin printing.

The Verdict on Anet A8 Upgrades

The Anet A8 is a popular 3D printer because of its accessibility. It’s affordable, and it’s a great choice for a lot of beginners. However, there are a lot of needed upgrades. Some should be done immediately for safety while others can be done as you get more familiar with your machine and want to increase its functionality.

No matter how you’re using your Anet A8, these upgrades are well worth the time and money rather than buying a new machine.

3D Printer Recommended Reads:

How to Find the Best Nylon 3D Printer in 2021

Best Nylon 3D Printer

Nylon is designed to give you a next-level experience with 3D printing. As a printing material, it’s just as versatile as more common filaments like PLS or ABS, but it has the added advantages of flexibility, tensile strength, and extraordinarily high layer resolution.

Its low friction coefficient and high melting temperature (and melting point) make it great for parts that have to move against each other without breaking like gears; other types of filaments are too brittle for the kind of wear and tear inner workings often exhibit.

Nylon is also called Polyamide, which means it’s a synthetic polymer that is made by linking an amino group of one molecule with the carboxylic molecule of another. That makes nylon plastic with super long, heavy molecules built from short but endlessly repeating sections of atoms. Think of chains made out of lots of individual links to get the idea.

Nylon’s structure is what gives its strength to any 3D filament made from it, and it also gives nylon filament material the stretchability that makes it so easy to spin into a filament in the first place. It’s got a lot of usage beyond industrial parts, too – anything you need to print with strong flexibility is a great choice for nylon 3D filaments.

Unfortunately, you can’t just switch out your current filament with nylon material and start printing without a few key considerations. But after you read these recommendations, you’ll be ready to either adjust your own flexible 3D printing rig or find a whole new one that’s more than up to the task.

What Are Some Good Nylon 3D Printers?

These are the best nylon 3D printers we’ve tested:

Nylon 3D Printer Pros and Cons

Pros of Working with Nylon

Strength and Flexibility

These are the traits you will hear touted over and over again when you work with nylon, and there are plenty of good reasons for this. Most notably, you’ll get around the inherent brittleness found in a lot of other common thermoplastics that stop them from being truly useful replacements for machine parts that experience a lot of grinding. Parts printed with nylon filaments don’t have that issue.

The thinner nylon is stretched, the better it can show off its strength, which it exhibits so easily from the fact that its molecular structure lets it bend under pressure. These traits let you experiment with animating 3D printing objects that you may have previously used only for show.

High Layer Resolution

Most people think of layer resolution as the amount of material used for each layer and how detailed that can make your final object. But that aspect of resolution is only half the story. It’s important to look at all the axes – X, Y, and Z – to calculate the true level of detail you’ll be able to get, and nylon is a star on all sides.

Its flexibility lends its the ability to produce thinner layers of print, which lets you get extremely detailed, and depending on your nozzle size, its precise melting temperature makes it stick to itself like Spiderman’s web holding a bus together. Plus, it won’t shrink down as much as more brittle materials like the more common PLA or ABS.

Resistance to Impact

Nylon’s strength is truly in its flexibility. Since the material has given, it rolls with the punches, which for 3D printed objects translates to not shattering into a million pieces you spent hours putting together in the first place when it’s dropped. And this is great for more than an insurance against clumsy hands and shaky shelves. If you’re looking to print an object that you want to put through the wringer, nylon’s the perfect material.

One fun project to test this is to print an egg cradle, like old school physics classes used to show the impact of gravity. If you’re into pitting things against each other, print one from PLA, one from ABS, and one from nylon, and see which one keeps the egg nice and cozy. (Hint: it’ll be the nylon!)

No Unpleasant Odor

Most thermoplastic filaments give off a distinctive and, let’s be honest, gross smell when they’re being used in a 3D printer. Not that we blame them; plastic is going to stink however you decide to melt it. But if you’re resigned to it as just an unfortunate quirk of the 3D printing process, you need to try printing with nylon. At its optimal bed temperature, it doesn’t give off any odor.

If this sounds like a trivial issue to you, try it once, and see how much more pleasant your experience is. And this is key to working well in either an enclosed area where you don’t have ventilation technology or a shared area where more than one person will be 3D printing or where multiple machines will be in constant use (like a fabrication shop).

Resistance to Continuous Abrasion (Abrasion Resistance)

Of course, this is good news for more than your eggs. Nylon’s refusal to get chipped or worn down from repeated beatings makes it a favorite for internal industrial machine work like gears.

Its resilience and print quality makes it perfect for parts that you can’t afford to replace regularly, especially if that’s because the parts are going to be grinding against each other or another abrasive surface for hours at a time multiple times a week.

Thanks to nylon’s affordable availability, this applies just as much to the desktop operation of your favorite movable action figures as it does to your pro level machine shop, so it’s a great material to invest in for your rugged 3D printing needs.

Availability and Cost

With all these specialized perks, nylon sounds like it’d be an expensive, difficult printer filament to find. But it’s not – it’s just a few bucks more per spool than more popular material, and your favorite source for PLA or ABS more than likely stocks nylon, too. It’s plentiful enough to experiment with and get to know, which is something you’ll be glad you did.

NOTE: You can check out the selection of nylon printer filament here on Amazon, or the specialty options here on MatterHackers.

Cons of Working with Nylon

Attracts Water Very Easily

Nylon attracts and absorbs moisture at a rate far greater than other 3D printing filaments. It can absorb up to 10% of its own weight in less than 24 hours; nylon is a polar structure, which means within its molecules, positive and negative charges are arranged asymmetrically.

This makes it easy for water molecules to latch onto them and absorb into the nylon’s structure, zapping it of its strength and making it unravel. This means that you have to do more than make sure you don’t use nylon to print flower vases or coffee mugs – you need a special storage system to make sure your unused printer filament doesn’t absorb any moisture from the air when you’re not using it, and you have to monitor the humidity of your work environment to make sure it stays optimal for working with this material.

If you print with nylon filament that isn’t dry, the water it retains explodes within the printer filament, causing air bubbles that will ruin the layer adhesion and surface finish. You can make sure your nylon filament is dry by heating your oven to 160 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit (70 – 82 degrees Celsius) and “baking” the nylon for 6 – 8 hours.

Otherwise, you need to keep it in an air-tight container and make sure it stays in a dry storage environment. The desiccant is another handy tool you can use. It’s those packets of small beads labeled “do not eat” you find in new purses, shoes, or other goods that don’t need to attract moisture, and you can buy them with a simple internet search.

NOTE: We picked up some premium air-tight containers to maintain our print quality at this listing with MatterHackers.

Warping

Because of nylon’s flexibility, its structure is more prone to warping than filaments with less give. You need to keep a close eye out on the adhesion your filament makes with your heated bed, especially if you are not working with a specialized gripper surface.

Applying a PVA-based adhesive to your printing surface makes a world of difference, and if you’re worried that sounds too fancy for your budget or skill set, don’t be – it’s those same Elmer’s glue sticks you used all through school.

Laying down a solid base for the first layer’s adhesion builds a good foundation for the rest of the object. Plus, don’t use that parts cooling fan you rely on to speed up your object’s completion. If you use that on nylon, it will weaken the material’s bond and encourage warping in the overall shape.

Needs a Higher Head Temperature Than Most Built-In Nozzles Can Deliver

Nylon’s trickier manipulation quirks mean it needs a specific temperature range that standard 3D printers are not built to handle straight out of their boxes. Generally, it needs an extruder temperature of 240 – 260 degrees Celsius, depending on the specifics of the flexible filament brand.

Standard heater heads are made of PEEK (polyether ether ketone / polylactic acid) and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), both of which start to break down and emit noxious fumes at the low end of the temperature range you need to print with nylon. Find yourself an all-metal extruder nozzle, and you should be good to go since those are able to heat up to high temperatures without any structural issues.

NOTE: Determining the right hot end is key here. We’ve had luck with retrofitting all kinds of 3D printers with the E3D V6 hot ends from MatterHackers here.

Needs to Fully Cool at Its Own Speed

As tempting as its ability to cut your finish time in half may be, don’t use that parts cooling fan you rely on to speed up your object’s completion. If you use that on nylon, it will force water and air bubbles into the layers of your print, and as we mentioned above, that will turn your filament into a mess of un-sticky noodles.

So let your nylon print cool away from any winds or drafts, intentionally made or otherwise, and you’ll preserve that buttery surface finish for which nylon is so coveted as a filament.

What to Look For in Your Gear

Don’t let nylon’s quirks keep you from enjoying its perks. If you’re worried about working with a tricky material, you can rest easy knowing that just a few simple, accessible adjustments can make your 3D printer work great with nylon.

  • If you’re looking for the best and quickest adjustment, get a detachable all-metal extruder nozzle. They’re sold separately and cheaply, and after you’re done printing with nylon, you can go right back to your printer’s original head without more trouble than changing a light bulb. And heck, if you want to set up a nylon-exclusive printer, there are plenty out there that come with permanent metal-only extruders, so you don’t have to even think about your heater head’s temperature.
  • Another easy fix that will make dramatic improvements to your nylon builds is making sure your heated bed is covered in the right surface. If you are using a glass print bed, make sure it can be heated. That is vital for the stability of your nylon print. Alternatively, you can use Garolite for your heated bed. It’s a linen-based phenolic sheet made by impregnating glass cloth with an epoxy resin under pressure and heat. You will need a build plate that can transfer heat to the Garolite build surface, but it’s worth it for the print bed adhesion you will get.
  • You should also look for airtight containers that can store your nylon – some 3D printers have compartments built into the printer body itself, but check the seals before you decide those are enough. Those that aren’t specifically made for nylon may have air leakage issues, but airtight storage is good for several other types of durable filament material as well, so they are more common than you might think.

There are also 3D printers available built exclusively to print with nylon filament types. If you’re done testing the material and are ready to use nylon on an industrial scale for durable additive manufacturing, it may be worth investing in one of these bad boys, so you have all the settings and parts already adjusted as needed.

Conclusion: Top Nylon 3D Printers

Nylon is a great durable filament to work with. It’s got strength and flexibility beyond what you can find in the more popular PLAs and ABSs, and in spite of its tricky reputation, it’s not that much more difficult than working with either of those introductory materials.

You’ll fall in love with its layer resolution as well, which brings exquisite detail to your finished prints. You do have to keep several things in mind before you work with it, but once you’ve gotten those easy couple of pointers down, you’ll be ready to print with nylon in no time.

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