Anycubic i3 Mega: Great first 3D printer

I've followed the 3D printing scene on and off for a while, but just recently bought my first printer. Until now, printers have either been too expensive, or required too much work assembling and maintaining. However, the Anycubic i3 Mega seemed to be a big improvements on both fronts.

About the printer

The Anycubic i3 Mega is a so-called cartesian style printer. That means it has a build plate that moves back and forth, and a print head that moves from side to side, as well as up and down.

It feels very sturdy and has many nice features that competitors in this price range can't match. More on this later. All in all, the printer cost me around $300 including shipping, from AliExpress.

Terminology

This post is aimed at 3D printer newbies like myself, so there may be some new words and terms for many of you to learn. Here are the most important ones:

  • Filament: The roll of plastic fed into the printer. The Anycubic i3 Mega uses 1.75mm plastic.
  • Extruder: The motor that pushes the plastic filament through the tube.
  • Print head: Where the plastic is melted, and pushed through the nozzle. There is also a cooling fan that cools the plastic immediately after it's put onto the model.
  • Print bed / heated bed: The print surface. It is kept at 50-70 degrees C while printing in order for the print not to fall off
  • PLA: The easiest type of plastic to print with. More forgiving with regards to print temperatures, and has almost no smell to it while printing.

Assembly

All the cheap 3D printers I've looked at in the past have come as kits requiring a lot of manual assembly work. Being new to 3D printing, I did not want to risk breaking anything building a printer myself.

Luckily, the assembly of the i3 Mega is super simple. All you need to do is to insert four bolts on each side of the printer, and plug in a couple of (color coded) connectors. I don't think it can get much simpler than that.

Calibration and first print

In order for the plastic to flow evenly onto the build plate, it needs to lay completely flat. This calibration is done by sliding a piece of paper between the build plate and the nozzle, and tightening each of the four calibration screws until the paper slightly resists movement when you drag it under the nozzle.

It's recommended that you move the nozzle to all corners of the build plate, and perform the calibration twice, to be on the safe side. Sloppy calibration will result in poor bed adhesion or the first layer of the print may not come out as expected.

Anycubic sent a 1kg spool of black PLA plastic, as well as a simple spool holder. After guiding the plastic spaghetti through the filament sensor and extruder, the printer was ready for duty.

The touch screen shows print time, temperature and nozzle positions. This photo was taken after a print had finished, and the printer had mostly cooled down.

With the printer, I also got an SD card, on which there was a test print of two owls. I turned on the printer, and selected the model to be printed using the touch screen. After the warmup, the print started, and the model came out flawlessly on the first try!

Durability

It's about a month since I got my printer, and it's produced somewhere between 30-40 prints so far. Everything works just as well now as it did in the beginning.

I have had the occasional failed print, but that has been due to me being a bit to aggressive with the slicer settings, or after I moved the printer and didn't recalibrate it. No complaints so far.

Notable features

Aside from being built like a tank, it has a few nice features you might not find in many of the competing printers at this price point. Some highlights:

The print bed

Many printers come with heated print beds, but they often require you to apply glue, tape or other materials in order to be able to easily remove the finished prints. The Anycubic i3 Mega comes with a so called "Ultrabase" which is a glass bed with a pattern of small holes / ridges that makes the print stick really well during printing, and that basically fall off once the print bed cools down.

Filament sensor

Before the extruder, you feed the filament through a filament sensor. If your spool runs out, this sensor will pause the print, allowing you to insert a new roll and continue, mid print. This may actually make it possible to do multi color prints, but I haven't tested this myself.

Resume after power loss

If the printer loses power during a print, it will be able to restart, once the power comes back. It's worth noting that if the power is gone for long enough that the print bed cools completely, the print may fall off when the printing resumes. This feature is best used only when power is lost for brief periods of time.

Finished print! This is a bookcase for the board game Gloomhaven, from Thingiverse.

Conclusion

If you're looking to buy your first 3D printer, I can highly recommend the Anycubic i3 Mega. It makes for a hassle free and fun introduction to 3D printing at a reasonable price.

I will update this post in the future, if I run into any problems down the line, but so far, it has far exceeded my expectations.