After doing a lot of research and waiting years to buy my first 3D printer, I chose the ANYCUBIC Mega S. Some others I looked at closely were the Ender 3 from Creality and the Genius from Artillery.
The reason is that it was the best value I found with the most roadway ahead for my goals, which change and are many, admittedly. It has a touchscreen menu that’s easy to use, a heated bed which is usually found on more expensive printers, a large (enough for my use, for now) printing area, and a lot of features found on more expensive printers, it’s rock-solid(no corners were cut), it comes with an array of useful tools, and I got it for well under $300, which is incredible, if you think about it and how quickly prices on these came down.
Or maybe not. There’s a way these things are SO expensive at first, then prices plummet, like for flat screen TVs, and how they should for smartphones, computer and anything that meet a certain set of criteria. Which are these:
Very precise, highly engineered parts and mechanisms, which a lot of labor and trials have been done at great expense. Those have to be paid for somehow. But once the prototypes are made, and the parts are settled on, they can be mass-made, cheaply. And quickly. They can be scaled, which means the prices come down quickly.
When you break down 3D printing, as I’ve been studying it recently and a “noob” to the whole thing, it’s starting to all make sense pretty easily. I’m surprised 3D printing wasn’t more developed way before it actually was, because it’s not that complex when you break it down.
It’s just extruding heated plastic, basically, onto a bed, in sliced layers, in 2D, building upon the Z-axis, to make it “3D” That’s it. The conception of it hails to CAD-CAM which is complex apparently and has been around a long time. But the computing power needed has been around for that long, if not longer. It seems you can run a 3D printer off a Raspberry Pi or Arduino, which I’ve dabbled with and am familiar with to the point I’ve set up a few Raspberry Pi computers, programmed them in Linux, and had some fun with them.
The design of the “3D” object is broken down into a .stl file which is a mathematical representation of the object. If I’m not wrong it’s where the extrusion nozzle needs to be at a certain place in time above the bed. Then the STL file needs to be rendered via a “slicing” software that renders that math into a 2D “slice” and the printer just slaps layer upon layer until the object takes form, with supports usually.
What needs to be tweaked is up to the person managing the project, which can be a lot or a little to nothing.
With that explanation of how the deal works, I wanted a printer that I could start out not knowing anything, because I didn’t, and learn and become more advanced with. Also what is important is that it’s easy enough for my 5/6-year-old to play with. She’s already excited about the possibilities as she should be. She has a boundless imagination, which means we can do anything with this printer. I need to learn the advanced setting and how to fine-tune things so that she can dream up projects that we can print together.
And that is what the ANYCUBIC Mega S seems appropriate for. I didn’t want to go TOO basic and left wanting more in a short time. I also didn’t want to jump in the deep end and get something for professionals and engineers that is over our heads. I did that once by learning to edit video by jumping into Adobe Premiere Pro, which is a complicated bit of software, believe me.
And there are a LOT of 3D printers out there now. Didn’t use to be the case, but man, there are hundreds to choose from, with all sorts of features, software packages, and communities and support built up around them. Same for the software needed for printing, like Cura, for example, which is what I use. If you have the money.
Speaking of support, the support I received for the ANYCUBIC printer was excellent. Especially considering the time and language barriers between the manufacturer and myself.
I received my printer, set it up, and was very excited to use it of course. I read the directions first, and patiently did what I was supposed to. I’ve learned my lesson now that I’m middle-aged. It took a while but I eventually learned!
And sure enough, when I got to the point where I needed to feed the filament through the feeding mechanism, which feeds the filament through a Teflon hose to the extruder to heat it and squeeze it out onto the heated bed, it wouldn’t go. Queue Wha-Wha-WHaaaa trumpet sound.
I fidgeted and fussed with the thing every which way and looked online for YouTube videos, 3D printing forums where this has happened to others, and nothing. I kept trying to figure out what the problem was. ANYCUBIC tests each unit before sending them out. I have a card right here with the seal saying “PASS” that shows it was quality assured. Yet the filament wouldn’t go in.
I opened a ticket with the support engineers in China, which I can only imagine what the operation there looks like, and they very promptly replied to my request. They (“Erick”) took my matter very seriously. They asked smart questions and had me send videos of what was going on to inspect, which was smart to me. After a few days of back and forth and mutually trying to figure out the problem and solutions, they said they would ask sales if it would be ok to send me a new part, which was the part that feeds the filament to the extruder head. Made sense to me, and in fact, I had already disassembled that part and tried to free up any blockage I could find. This was not unlike performing brain surgery in a closet only using your thumbs. It was a spectacle that I wish I had photographed.
So a week later, after the part literally took the slow boat from China, it arrived and I replaced the faulty part by watching a YouTube video by ANYCUBIC (They have all their bases covered, believe me. It’s impressive.) I notified the support staff it had arrived, I had replaced it, and figured out how to proceed myself. They told me I was awesome and I was on my way!
I tell that story because to have that type of responsive, knowledgeable, and concerned support on your side when buying what must be considered a “budget” printer, is something to consider. You expect that type of service when you pay $15,000 for a 3D printer, but when you get that level of service for a sub $300 printer, that’s amazing, to me. And another reason I’m so happy that I chose the ANYCUBIC MEGA S.
So while I’m writing a lot about 3D printing, because that’s what I’m tinkering with these days, I’m narrowing it down to the printer itself since it’s the star of the show. And the type of printer makes a big difference, I’m learning. There’s so much to learn, which is another reason 3D printing is so much fun.
What I’m planning to use this printer for is to print toys for my daughter (and myself), replacement parts for everything under the sun, especially my Hooptie, James, which seems to lose little plastic bolts and fastners all the time, tools, trays, boxes, and what I’d eventually like to do is start creating 3D models myself to render via slicing software and print out. The projects are limitless I think. Something I think would be fun is to print out 3D heads of my daughter and myself to put on Barbie bodies and make personalized Barbie Dolls for us to play with together. (I’m not into dolls or Barbie dolls or any of this girly stuff, but my daughter loves them, and I love her, so that’s why I do it. Just to set the record straight.)