ABS is not an easy material to print.
It is unforgiving of seemingly small issues in settings and setup, imposing finely balanced requirements — but once you get these right, even a low-cost printer like the Anet A8 can give good results.
This article will lead you through slicer and machine settings that will give you the results you need. It will also suggest possible modifications to the machine that will help you to get the best results and avoid many of the pitfalls that the wider community has fallen into and learned from.
Recommended Anet A8 ABS Settings
There are many more ways to get bad prints than good ones, with ABS on the Anet A8 (and many other printers). But once you get a good understanding of the options — and the troubles that others have faced and mastered — you’ll be on the road to getting great results.
This is not a definitive guide to the certainty of print quality — nobody can provide that for you.
But it is a good summary of the approaches that have worked for others, and with some experience, you’ll be able to improve on this knowledge base and become an expert in this more difficult aspect of 3D printing.
Hot End Temperature For Optimized Thermal Dissipation
ABS needs a nozzle temperature between 210°C and 250°C. You’ll need to trial in this range, because not all filaments are the same.
If the manufacturer recommends a hot end setting, that’s a good starting point — but they don’t know your machine, your slicer, and your models, so adjustments are likely to be needed.
Without specific guidance, for ABS it’s sensible to start at the middle of the range (235°C) and adjust in small steps, perhaps 5°C up or down.
- Our new Filament Printing 101 Course is just for you! Lean how to create perfect professional prints without all the hassle.
- Don't let common mistakes hold you back, click the link to learn more and get ahead now!
With the nozzle too hot, you’ll see some stringing. With it set too cold, you’ll see the poor feed and gappy builds.
Making a few test pieces should get you closer — but printing well close to the heated bed doesn’t guarantee good results higher up the model, so be ready to make further adjustments the first time you print for real in ABS.
ABS has a relatively high thermal expansion coefficient, which is one of the reasons it’s harder to print with than, for example, PLA. So getting the right amount of heat in at the nozzle is perhaps the most important issue to control.
Bed Temperature For Ideal 3D Print Foundation
ABS really likes a warm and cozy bed. A heated bed promotes adhesion of the model, giving it rigidity at the build platform.
But set this too high or too low, and the temperature differential through the depth of the build will result in warping — where cooler upper layers contract too much compared with warmer lower layers, triggering the internal thermal stresses to be greater than the model strength in some areas.
Plastics don’t hit a sudden temperature change and flash from solid to liquid — there’s a complex process where the intramolecular bonds begin to weaken until the material goes through the glass transition (Tg) and begins to soften.
The bed must be just above Tg, but not by much. Tg is around 105°C for most manufactured varieties of ABS, so a good bed temperature is around 110°C, but be ready to diverge a little from this to suit the filament you’re using.
Print Speed To Yield Higher Quality
Generally, ABS prints better when it prints slowly. This is particularly true for the first few layers, where promoting great bed adhesion and a well-integrated print structure are necessary foundations for a successful build.
Often you can speed up a little, once the raft (or other table structure selected) is printed, but tread carefully in order not to waste the effort in the early stage by spoiling the next phase with poor integrity.
Models with sharp transitions along the vertical axis are particularly susceptible to greater internal thermal stress, so going a little more slowly around transitions can also make for better quality results.
Infill Pattern & Density For Strength
There is a fine balancing act to perform in infill (and wall thickness) to adjust any model between minimum warping risk and maximum strength.
Infill has multiple options in terms of pattern, density, and isotropy (the uniformity of the resistance to forces that it produces).
In essence, thin-walled and low-infill density models have a lower tendency to warp, as the ‘muscles’ of thermal distortion are thinner and weaker.
But that makes for a weaker model, so you will need to select the sweet—spot from experience. Only you know how much strength is required in the finished print.
- Is it a figurine that only has to withstand being looked at? Thin-walled, with low-density fill rectilinear fill will do the job.
- Or a working part like a gear? Thicker walls at the teeth and hexagonal infill with more density will be needed.
- Or a structural part like a bell crank or shelf bracket? Thicker walls again and best to choose a cubic or octet infill pattern (these are Cura names, but other slicers offer similar options). Any infill that offers more complex shaped ‘cavities’ within the infill will help — more facets in the individual cavities in the infill make for better load distribution.
Build Plate Adhesion For Successful Prints
If your model loses connection with the build table, it will warp. It’s a simple and inescapable fact that the model relies on the rigidity of the build surface, while it is cooling and stabilizing.
There are many excellent ways to promote adhesion, you may need to mix and match — experience will tell you which of the options to select and combine for a particular model geometry:
- Glue stick. Various products are sold for the purpose, you will have to decide whether generic stationery store products do the job, or the more expensive specialist products are needed.
- Adhesion promoting overlays. Borosilicate glass and PEI are considered effective promoters of adhesion
- Center your build. Table temperatures are usually not very uniform, so having the model sit on a thermally symmetrical surface can help.
- Adhesion promoting coatings. ABS slurry and various glue sticks are recommended.
- Slow down. The first layer does all the bonding work, so going quite slowly for the first 2 or 3 layers of build will allow the material to couple better.
- Wide brim. More contact area will increase the adhesion, but don’t make it too thick.
Support will be required for overhangs, but it makes work in removing them. Nobody likes support — it takes time, makes poor surfaces, and can make a lot of work in the cleanup.
But then it also enables the printing of the otherwise unprintable. Support features are usually generated automatically by the slicer, and you’ll be given options to choose from. Only experience will tell you how to proceed, because no two models are the same.
But do consider orientation. If the model can be rotated to another build orientation that removes some or all of the need for supports, this can be a big bonus — just so long as the texture of the build won’t spoil the model cosmetics or stronger axis.
How To Print ABS With Cura On Anet A8
The slicer setup process and print initiation have a lot of detail for you to master.0 Starting with default settings and making small changes is a good approach to learning about this intricate process.
Advanced users will want to optimize every facet according to their experience, and Cura offers plentiful opportunities for tweaking settings to achieve your goals.
1. Open Ultimaker Cura, Then Find Your Printer
Open the software and locate the presets for your Anet A8 machine. This profile has been tuned by long experience and it is actively maintained, so it’s a great starting point.
If you’re a purist, you can create your own printer profile from scratch, or take the preset and modify the areas where you feel you can do better. There are no rules, other than try stuff and learn!
You can choose to check the measurements of your printer to build the profile, or accept the specs listed by Anet. If you choose to modify your machine, some of this (maybe a lot of it) becomes unique to your setup, but handle measuring with care.
2. Import A Model
It’s a simple task. If Cura is set as the default for the file type, you just need to find the file in Windows Explorer (or the Linux or iOS equivalent) and double-click it.
Or you can pull down the file menu within Cura and click ‘open file’ to access your data.
3. Setting The Scene
The chosen model will open in the Cura scene — the 3D workspace that shows you your print.
4. Move, Scale, Orientate
You can now position the model to the orientation you need, scale it up or down, duplicate it or add other parts into the build table.
5. Layer It Up
Click the ‘slice’ command and the model will go from grey outline to layer view, showing that the model has been sliced — though you’ll likely repeat the slicing more than once, as you perfect your positioning and settings.
6. Settings Menu
On the left, you’ll find the settings menu, in which you can select the printer type from the defaults list or your saved profiles.
If everything in the settings is unchanged, then you’re ready to move on — otherwise, this is where you set up the printer instructions, based on your experience and studies.
7. Ready To G-Code
With all settings to your preferences, you’re ready to slice the model according to the setup you’ve generated.
You can then save the print job to your drive, save it to a memory card (if that’s how you load jobs), print over network (if you’re connected to the machine), or print with OctaPrint, if you have the plugin for Cura.
ABS Printing Tips For Anet A8 Users
ABS poses some challenges in getting great results — but experience and study of other users’ successes and failures will speed you through the initial phase.
These are a few expert tips that will make the process go more smoothly for you;
Insulate Beneath The Bed
The heated table on the Anet A8 machines is not powerful; it will be slow to heat up and may not be able to maintain the suggested 105°C, so a layer of insulation below will definitely improve performance.
Manage The Environment
Excessive cooling of the model will tend to promote warping. Various approaches can help — how far you go along this road depends on how much ABS printing you need to do and how frustrated you get:
- Keep the room warm — heat loss to cool drafts is not your friend, especially if it’s not uniform.
- Reduce the cooling fan revs to keep more heat in at the build point and surrounding model.
- Print a skirt, to surround the build with a thin wall that retains heat and stops drafts.
- Build/buy an enclosure to keep the heat in your build volume.
Manage Slicer Settings
You can vary a wide range of settings to give yourself the best chance of a quality outcome:
- Print speed. There are very detailed planners for print speed settings, it’s a good idea to try these and see what works for you. Look here, for a thoroughly worked example from Anet, using Cura. There are other schemes, suited to other slicer properties and characteristics.
- Layer thickness. Not all parts of the model need the same layer resolution and this can both improve quality and speed up your printing considerably.
- Nozzle temperature — 230 to 245°C is the consensus, but that’s not on your printer, with your model, so trial some variation on this. Some users suggest up to 260°C.
- Raft size — bigger is better, within reason.
- To skirt or not to skirt — if your workspace is drafty and cool, skirts can be very beneficial in reducing cooling.
- Select suitable wall thicknesses and infill structures/densities. Not all areas of a model require the same settings.
- Table temperature should be between 100 and 110°C to promote adhesion and minimize warping.
Keep The Heat On
Slow cooling promotes well-integrated models and low distortion when your build has finished.
Unevenly and suddenly cooled models can develop such large internal stresses that they fracture along layers — whereas if given time to cool, the strain rate is low enough that the material will accommodate the stress as well-distributed strain (micro-movements).
- Keep the table heat on and reduce it slowly — possibly over 30 to 60 minutes if you have the time.
- If you can keep the environment warm, do it for the same period. Best of all, if you have a temperature-controlled enclosure, drop it back to room temperature over an hour. Lower-speed cooling promotes model integrity, lower warping, and a quality outcome.
ABS printing on the Anet A8 machines is not without challenges — but it is rewarding to succeed — and many do, once they’ve addressed the failure modes.
A wide view of learning from others’ mistakes and victories is very educational — but so is experience. Remember that your setup is not exactly the same as theirs, so you will need to tune your setup, settings, and practices to get the results you want.
And the best way to learn is to try — and when it goes wrong (which at the early stages it will), dig into an analysis process and tune your settings with small changes. The reward of expertise and good quality prints is within reach.