Because someone else on the team had a good experience with it, and so i can exchange notes and get some tips form them, I went ahead and ordered the Anet A8 3D printer + an extra roll of PLA. That is, despite the vocal negative reviews which exist.
Although normally I don’t consider myself very mechanical, I guess I’m pretty good at following instructions. So I’m watching their detailed Youtube video and mimicking their actions, step-by-step. And I’m having a blast! It’s like having an erector set all over again.
And I’m in constant awe that so much could be had for so little. There must be, what, a couple hundred parts, including five sophisticated motors, several limit switches, a circuit board, power supply, steel rods, belt, arylic(?) parts – all for $140? I feel like its raw value is several times that. Hey, I just bought two m5 screws and nuts from Home Depot and paid almost $3.
Not exactly like the video
Things were going great, until the kit actually deviated form the parts shown in the video! Especially where the kit provided a two 3D-printed parts shaped significantly differently from what they show. Assembly slowed down after that.
The rods did not fit through the 3D parts as they should have – I had to bore them out a bit with one of the yet-unused threaded rods that came with the kit! Which did work by the way + a lot of muscle and hand strength.
References and related
This is where i got the printer from Amazon for only $140: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N5D2ZIB/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Assembly video, part 1
Anet test guide: part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=842aWzXtRFw
Someone’s additional first steps guide – has some useful tips: https://www.instructables.com/id/Beginners-Guide-to-3D-Printing-Anet-A8-DIY-3D-Prin/