Review: Anycubic I3 Mega Ultrabase

Anycubic i3 Mega Ultrabase
  • Ease of Setup - 92%
    92%
  • Ease of Use - 90%
    90%
  • Print Quality - 92%
    92%
  • Print Speed - 86%
    86%
  • Value for Money - 89%
    89%

Summary

There are a lot of 3D Printers in this price range but the Anycubic i3 Mega Ultrabase offers more than most and genuinely sets a high standard for home 3D printers. The Ultrabase bed itself is a game changer and combined with a sturdy build quality and attention to detail in the design this 3D printer is hard to beat. Consider me a fan!

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The Anycubic i3 Mega Ultrabase Sets A New High Standard For Budget 3D Printers

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Anycubic Upgraded Full Metal I3 Mega 3D PRINTER with Ultra Base Heated and 3.5' Touch Screen
141 Reviews

Price excl. shipping / Last update on 2018-09-25 at 00:56 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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Features

Ultrabase Bed

The Mega Ultrabase is the latest version in the Anycubic i3 family. As hinted in the name, the main upgrade from the previous version is the Ultrabase. Ultrabase is a textured coating on the Borosilicate glass bed that means you don’t need to apply any glue or tape to the bed to make your prints stick to it.

This is similar to the popular BuildTak beds except unlike BuildTak it doesn’t wear off and the most significant benefit is that parts are exceptionally easy to remove once the bed has cooled.

The Ultrabase surface has a Moh’s hardness of over 7. This means you can safely use metal scrapers and blades to clean it without risk of it scratching!

Steel frame with Dual Z-axis

The main chassis of the i3 Mega is made from 1.5mm thick right-angled steel mounted to the steel base with eight cap head bolts. The steel gives the printer a sturdy foundation and ensures your parts are built accurately.

The base of the printer is also made of sturdy steel and houses the power supply and control board. The Y-axis and bed mount to this base.

The Z-motion of the printer is taken care of with dual z-axis lead screws and motors. These run on linear bearings on rails that are additional to the printer frame, providing more strength and stability.

Dual axis is a feature rarely seen on budget printers, which tend to stick to the cheaper option of single z-axis control.

Filament Detector and Resume

When you load new filament, you pass it through a small sensor housing that sits just before the extruder. The sensor detects when your filament has run out and then pauses the print allowing you to change your filament spool and then resume printing.

Filament detection is a simple but handy feature, again not often seen on budget printers. Judging how much filament you have on a spool is not easy. I’ve had prints written off because I’ve run out of filament halfway through and the printer has carried on printing nothing, thinking everything is ok! So a solution to this is very welcome.

Additionally, the resume function can be used just to pause the print whenever you need. For example, if you don’t want to wake everyone at night and want to resume printing in the morning.

You can also use the pause feature for creative uses; for example, you can change filament color mid-print to create some impressive effects.

Touch-screen

You control all of the printers settings and commands through the touchscreen on the front of the control box. The screen is not as sensitive as a modern smartphone but it is tactile and responsive, and I haven’t suffered any misclicks.

The menu is laid out logically and is labeled clearly; this makes it pretty easy to work out what all the functions do.

Spec

Build Volume: 210mm x 210mm x 205mm
Printer Size: 405mm x 410mm x 453mm
Speed: 20mm – 100mm/sec
Layer Resolution: 0.05mm – 0.3mm
X Resolution: 0.01mm
Z Resolution: 0.002mm
Filament Type: 1.75mm
Control: 3.5 inch TFT Touch Screen controlling TriGorilla Mainboard
Hotend: J Head V5 40W
Extruder: Bowden with filament sensor

Unboxing

Unboxing this printer was a real treat. As it’s a budget model, I wanted to have realistic expectations. However, Anycubic has gone the extra mile to include accessories, spares, and instructions that I’m only used to seeing in much higher level machines.

I was relieved to find the i3 Mega very well packaged in a large and sturdy cardboard box. The printer is perfectly protected completely encased in high impact foam that is sure to prevent any damage on its long journey.

Right at the top of the box was a full-color instruction booklet with handy photos of everything that should be included in the box so you can check it’s all present.

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All parts are well protected with dense foam

The first layer in the box contains the heated base and control unit and a large pack of tools, spares, and accessories.

The first thing that caught my eye was a complete spare hotend assembly! This isn’t something I was expecting to see in a printer of this price range, so it was a very welcome surprise.

The next layer in the box holds the printer upright chassis and extruder assembly. As well as a full 1Kg spool of PLA filament! It’s very rare to be given a full reel, and I had nice glossy black in my box. I’m guessing this is a random color, but it was a nice change from the dull white that I usually seem to get.

What’s in the Box?

Anycubic has done a great job to give you a whole host of tools and spare parts that you don’t often see included with 3d printers.

There are some handy tools included; my favorites are the set of tweezers as these are useful for removing excess filament from the nozzle just before you start a new print.

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All the box contents laid out – lots of free goodies included!

There’s also a scraper for removing your completed prints from the bed.

I thought it was a really nice touch to include a pair of disposable gloves to protect you from the greased bearings when assembling the printer. Okay it only cost them a penny, but they stop you spreading oily finger marks over your nice new printer and it’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t bother using if it wasn’t included.

Full box contents:

1 x AnyCubic i3 Mega Base with Control box, bed, and PSU
1 x AnyCubic i3 Mega frame with the extruder
1 x 1Kg Spool PLA filament
1 x Instruction Manual in color
1 x Spare hotend (!)
1 x Spare microswitch
1 x Acrylic spool holder
1 x Power cable
1 x Micro SD card reader
1 x Micro SD card
1 x USB cable
1 x Set of hex keys for assembly
1 x Wrench for hotend changing
1 x Pair of tweezers to remove filament from the extruder
10 x Cap Head Bolts
1 x Metal scraper to remove parts from bed
1 x Pair of gloves to avoid greasy hands on assembly

First Impressions

When you first open the box you can instantly see the Anycubic i3 Mega has a really high-quality feel and appearance to it. Compared to other 3D printers in this price bracket it has the look of a well-designed product that you’d be proud to show off in your home.

Details like the neatness and care of the cable routing give a good indication of the quality of the design and assembly that have gone into this printer.

The control unit looks pretty sleek and much more like a professional or consumer product than a kit or DIY project.

Setup

This has to be one of the easiest ‘kit’ 3D printers I’ve ever put together. Assembling the printer is a very straightforward process that took me less than ten minutes!

It really only consists of bolting the two parts of the printer together. You have to stand the main frame vertically and then feed the heated bed/control unit base into position.

There are then eight short bolts to tighten with the included hex key. The trick at this point is to ensure you tightening them in a diagonal pattern to spread the stress. This ensures the chassis is straight and true.

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Tightening 8 of these bolts is all you need to do for assembly!

Next, you have to plug the wiring in. This is a simple case of plugging in three connectors to their matching sockets. They are colored red, green, and black so it’s easy to tell which plug goes in which socket. You just need to make sure the connectors are the correct way up, with the clip on the top.

Finally, the most important step is making sure the power supply is switched to the correct voltage for your country, 110V or 220V. The switch is recessed within the printer so you have to use a screwdriver or hex key to reach in to slide it to the right position.

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Color-coded connectors make assembly simple

And that’s all the assembly done!

I always like to check the other bolts on the printer are tight, as it’s common for some to loosen during transit and cause odd issues on your first print. In this case, all the bolts were tight which gave me more confidence in Anycubic’s assembly quality.

Bed Leveling

If you’re new to 3D printing you need to learn that the most common reason for prints failing or being low quality is that you haven’t leveled the bed properly.

Because of this, I always pay particular attention to getting the bed as level as I can on a new printer, so I’m not chasing faults on my test print.

I also want to make sure that bed leveling isn’t too much of a chore so it gets done frequently. Thankfully, on the i3 Mega, it’s as easy as it gets on a printer that uses manual leveling.

First, you select ‘Home’ on the touch screen to send the extruder to the zero position; this should be the front left corner with the nozzle at the same height as the bed surface.

You then select the option to disable the motors to allow you to push the extruder to each corner of the bed manually.

A thick piece of paper is attached to the ‘Ultrabase’ bed which you can unstick and use as a leveling guide. It has some guidelines for printing temperatures on it, so it’s a handy reference to keep.

As is the standard way of doing this on most 3D printers; you slide the paper under the nozzle and adjust the nearest height adjustment screw until the nozzle just touches the paper and you feel a slight resistance as you slide the paper in and out.

Ordinarily, I’d heat the bed and the extruder up to operating temperature to do this but the instructions don’t seem to say that, so I’ll stick to what they recommend and see how it works out.

On this 3D printer, the adjustment screws are quite small but easy to access. On similar printers such as the Creality CR-10, they are much harder to get to and most users end up printing big wheels to replace the stock ones. On the i3 Mega, I don’t think this would be necessary as the stock adjusters are easy to use as designed.

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Leveling the bed with easily accessible adjusters

They also have a nice solid feel to them. I don’t think the bed will need adjusting frequently as it all feels quite sturdy.

After leveling the bed at all four corners I check the center, as this can tell us if the bed is warped. Fortunately, on this i3 Mega it’s perfectly flat!

At this point, I’m quite intrigued by the Ultrabase as it has a unique rough texture to it and appears very thick. So let’s get printing…

Printing

The Anycubic i3 Mega comes with an SD-card with a sample g-code model of two owls, so I’ll try that first.

Accessing files is straightforward as the menu system is logical and the touch screen perfectly responsive. It’s not smooth like an iPhone but it’s easy to tell when you’re pressing hard enough as the screen has a soft feel to it so it kind of feels tactile to use. I like it!

The Ultrabase heated bed doesn’t require any treatment to help your first layer stick. I’m so used to applying glue stick at this stage that it feels odd not having to do so.

You only need a couple of button pushes to start the print process. The display changes to show you ongoing progress as a percentage complete, as well as the temperature of the heated bed and extruder.

I found it took a good three to four minutes for the bed to reach the default 60°C, while the hotend got to 220°C in about a minute. That’s about average for a printer of this size and doesn’t concern me.

An interesting feature is a red LED on the underneath of the heated bed. This lights up when the bed is receiving power. It’s quite reassuring to see it gently flashing away but I’m not sure it serves any real function other than being kinda cool!

The first few layers are the most important and the most likely to fail, especially if you haven’t got a perfectly level bed.

Thankfully on the i3 Mega, my first layer was a perfect as I could hope for. Just the right amount of squeeze to ensure an excellent bond to the Ultrabase bed. And then the second layer continued the good work…

Does the Ultrabase work?

The Ultrabase bed has lived up to its name and without a glue stick or masking tape in sight it has kept the print securely attached!

From here on it’s just a waiting game to see how good the test print ends up.

The noise levels on the Anycubic i3 Mega were quite low. The loudest it gets is when all the fans are on max but they’re a pretty similar level to a normal PC working hard.

The stepper motor chirp is noticeable but quieter than my CR-10 printer.

The i3 Mega has sturdier mountings, and its rubber feet do a better job of isolating noise from my desk which must help keep the noise down.

And about one hour later my test print owls are finished!

First build is a success!! Fine details are handled well.

At this point, I’ve discovered just how amazing the Ultrabase is! When the print immediately finished I tried to remove them but they were stuck fast.

Worried I’d have to attack the Ultrabase with the sharp-edged scraper I instead left the bed to cool for 10 mins until it was just above room temperature.

Now the prints just brushed off with the lightest touch! The bed was left perfectly clean and the base of the prints is perfect.

The Ultrabase is now my favorite build surface by far!

Print Quality

The test prints owls that Anycubic supply with the i3 Mega are a surprisingly harsh test. They stand at around 40mm tall and contain quite a lot of fine details that could easily be missed on a budget printer.

My first impression of the test print owls is they look great! The gloss black filament that came with the printer is notorious for showing up imperfections so it’s even more impressive that they look so detailed and clean.

The fine facial details of the nose and eyes are perfectly replicated. The thin sectioned ears that go right to a point without any supports are also perfectly printed.

There is some very light stringing across the ears but this comes away with a light rub of my fingernail. This could easily be fixed by changing the retraction and combing settings in Cura for the next print.

I’m really impressed by the Ultrabase bed too. The print remains perfectly attached throughout but removal is surprisingly not that hard once the bed has been left to cool to 30-40°C. Just a quick snap and it’s free.

Although a nice metal scraper is included for print removal I’m reluctant to use it on the nicely finished Ultrabase surface in case it damages it. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be needed very often.

Software

When you want to print your own models, Cura slicing software is included on the SD-card, but you’ll want to download the latest version from the Cura website to get the best quality and performance. Using the latest version also gives you a profile already optimized for the i3 Mega Ultrabase.  This saves you from having to enter the settings manually.

Cura is very popular slicing software and I highly recommend it if you’re new to 3D printing. There are other slicers available, both free and paid, which you can read about here.

Customer Service

I haven’t had to contact Anycubic directly but going by the quality and attention to detail they have taken with their product and its documentation I’m left feeling confident in their abilities.

Companies that create clear, concise instruction manuals and include spare extruders with their printers are unlikely to neglect their customers!

Looking at 3D printer communities online, there is almost unanimously positive feedback for customer service when it is required. Firstly, the speed of email support is often praised. Secondly, Anycubic often goes above and beyond what is required to make their customers happy.

This is often demonstrated with Anycubic customer service sending free replacement parts. For example, one user reported their power cable arrived damaged, and Anycubic sent them not only the replacement cable but also the complete power supply free of charge!

Limitations

The only limitations with the Anycubic i3 Mega are inherent in its basic architecture. The build volume is a perfectly adequate X210 mm x Y210 mm x Z205 mm which is great for the majority of DIY, miniatures, and general printing. But if you definitely want to make especially large prints such as vases then you should probably look at one of the largest printers such as the CR-10.

And since there is no enclosure you will struggle to print with ABS successfully as it requires a very stable environment in terms of temperature and humidity. ABS is falling out of favor now anyway as people tire of the fumes and PETG can be substituted for ABS in most cases and is much easier to print.

Because it uses a Bowden extruder, you will find it tricky to print flexible filaments, but it is possible if you print slowly to prevent the filament curling up in the extruder.

In all these cases these are really just the limitations of buying a 3D printer of this price and size. If you really want to print very large objects or mostly print in ABS then you probably won’t be looking at this 3D printer.

Verdict

I have been blown away by the Anycubic i3 Mega Ultrabase. From the initial unboxing to printing it’s been a joy to use. Anycubic has really raised the bar for budget 3D printers.

Most 3D printers at this price range come with a list of caveats or known issues; from wedging foil under the bed to make it flat, or printing new adjuster wheels because the stock ones are unusably small or simply having to wrestle with poorly translated instructions to assemble. The Anycubic i3 Mega has none of these issues.

From the moment you open the box, nothing about this printer says budget. The quality of the parts is top notch, the instructions are clear, well-written, and colorful, and the included spares and tools are beyond what should be reasonably expected at even a much higher price level.

All of this comes together to give you a 3D printer that’s a joy to use and lets you concentrate on the fun of 3D printing instead of fault-finding.

Pros

Strong frame for accuracy and reliability
Easy to assemble with great instructions included
Prints reliably out of the box without any tinkering required
The Ultrabase bed is amazing!
Easy to swap filament mid-build
Resume from power failure or pause
Easy to operate with an intuitive touchscreen

Cons

No enclosure so not suitable for ABS and a little noisy
Fairly small build volume

If you’re looking for your first 3D printer or want to upgrade to something more reliable then I recommend you put the Anycubic i3 Mega Ultrabase to the top of your list!

-Dylan

2 Comments

  1. Jerry September 10, 2018
    • Dylan Miller September 10, 2018

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