Ender 3 Experiences Log

This is a description of my journey with the Ender 3. The story starts in February 2019 when I started looking for where to order it. The following is a chronicle of my travels. This is a dynamic journey so check back from time to time to see what's new.

Note that this is in reverse chronological order so the newest stuff is on top. If this is your first time here scroll down to the bottom and work your way up.


Vase Mode and PETG Tweaking - (March 14, 2019)

Vase Mode (actually Spiralize in Cura) is a special printing mode where only one layer is printed from the outside of a print. This can go really fast but is of course kind of specialized. I printed one of these in my silver PLA: Pi Bowl

The cup is quite fragile though as it's only one layer thick. Next time I do this I think I'll look into making layers thicker. Maybe this would be a good candidate for a bigger nozzle too.

I did some more research on PETG and found that I was probably running the temperature too low. I raised it to 245C from 235C which is the very bottom of the range. I was also using zero bed heating so I cranked that up to 60C. I reprinted something I had done before which had some issues. I'll have to compare them when I can (I don't presently have the first one I did).


OctoPi - (March 10, 2019)

I was staring at this 'surplus' Raspberry Pi 2B sitting in front of my monitor and decided I was going to actually get OctoPi installed on it. It's a pretty painless process - when it works. The first time I flashed the 8 GB card it didn't work. The card wouldn't boot either on the 2B or a 3 I had available. The card from the 3 worked fine in the 2B so it had to be the flash. Re-flashed it and all worked just fine.

I'm impressed with how easy setup was. It took me much longer to force an IP address on the underlying Raspian than to get the rest of it working and talking to the Ender 3. I ran a print with it today (Sunday) and it worked just fine. It doesn't seem to do very well with guessing the print time though. Not much excuse for this since Cura puts a comment line in with that time (in seconds) right in the gcode file.

It is nice to be able to check on the print without actually visiting the printer sometimes. I still tend to check at least once an hour to make sure I'm not producing a pile of spaghetti.

Yes, if I had a camera hooked up to it I could actually see what was going on. That's in the near future but I'm going to make sure I get one that will work properly. It might end up being one of the standard Pi cameras.

And remember - it's Pi Day this Thursday!


Cable Chain and Springs and Train Stuff - (March 7, 2019)

I did get the Z-axis cable chain installed a couple of days ago and it does a splendid job of keeping things in line.

The replacement bed springs came today and I plan on installing them and the Y-axis cable chain. It's an ideal time since I will have an easy opportunity to replace the mount on the bed end of the Y-axis cable when I change the springs.

I have been printing things for the model train club. I've printed some of our custom switch throw bases and I've started printing the parts for a static grass applicator. It's about 20 hours total of print time so it will be a few days.


Cable Chain - (March 3, 2019)

Having decided that the single clamp wasn't going to work out for keeping the wiring in order I decided to print the cable chains. There are 6 'end' pieces to which you need to add link sets (a link plus a cap). You need 25 of those link sets. The total print time, according to Cura estimates, was 12 1/2 hours. Cura isn't always accurate but it's usually not bad.

So I started printing on Sunday afternoon and got everything except for 20 link bases completed. Those run almost 3 hours for 10 so I figured Monday would be another day.

Monday, March 4

I got them started about 11:00 and all was going well - until the power cut out at 12:18 PM. I decided it would be best to just turn off the printer and wait for the power to come back on. It was after 5:00 PM when I got power back and I had to check a few other things to make sure they were all working correctly (they were). Around 6:00 PM I started it back up and to my delight it all started back up just fine. It's not perfect but it was certianly good enough for this project. Power failure resume actually works!

The last of the links should finish about 10:30 PM which is a little later than I like to run things but this is a special case.


Observations - (March 1, 2019)

I've been printing and tweaking of course. I've also ordered some improvements and as I get them and install them I'll report on how they work out.

I have verified that thermal protections are STILL not enabled. Until I can get fresh firmware with the protections enabled and installed I'm not going to be printing unattended or overnight.

I have the MacEwen extruder upgrade and just need to get it installed. I'll be able to do more picky filaments like TPU when I get it installed along with the Capricorn tube. The only downside of the Capricorn tube is that I won't be able to see the filament snaking it's way towards the hot end. Not the end of the world since I couldn't see it on the Mini Delta and managed to get things working fine there.

The Bed Leveling Saga:

  • I've come to the conclusion that you have to check the bed level every time. It doesn't take that long but it is an annoying thing to have to do before you print. I was definitely spoiled with the Mini Delta and it's automatic bed leveling.
  • As I use the printer the bed warping seems to be evolving. I've modified my shim placement under the bed surface and there are now two paper shims in place.
  • I've decided that this is never going to end so I broke down yesterday and ordered the glass bed from Creality. This one has a build surface on the glass and I'm guessing it's like what I already have. I'll have to wait and see what it's really like. It could work out good and I won't have to worry about PETG bonding to the real glass surface. At least the glass should stay reasonably flat as long as I continue to tweak the shims. I expect the warpage to stabilize at some point.
  • Along with bed warpage comes first layer adhesion problems. It's not all leveling though - keeping the bed clean is also very important and something I need to just do before every print.
I've printed some small stuff plus a couple of more major things. I worked through getting 'Cube Gears' printed (a 7 1/2 hour print) and finally had to add a brim to make parts of it stay stuck. The downside of that is having to clean up the print before I can assemble it and get it working. Lots of fiddly things to do there that I've not done yet.

The other print I did was 'Baby Groot Sitting/Smiling'. Loading it took forever because the stl file is over 200 Megabytes. When I sliced it the print time was 8 1/2 hours. Sized him down to 50% and it was 2 hours. I wasn't going to do an 8 hour print right now so I did the 50% one. It looks great!


Observations - (February 23, 2019)

After a couple days of printing with it I'm still quite happy. I had the Mini Delta running at the same time and I was taken by how much LOUDER the Mini Delta is. Those of you who complain about the Ender 3 being noisy should just be thankful it's as quiet as it is. I have NO intentions on doing anything to make the Ender 3 quieter - it's fine as is.

I have had bed leveling issues. I found that the bed was about 0.1 mm low in the center compared to the edges and I was sweating it on how to do something about that. Overnight my brain came up with a simple solution: Since the build surface is clipped on to the bed then placing a small (5x5 CM) square of paper under the center to compensate. It works great!

I printed the upper filament guide and it turned out not so good. I had done 10% (maybe 20%) infill and that made the part that pressed into the top rail too fragile. I reprinted that small part with 100% infill and it seems to be working just fine now.

I'm printing the 'Stick Man' full size right now and it's looking fine. I had printed him on the Mini Delta but had to downsize him to 85% to make him fit.


The First Prints - (February 21, 2019)

The VERY first step is to level the bed. I found that I couldn't do it with the Z-axis switch where I had it so I moved it down about 5 mm and that put the nub on the bottom part of the bracket right on the rail. It kind of bends out and I probably should just chop off the nub so it lays flat. Once I got things started it worked pretty well. I only had to tweak through two passes around the corners and I was done. A quick check to the center showed that all was just fine.

You would normally print the test dog from the SD card but I decided that I didn't want to start with a 5+ hour print. The stl file for the test dog is on the SD card too so I figured I'd just slice him myself to a smaller size. When I brought him up in Cura he was TINY. I had to up size him by 50% and even then he wasn't all that big. The good thing was he would print in well under an hour so that's what I went with. I did add a raft so I'd be very likely to get a good print that way. It wasn't needed at all though. He printed quite nicely even if he was kind of small.

The second print was a 20mm test cube. It printed quite nicely and is very close to being spot on. X and Y dimensions are quite good but Z is a little short. Once I figure out how to compensate for that all should be fine. I'm pretty sure that there is a way in the control panel to do this and once I find out what it is I'll set it so I don't have to do the same tricks I'm doing on the Mini Delta to compensate.

The third print is the fan shroud. This is an essential item to print so stuff doesn't get sucked down into the electronics box. It looks great and I'll have to get around to mounting it when this evening's print session is done (or before tomorrow's).

The fourth print is Astronaut Phil-A-Ment. It's one I've printed before on the Mini Delta so it should make a good comparison. I mistakenly printed it with supports that it doesn't really need - but it came out great.

Last for the day is the filament guide up near the spool holder. It works good so no problem there.

Observations

I'm VERY happy with the printer. It's as good as I had hoped and more.

This should NOT be a first printer for someone who isn't willing to research things thoroughly before jumping in. I would not recommend this as a first printer unless you have some expert (at least semi-expert) help.

This was a real challenge to assemble but nothing was really difficult - just different. I've assembled much more complicated kits but they involved electronic parts and soldering along with top-notch instructions. The instructions for assembling this printer are far from that level. With some really good instructions and a GOOD build video this could be that first printer for someone. This would be especially true if they could look at those instructions and video BEFORE they laid out their hard earned cash to buy one.

I do think this is a GREAT second printer. I already had experience with the Mini Delta that came in very handy with the Ender 3. That first print was a bit of a leap of faith that was rewarded with great results.


Building It - (February 20, 2019)

There is a lot to building this thing and there are SOOOOO many ways to do things wrong. I've watched several videos on the subject and I'll tell you that this one is the best by far: Detailed Assembly, Tips and First Prints

Mostly I followed these instructions and avoided most of the pitfalls. I did get the cables for the hot end tangled up with the bed wiring and had to remove the hot end and reroute the wires. An annoying process but something that I was able to do without a lot of disassembly.

The best advice I have is to watch the above mentioned video at least a couple of times before you start. Have it handy when you actually do start the build so you can refer to it.


It's Here! - (February 20, 2019)

I started unpacking. I did not find the cMagnet option so I'm bummed out a little. I decide to get busy with the build and get it all put together but it's late so I just set it aside until the next day. I decide to send off a message to the shipper about the cMagnet and call it a day.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the build surface was NOT stuck to the bed but attached to a thin sheet of some plastic material and held on to the bed with binder clips. This means it's removable if needed and changing it would be very simple. I have to say that this is a very nice improvement. THANK YOU Creality!

On Thursday the shipper has responded and I check the message. She says to check again to make sure it isn't in there. If it's not she will ship another. Now I didn't check under the bottom of the packing before but when I did I found it. I sent an apologetic response back to the shipper.


Ordering It - (February 15, 2019)

After looking around at a lot of places to order the Ender 3 I settled on using a vendor (which turned out to be the official Ender vendor) on AliExpress. I was a little hesitant because I had never ordered anything from AliExpress. I decided to take the plunge on Thursday, February 15th and just do it. I was able to order it with the optional cMagnet magnetic build surface for $188, shipping included.

Now the wait for it to ship. At this time I didn't know anything about the actual vendor so I just decided to stick it out. On Sunday afternoon I got a text from UPS saying they had a package coming my way. I didn't know the shipper but the fact that the package was 18.5 pounds kind of gave it away. The planned delivery was Monday!

Well, that didn't happen because the only thing that was done for shipping was a label was created. UPS had to get the package before It could really start my way. Nothing happened on Monday and on Tuesday UPS got the package. It was delivered on Wednesday the 20th late that afternoon.