Ender-3 V2 Review: The Most Hacked Ender-3 is Getting Upgraded
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Creality announced its latest printer line-up, adding Ender-3 V2, an upgraded version of the original Ender-3, into the Ender family.
Now that printer already had several variants, such as the Ender-3 Pro and the Ender-3X, but the V2 follows on from the original. Various aspects of the existing Ender-3 variants are combined and, more importantly, modifications and upgrades that have been carried out by many owners have already been realized in the V2 at the factory.
Original Ender-3 Overview
Few printers have sold as much as the Ender-3 from Creality 3D and especially among tweakers worldwide they are extremely popular. It might be a bit of a chicken egg story, but because of their popularity, you can find tons of modifications and upgrades for this printer. So many modifications are possible because Creality has made both the hardware and of course the Marlin firmware available as open source.
Anyone looking at Github can find the mechanical drawings for the Ender-3 and also the files for the motherboards: the Gerber files. One of the reasons so many mods can be easily made for the Ender-3 is that those full mechanical CAD drawings are available. This makes it easy to create the correct dimensions for parts, as long as nothing changes physically.
In addition to the availability of all modifications, the price of the Ender-3 has always been a big plus. The printer is regularly on sale at various, whether or not Chinese webshops and you could, therefore, buy it in its simplest form with a bit of luck for 150 or 160 euros. It should be clear, however, that that simplest form will not last long for many people, because once you get started with 3D printers, you run a serious risk of tinkering and tinkering to make the printer print better, quieter, make useful extras for it and so on.
A few of the possible upgrades: you can replace the standard bed with a glass plate, upgrade the springs under the bed to stiffer springs, adjust the turning wheels to level the bed with printed wheels, and replace the rails under the bed with linear rails. And that only concerns the bed. For the standard Bowden extruder, you can replace the standard PTFE tube with a Capricorn tube and immediately replace the plastic clip on the extruder motor with an aluminum one. You can get it hot end replaced by, for example, a MicroSwiss hot end, exchange the extruder head for better resistance to wear from hard filaments, upgrade the fans with quieter variants and use a printed blower to cool your filament from all sides, or of course, the complete Bowden set-up replaced by a direct-drive extruder.
You can also replace the power supply, with the regular Ender-3 an unnamed 24-volt power supply, with a Meanwell power supply with a quieter fan, move the entire power supply to a place between the frame at the base of the printer, install lighting with LEDs, print brackets for an octoprint camera and print a housing for the corresponding Raspberry Pi or alternative filament roll holders, upgrade the z-axis for more stability and print a tray for your tool that fits into the frame.
This is a selection of common adjustments and upgrades, not to mention the many motherboard options. The standard Melzi boards feature a low memory microcontroller, so for many modifications that require additional memory for the firmware, the motherboard is replaced. For example, a popular combination is an MKS Gen L or SKR 1.x board with TMC2208 drivers for the stepper motors. This results in a much quieter printer and the possibility to add automatic bed leveling. Numerous options are available for the latter, from capacitive sensors to mechanical ones such as a BL-Touch.
It may be clear; the Ender-3 V2 has a lot of shoes to fill and there must be good arguments to choose the V2 instead of the original.
Similarities and differences
Let's start with the good news; most mods and upgrades available for the original Ender-3 will likely work on the V2 as well. The printer is almost identical to the original, at least when it comes to physical, mechanical parts. A good example to illustrate this is the aluminum profile of the right upright; there are the same screw holes for a power supply as with the V1, but with the V2 that power supply is at the bottom. The guides for the z and x axes also look identical, just like the metal plate for the extruder.
Compared to the original Ender-3, which we call the V1 for convenience, the V2 is a lot nicer finished. That starts with the power supply, which, as mentioned, is not screwed to the right upright, but is attached to the bottom of the frame. The bottom frame consists of a standard 40mm aluminum profile in an H-shape. Just like the V1, the motherboard, a new variant, is located at the front between the legs of the H-frame, with a plastic container for your tools next to it. That saves you an hour or so of printing because many Ender-3 owners also print such a toolbox.
The fan and its motherboard grille are upside down, so there's no more risk of plastic waste falling into your fan when printing. That is also a welcome upgrade, as many people print a fan guard for the V1. The power supply is mounted transversely on the back of the H-frame, giving the printer a much cleaner look than the V1. The cables come from between the metal housings and the aluminum, and are, as we are used to, neatly labeled and nicely in length.
With the V1 the Y-stepper with accompanying end-stop is completely open, but with the V2 it is neatly equipped with a plastic cap. This also applies to the x-axis, but of course, that was also the case with the V1. The two-timing belts, GT2 timing belts, can be tightened utilizing a pulley in a plastic housing that can be adjusted with a knurled screw: much easier than a bracket with screws in the profile.
The display has also been changed and is now neatly finished in a plastic housing. The contrast may be higher; the highlights that indicate which item you have selected with the rotary encoder are not too easy to see in sunlight.
A nice change is of course the motherboard. With the V1, that was a Melzi-based board with a fairly limited 1284p controller with 64kB flash memory and, at least on the motherboard, few available I / O pins. To add extra functionality in the limited memory, other features often had to be removed. And in general, to modify the firmware, you first had to burn a boot loader on the board. The V2 uses a 2560 microcontroller with 128kB of memory and has a micro USB interface instead of a mini USB. However, the main difference that makes you happy out-of-the-box is the stepper drivers. In older versions of the Creality board, these are A4988 drivers, which produce a lot of noise from the stepper motors. The V2 printer comes with Creality's Silent Board,
Finally, the hot end has also changed somewhat. While it appears to be on the same metal carriage, the fan shroud around it has been modified. For example, you do not remove the fan shroud from the V2 from the front, but from the back and it only takes one screw to loosen it. The hot end itself, the heat sink, heat break, and extruder, is the same as with the Ender-3 V1, but the cooling has been adjusted somewhat. That would mean that you can perform the same upgrades on your hot end as with the V1.
Assembly and More Details
The Ender-3 V2 is much more of a kit than the CR6-SE, which we recently tested. Where the last printer only needed to attach the gantry to the bottom frame, the Ender-3 V2 does a bit more work. The assembly is very similar to that of the V1 because as you read earlier, there is no huge difference between the structural parts of both printers. You can count on an hour of work to assemble the printer at your leisure. Of course, that could be shorter if this is the eighty-fourth printer you assemble, and longer if you've never seen an Allen screw.
The manual is well put together. There is a paper version in the form of a small booklet: a significant improvement compared to the brief fold-out poster of the first Ender-3. A digital version of the manual is available on the included SD card and an instructional video is also included.
You start by mounting the uprights, noting that no recesses have been made in the bottom profile. So there are no slots where the aluminum profile falls, which would help with the placement and alignment. Fortunately, the profiles are neatly sawn and the threaded holes for the screws are in the right place so that the frame is still neatly assembled at right angles.
The next step is to assemble the gantry, the beam over which the trolley moves. On this x-axis with the hot end you mount on one side the stepper motors for the x-axis and the Bowden extruder and on the other side the rollers and the tensioner for the timing belt. The hot end comes fully assembled from the box and you only have to slide on the aluminum profile. Then you mount the single z-motor and associated propeller shaft, and now you only have to lower the gantry on the propeller and the uprights.
The final steps consist of mounting the aluminum crossbar that connects the two uprights. Now it is time for finishing touches such as securing the operating display, mounting the bobbin holder, and piercing the cables. Attach the z-end stop to the left upright, which you must adjust to the correct height for the bed. Make sure you mount the end-stop completely at right angles because the distance between the lip of the microswitch and the aluminum profile is minimal: a little crooked and they rub against each other.
All the tools you need are included as usual and can be stored in the drawer at the bottom of the printer. The accessories are also identical to those of the V1: the putty knife, the micro-SD card reader, and the Allen keys are all the same.
Ender-3 V2 in Practice
After an hour of tinkering, your printer should be assembled and you can print. Or maybe not, because like most printers you first have to level the bed or tram. Fortunately, the Ender-3 V2 comes standard with a glass bed, so tramming is quite easy, especially since the chance of a deformed bed with glass is very small. First of all, it is important to have the z-end stop roughly in the right place, so that it is activated when your print head is near the bed. Then you can use the four adjustment knobs to turn the four corners of the bed up and down. We would have liked firmer springs under the bed; that too is a mod that is performed on many printers and leads to less wobbling and bed turnover.
It is recommended to do the tramming with a piece of paper between the bed and the printhead, but you can also use a probe set and use roughly 0.10mm as the target value. If you've already leveled a lot of printers, you can probably do it pretty well. The most important aspect is that you adjust each angle and repeat it a few times. Every time you have had a corner, chances are that another distance is no longer correct. Taking a few rounds around all corners should get you started. Note: the correct, equal distance is crucial for your prints and in many cases the most difficult aspect of printing. With the Ender-3 V2, you do this manually; this happens automatically with the recently discussed CR6-SE.
A quick note about the noise production. Creality has equipped the Ender-3 V2 with the silent tmc2208 drivers, which ensure that you no longer hear the characteristic sound of the stepper motors. The main source of sound now is that of the fans on the hot end, on the motherboard, and in the power supply. Unfortunately, we have to say that the fans used, or the combination of fans and grilles, are not immediately silent. The stock cooling makes at least as much noise as the V1. We measure about 52dB (A) for the V2, where the V1 and the CR6-SE are 52dB (A) and 48d (BA) respectively.
There's no cinematic sensor like the CR6-SE, but since it needs to be plugged in as an end-stop, adding it yourself should be a breeze once the motherboard firmware is documented. However, the end stops are only performed, so you will still have to look for free I / O pins for your sensor. Where some budget printers come with insufficient security measures, the V2 is in any case equipped with a proper Meanwell power supply, and the thermal runaway protection for bed and hot end are activated. If something goes wrong with a thermistor or if a heating element comes loose, the temperature can not simply rise to dangerous values thanks to that protection. We have not only read that through the firmware but also briefly tested by disconnecting the thermistor during heating. The printer then reboots and no longer heats the bed or hotend.
Once the bed is in order, the filament can be put in the printer. Creality supplies a little bit of filament, a loose test roll of about ten meters. With the CR6-SE, a neat roll of 1 kg filament was supplied, which quickly costs twenty euros. The filament must be passed through the Bowden extruder and pushed through a PTFE tube to the hot end. The V2 has pretty much the same plastic clip as the V1 to press the filament against the stepper motor gear that moves the filament, and that's not the world's finest system. Many Ender-3 owners replace that plastic clip with an aluminum clip, which works a little more pleasant. Besides, aluminum is less sensitive to wear; the filament tended to wear grooves in the plastic with the original plastic bracket. This is less easy with an aluminum bracket and the Ender-3 V2 has a copper insert in the plastic to prevent wear. Another small, but not the unimportant improvement of the V2 is that the distance between the filament and the lead screw of the z-axis is slightly larger. This way you don't run the risk of your filament rubbing against the thread. Also for that, various mods for the first version are in circulation.
It may take some effort to load the filament with the standard hardware of both the V1 and V2. That has become a little easier with the addition of the rotary wheel on the extruder of the V2. With that wheel on the extruder shaft, you can more easily turn it manually to move the filament in or out of the tube. This is again a much-printed upgrade. Many V1 owners also make a guide to guide the filament to the extruder more easily. The filet path hasn't changed much in the V2 and so this can still be a desirable mod. By mounting the filament holder not on top, but the side, you can get your filament with a smaller curvature in your extruder. In theory, you do miss the last millimeters of your maximum print height.
Final 3D Prints Out of Ender-3 V2
Printing with PLA does not pose any major problems, although the results of course strongly depend on the filament, the temperatures, and the slicer settings. As with all printers, that interplay is a matter of adjustment. With a retraction of 5mm, you still get a lot of strings, but it prevents problems with your filament. The print bed can reach a maximum temperature of 100 degrees Celsius, but 60 degrees is more than enough for PLA. It then takes about five minutes to heat up. Creality uses the same power for most printers with the 24V power supply and heaters. The hot end can theoretically be heated to 275 degrees. The upper limit for plastics such as PLA is 220 degrees, which you can of course achieve with ease. Also for the flexible tpeyou can heat everything hot enough, but for nylon and abs you are already at the top of the temperature range, especially concerning the bed, the more so because it is an open printer. The Ender-3 V2 is therefore especially suitable for PLA prints, although with careful tweaking you can also use other plastics, just like with the V1.
We have printed some standard test prints such as 3DBenchy, a calibration cube, and an overhang test, and put the results of the V2, the CR6-SE and an original Ender-3 in the gallery below. Now the out-of-the-box print quality without much tuning, especially with a printer like the Ender-3, is of course not the endpoint, but just the starting point. Playing with your slicer settings, in particular, can yield a lot of improvement, but we could conclude that basic factors such as dimensional accuracy are in order.
The small octopus is printed at 50mm / s without skirts, brims, or rafts. The type and the tests are printed at 20mm / s.
We had no problem with PLA and PETG, and that also applies to the abs-pro. The regular abs kept coming off the bed, but a brim of ten lines around it solved that problem. Nylon proved to be the most difficult of all and lived up to its reputation. The first prints always came off, even after drying the filament in the oven for a few hours. Only after drying and some glue on the print bed, the test print, with a brim, is reasonably successful, but with a good amount of strings. Nylon is not the finest filament.
The flexible TPE filament is difficult to load and the pushing through of old filament proved difficult, but after some tinkering the filament prints fine. Our test print comes off easily again, but with a brim around it, just like with abs, the adhesion problem could be solved. We were pleasantly surprised that a fairly flexible filament could be pushed through the Bowden tube without major problems.
The TPU filament, the well-known flexible NinjaFlex filament, is just as difficult to get into the extruder because it is much more flexible than TPE. The super flexible filament attaches to the bed a lot easier, yet one of the legs let go without brims. Now the surface with which this print can adhere is also very small, so we won't blame the filament for that. A second version with brim had no bed adhesion problems. The octopus is quite stringy, but that can be improved with some tuning of the retraction - before the test it was 5mm. It remains to be seen how well larger prints will work, and whether the printer can still handle NinjaFlex after some wear and tear, but for the time being we are quite satisfied.
The big question is of course: should you put your original Ender-3 on the street and buy the V2? Since it is the same printer, it doesn't seem to make much sense. The V2 has some upgrades from the original, but not so shocking that you have to upgrade right away.
Another question is: which printer should you choose when you buy new, the Ender-3, the Ender-3 Pro, the Ender-3X, or this new Ender-3 V2? We will calculate this for you and we will do this based on the prices that Creality uses on its website. After all, there are European stocks and Creality sells various upgrades in its store. The stock Ender-3 costs $ 209. So that is the basic model with an 8bit motherboard and PEI build plate. A glass plate costs an additional $ 23, so the price is $ 232. The Ender-3 Pro has a magnetic build plate and a Meanwell power supply and should be slightly improved over the regular Ender-3. You pay $ 239 for that and you can also order a glass plate if desired. The Ender-3X is very similar to the regular Ender-3.
The V2 should cost $ 269. You get the improved Meanwell power supply, a glass plate, a nicer finished printer, a 32bit motherboard with ABL preparation, and with quiet drivers, a more modern display, and a little more ease of use. If you were to upgrade the V1 to comparable functionality, you would lose about 30 euros for a motherboard with TMC2208 drivers, 20 euros for a glass plate, and 30 euros for a Meanwell LRS-350-24 power supply. Then you still have to find a way to mount your power supply under your printer and you will miss some upgrades like the screen. This makes the V2 a much better choice to buy new than a V1 or other variant, but if you already have one, you can keep upgrading to it.
This is also possible with the V2 because as mentioned, the motherboard is prepared for upgrades. Then it is important that you can do it and if Creality releases the source code, it is a lot easier. There are also other upgrades in hardware because the V2 is not perfect yet. It is a pity that there are no firmer springs under the bed because that is an upgrade that many consider necessary for the stability of the bed. How the PTFE tube and couplings hold up remains to be seen, but we would have liked to see the signature blue color of Capricorn tubes. And the filament path from roll to hot end has not changed much, while there is often a pain point there.
That said, the Ender-3 V2 is a crowd-pleaser. Many of the upgrades that V1 owners perform almost standard have already been done at the factory, and the printer seems compatible in every way with the sheer amount of upgrades and modifications that already exist for the original. If the price now also becomes attractive and remains well below 250 euros, the Ender-3 can last for years.
Hi Tim, this article is saying that Ender-3v2 as the new product in the Ender series, it has the most same design as before. And most mods can be made by it. People will not be unfamiliar with it.
Can you please rephrase that? Not understood. Thank you.
@timd1971 That may show how easy for ENDER3v2 using I think.
"Anyone looking at Github can find the mechanical drawings for the Ender-3 and also the files for the motherboards: the Gerber files. One of the reasons so many mods can be easily made for the Ender-3 is that those full mechanical CAD drawings are available. This makes it easy to create the correct dimensions for parts, as long as nothing changes physically."
Then can we please get ALL the same for the Ender-3 V2?