Announced at the end of March, the Ender 3 has quickly become the most anticipated 3D Printer of 2018. After dominating the mid-range budget market with their flagship CR-10, Creality has focused their attention on the low-end sector and raised the bar once again. Similar in many regards to its big brother, the Ender 3 is the smaller, wallet friendly option with a price tag just under $200.
While there are plenty of 3D Printers to choose from at this cost bracket, none have managed to check all of the boxes until now. Shoppers often had to sacrifice one feature in exchange for another, such as build volume for build quality or vice versa. No longer is this the case with the Ender 3, which manages to provide a safe, well built machine that is capable of producing large, magnificent prints right out of the box.
It’s not a perfect 3D printer by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s probably the closest we will see at this price for quite some time. Over the course of this review, we will take an in-depth look at what’s included with the package, the assembly process and the overall build quality of the machine.
While the Ender 3 is in fact a 3D Printer Kit, it comes partially assembled from the factory and takes minimal effort to build. The individual components are packaged well in a styrofoam tray, with the nuts and bolts placed into bags and labeled for identification.
While no damaged parts have yet been reported, some owners have found several loose bolts in the box. These are for the Z motor mount and tend to fall out during shipment.
Everything you will need to get started is included in the box, meaning no additional tools or hardware are required. Nonetheless, new owners should consider buying extra filament alongside the machine. The small 50G sample pack is barely enough for the demo print, let alone continuous printing after the machine is ready to use.
- Frame Base (Heated Bed)
- (2) 2040 V-Slot Extrusion
- (2) 2020 V-Slot Extrusion
- 24V Switching Power Supply
- LCD Screen & Mount
- Bowden Extruder System
- (1) GT2 Belt
- Spool Holder
- (4) Hex Wrenches
- Putty Knife
- SD Card & USB Reader
As mentioned before, the Ender 3 is already assembled to some extent. The base of the machine comes factory built, requiring only that the vertical frame and electronics be installed prior to usage. This can still take some time depending on your prior experience, but the process is straight forward and absolutely doable for anyone.
Those familiar with how a 3D printer works can likely complete the entire build in under an hour, but the Ender 3 is ultimately geared towards a novice audience. For those buying this as a first machine, the assembly should take no more than a couple hours at the most. 75% of the work has been done for you, where the remaining steps just involve bolting the pieces together. On the downside, the printed instructions offer poor guidance and the video (found on the SD card) fails to explain several important steps.
For those curious as to what they can expect or with questions about the build, I have written an assembly guide to compliment the official instructions. This not only walks through the assembly itself, but also features tips and tricks to take you from start to finish.
Ender 3 Build Quality
Considering the monumental success of their CR-10, we have come to expect great things from Creality machines. The Ender 3 is no exception, featuring many of the same components and design choices seen across their other product lines. For years, manufacturers in the sub $200 price range have utilize low grade parts in effort to minimize cost, often at the sacrifice of operational safety as a result. There is always room for improvement in the budget market, but to distance itself from these machines, shortcomings on the Ender 3 won’t pose a significant threat to your well being.
The electrical components, a frequent concern on budget 3D printers from China, are one big improvement on the Ender 3. The 24V switching power supply features a number of factory certifications, compliant with the FCC, RoHS, CE and more. The thick power cables connect to the main board using robust XT60 connectors. And learning from their past mistakes, Creality has also implemented proper strain relief on the heated bed wires, an upgrade that was later made available on the CR-10 after countless problems arose.
As for the board, it’s hard to discern any specifics from the electronics, labeled only as a Creality product. Nonetheless, the integrated control box is simple and accessible, with beefy connectors and clean wiring that are labeled for identification. Some early models however were delivered with loose connections, where it is advised to check these out prior to first time use.
The Ender 3 frame is assembled from 2020 and 2040 v-slot aluminum extrusion, with various brackets and mounts made of steel. The all metal body is solid as a rock, where the rigid design reduces artifacts z-banding at higher printing speeds. Although this is not uncommon in higher end machines, it’s unusual to see such exceptional construction on a budget 3D printer.
In fact, the only plastic piece on the entire unit is the power supply cover, which is actually 3D printed in black PLA. There are definitely better options available, but all things considered, this won’t affect the quality and does help to lower manufacturing costs.
Using a combination of v-wheels and eccentric nuts, components such as the gantry (x-axis) and heated bed (y-axis) clamp to the aluminum extrusion and roll inside of the channels. When configured properly, these provide a smooth motion system that reduces noise and improves print results. It’s important to check and adjust these as needed during assembly, where they are definitely not perfect out of the box.
The Ender 3 has a huge build volume, all metal construction and superior print quality all packed into one little machine. It’s far from perfect, but we can’t argue with the flaws considering what they do include for the price.
- All Metal Frame
- 24V Electrical System
- Large Print Volume
- V-Wheel Motion System
- Large Thumb Wheels
- Blackout Recovery (Auto Resume)
- No Thermal Runaway
- Poor Quality Control
- Cheap V-Slot Wheels
- Noisy Stepper Motors
- Difficult Filament Feed
- Plastic PSU Cover