Reviews

Review: The Creality Ender 3 (3D Printer Kit)

When the Ender 3 was announced at the end of March, it quickly became the most anticipated 3D Printer of 2018. After dominating the mid-range budget market with their flagship CR-10, Creality 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.

Assembly:
Build Quality:
Features:
Price:
Overall:
Specifications
Resolution100 Microns
Dimensions440x410x465mm
Build Volume220x220x250mm
PlatformBuild Tak
Filament1.75mm
MaterialPLA/ABS
Weight19 Lbs
ConnectUSB/SD Card

Included Parts

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 into a styrofoam tray, with the nuts and bolts separated into bags with labels for easy 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 needed. 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
    • Nippers
    • SD Card & USB Reader
 Creality Ender-3 Assembly - Parts

Machine Assembly

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.

If your 3D Printer just arrived or you are curious what to expect when it does, I have created a full assembly guide to compliment the included manual. This will walk you through the entire build, with lots of tips, tricks and pictures to make your life a bit easier.

Guide: How to Assemble the Creality Ender-3

Those familiar with how a 3D printer works can likely complete the entire setup in less than an hour, but the Ender 3 is ultimately geared towards a novice. For those buying this as a first machine, the assembly should take no more than a couple hours at most. 75% of the work has been done for you and the remaining steps involve just bolting the pieces together. The printed instructions you will find in the box aren’t great, but the 2 minute assembly video helps to explain how each of the pieces fit.

Above all else, the most important piece of advise I can offer is, make sure to triple check everything before using it. Nothing feels worse than breaking your brand new machine, but small mistakes can do just that. Make sure the Power Supply switch is correctly set (115V for US, 230V for Europe). Check each and every bolt to make sure it is tight. If something goes wrong and your not sure, turn the machine off and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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 used low grade parts in effort to lower 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.

Electrical System

The electrical components are a frequent concern on budget 3D printers from China, where this is a 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.

Frame Construction

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, and the rigid design helps reduce 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 ABS. There are definitely better options available, but all things considered, this won’t affect the quality and does help to lower manufacturing costs.

Motion System

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 create a smooth motion system that reduces noise and improves print results. It is however important to check and adjust these as needed, where they are often left loose to prevent damage.

The v-wheels do tend to degrade after use, where rubber dust starts to accumulate on the sides of each wheel. This won’t have any immediate impact on the machine, but it may suggest that the wheels are misaligned or clamped to tight. Calibrate the motion components to the best of your ability and if it persists, v-wheels are relatively cheap to replace as needed.

Where to Buy It

Recommended Vendors
Amazon ($236.00)
Ebay ($229.99)
AliExpress ($208.00)
Tiny Machines ($270.00)
Avoid Vendors
BangGood ($179.99)
GearBest ($199.99)

Final Thoughts

While I definitely did not need another 3D Printer, the price to performance ratio on the Ender 3 was simply too good to pass up. It has a huge build volume, all metal construction and superior print quality, packed into one little machine for around $200. It has some flaws of course, but they are nothing compared to the alternative 3D Printers in this price range.

After 2 months with the Ender 3, it has become the workhorse in my office. I have 3D Printers setup from wall to wall, yet this little beast is always my first choice for prints. Out of the box, it prints better than almost any other machine 2-3x it costs. It now has taken over the #1 spot on my article The 10 Best 3D Printers Under $800 and my first recommendation to anyone looking for a 3D Printer (regardless of past experience).

Creality3D Ender 3 3D Printer

Pros

  • All Metal Frame
  • 24V Electrical System
  • Large Print Volume
  • V-Wheel Motion System
  • Large Thumb Wheels
  • Blackout Recovery (Auto Resume)

 

Cons

  • No Thermal Runaway
  • Poor QC
  • Loud Motors
  • Cheap V-Slot Wheels

Ender 3 Print Results

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Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Creality3D Ender 3 3D Printer Kit
Author Rating
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8 thoughts on “Review: The Creality Ender 3 (3D Printer Kit)

  1. Thanks for your excellent review on the printer. I bought a Creality Ender 3 in April as my first 3D printer and couldn’t be happier. The only major issue I had was a broken plastic strain relief for the heated bed cable. The shipping box was pretty beat up so I’m sure it got broken during shipment. I just repaired the strain relief (hey, it’s only plastic) rather than hassle the vendor (Banggood). Assembly went smoothly but a couple of things to look out for is to check the tightness of all of the factory assembled components because several on mine were too loose. Also check the alignments of the rollers that ride on the V-channels because both the X and Z rollers on mine were installed with too much play allowing a small amount of wobble.
    During use I found that the bed will not get hotter than 104C (verified with an infrared temperature gun) even though the spec is 110C. I also find the location of the memory card slot a little inconvenient. After about a dozen or so prints the build-tak surface ripped because some of the prints were stuck on really well. The build-tak was removed and replaced with glass and Kapton film. I have a few other upgrades in works.
    All in all I think the Ender 3 is an outstanding value for the money.

    1. Hi Wes,

      Thank you for the feedback! I was definitely excited to write up a review after using it, I have almost every other popular 3D Printer from 150-500$ and this has become my #1 go to machine. It’s currently pumping out parts for my other printers right now, from PSU covers to frame brackets. Almost wish I had a few more Ender 3’s to put to work.

      As for the things you mentioned as an issue, I actually just went through the entire review and updated quite a bit of the text. I included more info about the v-wheels and mentioning tightening up factory components, both very good recommendations. I will check out the other things like heated bed temp as I am curious if that is universal (perhaps some extra insulation on the bottom may help)

      As for the Build Tak, I am nervous about it ripping every time I take off a print. I am about 40 prints in and no damage yet, but they are really stuck on there good. The company I work with part time (Gulfcoast Robotics) just got a shipment of Ender 3 borosilicate glass, which is what I use on the rest of my 3D Printers. I may switch over to that with PEI after the Build Tak is exhausted, but so far it seems to be holding up.

    1. The Ender-3 doesn’t have the option to view total print time like some machines (unless I completely overlooked it) but I would estimate about 2-300 hours. It is definitely my default printer at this point, and surprisingly still stock. I will be doing a few things this weekend to document in guides, like installing motor dampers, flashing Marlin firmware and setting up auto bed leveling, but there isn’t really anything I feel like it absolutely needs.

    1. No problem! I actually just added the list of sellers (recommended and avoidable) since a lot of people ask where to buy it. I do plan to add a further update with more info explaining why soon, just ran out of time.

      To summarize though, BangGood and GearBest both have some questionable practices that a lot of buyers (especially first timers) are not aware of. You would most likely receive your purchase without hassle, but there is essentially no support from that point forward. If it arrives damaged, which is not uncommon, you are going to be SOL with these companies. There are plenty of horror stories floating around about both, but I would personally consider GearBest to be among the worst offenders. BangGood is more so just an issue of neglect as opposed to shady operations.

      If you are considering GearBest, I would consider doing a quick Google search for “reddit 3dprinting gearbest”, where the titles alone speak for themselves.

  2. Hi,
    I just received my ender 3, and I guess I am over thinking it but I want to make sure I have voltage set correctly for 110v. I have the switch set now so that the switch displays 115 so is that correct or does it mean i need to move the switch back towards the 115 and then it would display 230?? I know I’m stupid..haha..but really don’t want to blow up the PS

    1. No worries, I completely understand the concern. I believe some units look a little bit different but in my case, 110V is on bottom and 220V is on top, so I would push the switch down for 110V. If you look at my Assembly Guide for the Ender-3, scroll to the bottom and look for “Power Supply Voltage” which has a picture and a brief explanation. Hope that helps some!

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