Calibrating the extruder steps (or e-steps) is crucial for accurate and high-quality prints. Often misconfigured from the factory, Creality 3D printers are prone to under or over extrude filament. This one setting is responsible for how much plastic gets pushed to the hotend, and without the correct value, it can cause defects like stringing, blobs and layer gaps.
When setting up a new Creality Ender 5 Pro, it was under extruding by a rather significant amount… 12% to be exact. This came as no surprise, my Ender 3 and CR-10 had similar problems in the past, badly in need of proper calibrations. The good news is, it’s easy to check and fix if needed, taking just a few minutes for much better print results.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to calibrate the extruder steps on your Ender 3, 5, or CR-10 3D printer:
We’ll need a couple of tools to get started, something to measure and something to mark. In my case, I am using Digital Calipers from Amazon and a sharpie.
- Caliper or Ruler
- Permanent Marker
Calculate Extruder Steps
To check if our current extruder steps are correct, we first ask the 3D Printer to extrude a specific amount of filament. We then measure how much was actually extruded, find the difference and calculate the correct e-steps based on that.
1) Measure the Filament
Using a caliper or ruler, measure out exactly 100mm in length from the extruder and mark it on the filament with a sharpie. It’s a good idea to make several additional marks at 90 and 110 too. In case it extrudes more or less than expected, we’ll already have additional points of reference.
2) Extrude the Filament
Go ahead and pre-heat the hotend up to normal printing temperatures. From the LCD screen, press the knob once to bring up the main menu and navigate to Prepare -> Preheat PLA, or Configure -> Temperature -> Nozzle to set a specific value.
It’s a good idea to set the temperature 5-10° C hotter than you would normally print. This prevents resistance at the nozzle that might throw off our measurements, allowing it to flow out nice and smooth.
Once the hotend has been pre-heated, bring up the menu again and this time go to Prepare -> Move Axis -> Move 1mm -> Extruder. Turn the knob to the right until you reach our desired value of 100mm, then wait until it has finished extruding the filament.
3) Check the Results
If our 100mm mark on the filament is right at the extruder, the e-steps are perfectly calibrated and we’re finished.
Otherwise, if the mark shows that it extruded more or less filament than we wanted, we’ll need to check by how much. To do this, measure the distance from the extruder to our mark once more and see how much plastic was actually pushed through the hotend.
If the 100mm mark is still visible…
The 3D Printer is under extruding and not pushing out as much plastic as it should be.
Subtract the new measurement from the original measurement to find the difference. In my case, I still had 12mm of filament left before my 100mm mark, so my calculations are…
100 - 12 = 88
If the 100mm mark is no longer visible…
The 3D Printer is over extruding, feeding more plastic than we wanted.
Use one of the additional reference marks we made and measure to that instead. Subtract the new measurement from the reference point.
As an example, let’s say we measured from the extruder to our mark at 110mm, and there was a length of 6mm filament between them. In that case, we would do…
110 - 6 = 104
Write down this value and save it for the next step.
Calibrate Extruder Steps
Before we can figure out the correct value for our Extruder Steps, we need to first check and see what the current value is.
From the LCD screen, push the knob and navigate to Control -> Motion -> ESteps/mm to view the original setting. Unless it was previously changed, the default e-step values from Creality are set as…
- Creality CR-10: 93.0 steps/mm
- Creality Ender-3: 95.0 steps/mm
- Creality Ender-5: 92.6 steps/mm
Using the formula below, multiply the current E-Steps/mm for your machine by the desired amount of filament (100) we asked it to extrude. Divide that number by how much we got (the value we wrote down in the previous step) and we find the correct Extruder Steps for our machine.
This is the math for my Creality Ender 5 Pro, which gave me a new E-Steps/mm value of roughly 105.2. That’s a significant difference from what was previously configured stock.
Now that we have found the correct Extruder Steps for our machine, we need to set and store this value in EEPROM. This is the board’s read-only memory where firmware settings are saved.
From the LCD screen, navigate to Control -> Motion -> Esteps/mm. Press the knob to select it, then turn to adjust the number until it matches our new extruder steps value. Press the knob once more to back out and make sure that it’s correct.
Since this will revert back when we power off the 3D printer, we also need to store the changes too. Go back to the LCD screen, scroll down to the bottom and look for an option called Store Memory (Ender-5), Store Settings (Ender-3) or Save to EEPROM (CR-10). The option name changes a bit between models, but each one does the exact same thing. Select that and our new Extruder Steps are now saved.
Extruder steps play a major role in 3D printer performance, but it doesn’t just affect extrusion multipliers, it also controls retraction and other related settings. If we’re under or over extruding, we’re also under or over retracting, and that can cause just as many problems.
Having owned dozens of Creality 3D printers, from the Ender 3, 5 and CR10 series, it’s safe to assume that every machine needs these calibrations. They use a generic “one size fits all” firmware configuration, but no two are identical.
As a final word of advice, take the opportunity and upgrade your extruder. Most stock extruders are made of plastic, a terrible place to cut costs, and these won’t last more than a few months. Once the lever develops cracks or the brass gear’s teeth wear out, no amount of tuning can fix it. Just make sure to re-calibrate the extruder steps when you do!