How to Install the Gulfcoast Robotics Heated Bed (Ender 3 / 5)

Creality 3D Printers are notorious for their warped heated beds. The Ender 3 and 5 series have it the worst, with seemingly zero quality control on what reaches the customers.

This glaring defect has made purchasing aftermarket glass almost a necessity, a band-aid solution to cover up the underlying problems. With flatness tolerances ranging anywhere from +/- 0.3mm to an upwards of 1.0mm, it’s no surprise that many of them are practically unusable.

To address this, we’ll look at how to install the Gulfcoast Robotics Heated Bed Kit. It’s equipped with a precision CNC milled aluminum build plate, powerful 24V silicone heater, and all the conveniences to make it a simple drop-in upgrade.

Disclaimer: I work at Gulfcoast Robotics and have provided feedback in the design of this product. As this is my personal website however, the thoughts and opinions shared here are entirely my own.

Purchased Parts

235x235mm Heated Bed Upgrade - $54.99

Checking Build Plate Flatness

Most of us don’t have the tools needed to measure flatness tolerances, they are expensive. The good news is, there are a couple DIY methods to figure out if your heated bed is warped.

However, testing while it’s installed on the 3D Printer won’t give us accurate results. Tension on the corners from the bed leveling screws can heavily skew the shape. As such, make sure to remove it from the machine before trying these out.

Ruler Method

You probably have a standard 12″ ruler somewhere nearby, wood or metal will work. Since the edges of a ruler are fairly straight, we can lay it across the surface and check for high or low spots.

Place a light behind the ruler, look from the front (eye level with the bed) and see if any light is visible.

Countertop Method

Kitchen and bathroom countertops are often made from granite, marble or some sort of stone. These should be extremely flat and will serve well as a reference point for comparisons.

Lay the bed face down on the counter, then press on various spots to see if there is any flex or wobbles.

These aren’t perfect tests by any means, but they are quick and dirty checks that anyone can do. For the most part, they will give us a reasonably good idea if the build plate is anything less than flat.

Installation

To get started, we first need to remove the original heated bed. Loosen the thumb wheels until they fall off, then set these and the leveling springs aside. Carefully lift the bed up from the Y axis and place it behind the 3D Printer for now.

Next we need to disconnect the bed from the board. Open the electronics case by removing the (3) hex screws on top, two in the front corners and one in the middle rear. With these out, you can lift the lid and set it aside, taking care not to stress the cooling fan wires.

The bed’s (2) power cables are secured in a clamping terminal block. Using a small flat head screwdriver, loosen both set screws on top until the cables are loose and can freely slide out. While we’re in here, we also need to unplug the thermistor, which is a white 2-pin JST connector (circled below).

Pull the power cables and thermistor wiring out from the back of the Ender 3 to detach the heated bed.

With the original heated bed removed, we can start preparing our replacement for installation.

Flip the build plate over with the bottom side facing up (countersunk holes facing down). At this point, it’s a good idea to clean the surface with isopropyl alcohol, just to remove any greasy fingerprint oils before we attach the heater.

Now position the silicone heater so that the holes match up with the build plate. There is only one correct orientation due to the additional hole for optional 3-point leveling support. Once it’s aligned, peel back the protective 3M adhesive backing and start applying the silicone heater with firm pressure.

After the silicone heater has been mounted, we’re just about ready to install it on our Ender 3 / Ender 5 3D Printer. Before doing so however, we’ll take a quick look at the wiring.

The (2) white cables are for powering the heater. One comes pre-stripped while the other does not. Using wire strippers or a pair of scissors, strip off 1/2 inch of the insulation to match, exposing the wire strands for a solid connection.

At this point, we’re ready to go ahead and start installing the new heated bed. For the sake of clarity, the connections are shown below on an empty board. Run the silicone heater’s power cables and thermistor wiring into the electronics case, routing them through the back of the lower frame.

The (2) white power cables are inserted into the HOTBED terminal block, then clamped down by tightening the set screws on top. In contrast to the original heated bed, there is no polarity with the silicone heater, meaning the cables have no +/- and are interchangeable. Give them a gentle tug to make sure they are properly seated.

The 2-pin JST thermistor connector plugs into the 2nd port from the right labeled THB.

These power cables have bootlace ferrules crimped on the stranded wire. This is not necessary, nor is it standard on Creality 3D Printers, but does offer a safer and more reliable connection.

With the silicone heater now wired up, the last step is mounting the heated bed.

As this kit does not come with additional hardware, we’ll reuse the M4x35mm bolts from the original build plate. Depending on the type of print surface it has, you may need to peel this up at the corners to reach them. At this point, everything goes back together the same way it came apart.

In my case, I am also using the Gulfcoast Robotics Y Carriage with a 3-Point leveling configuration. For those with the stock Y Carriage, ignore the center right hole and place a bolt, spring and thumb wheel at each of the 4 corners instead.

After we’ve wrapped up the installation, it’s time to test. Power on the Ender 3 and preheat the bed from the LCD menu. If everything is connected properly, it should start warming up.

Firmware Update

Flashing a firmware update is not necessary to use this product. However, adjusting the TEMP_SENSOR_BED value will provide the most accurate temperature readings.

Ender 3 factory firmware is configured to use a value of “1” (EPCOS) whereas this silicone heater works best with a value of “11” (NTC3950). As these are both 100K thermistors with 4.7K pull-up resistors, they have similar results, but the temperatures reported may be a few degrees off.

In the Marlin firmware Configuration.h file, locate the line “#define TEMP_SENSOR_BED” under the “Thermal Settings”. After this value is changed from “1” to “11”, recompile the firmware and flash it to the board.

//===========================================================================
//============================= Thermal Settings ============================
//===========================================================================
// @section temperature

/**
* --NORMAL IS 4.7kohm PULLUP!-- 1kohm pullup can be used on hotend sensor, using correct resistor and table
*
* Temperature sensors available:
*
*     0 : not used
*     1 : 100k thermistor - best choice for EPCOS 100k (4.7k pullup)
*     2 : 200k thermistor - ATC Semitec 204GT-2 (4.7k pullup)
*     3 : Mendel-parts thermistor (4.7k pullup)
*     4 : 10k thermistor !! do not use it for a hotend. It gives bad resolution at high temp. !!
*     5 : 100K thermistor - ATC Semitec 104GT-2/104NT-4-R025H42G (Used in ParCan, J-Head, and E3D) (4.7k pullup)
*     6 : 100k EPCOS - Not as accurate as table 1 (created using a fluke thermocouple) (4.7k pullup)
*     7 : 100k Honeywell thermistor 135-104LAG-J01 (4.7k pullup)
*     8 : 100k 0603 SMD Vishay NTCS0603E3104FXT (4.7k pullup)
*     9 : 100k GE Sensing AL03006-58.2K-97-G1 (4.7k pullup)
*    10 : 100k RS thermistor 198-961 (4.7k pullup)
*    11 : 100k beta 3950 1% thermistor (Used in Keenovo AC silicone mats and most Wanhao i3 machines) (4.7k pullup)
*    12 : 100k 0603 SMD Vishay NTCS0603E3104FXT (4.7k pullup) (calibrated for Makibox hot bed)
*    13 : 100k Hisens 3950  1% up to 300°C for hotend "Simple ONE " & "Hotend "All In ONE"
*/
#define TEMP_SENSOR_0 1
#define TEMP_SENSOR_BED 1

Posts created 52

7 thoughts on “How to Install the Gulfcoast Robotics Heated Bed (Ender 3 / 5)

  1. Great article, I am thinking of purchasing one of these kits, as my Ender 3 came with a warped bed, and I have been using a glass bed to compensate. I have also been using a “stick on” PEI sheet on the glass to hold the prints firmly – (works too well sometimes). What would you recommend to put on the build plate to print on?.

    1. I’ve used a combination of glass with PEI on top for many years, it’s still among my favorites. If the heated bed is actually flat though, magnetic flex plates are an excellent choice. Not the cheap ones that Creality has started using, they wear out fast, but rather spring steel with a PEI powder coated surface. You just remove the plate, bend it and the print pops off.

      Thanks for the feedback! I still have a bit more content to add here over the weekend. I’m going to look at insulating the heater for faster warmup times, as well as various build surfaces.

      -Brett

  2. can you recommend a good how-to guide for configuring marlin for a first time firmware editor?

    i’ve downloaded VSCode and the marlin autobuild extension for it, but i dont know where to go from here – and the creality printer groups on fakebook are all but useless unless you need help leveling your bed.

    any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Berne,

      What aspect of the process are you looking for information on, compiling or configuring?

      I can’t say that I have seen many guides, but as for configuring it, the Configuration.h contains all of the notable settings and it’s well documented. You can also check the Marlin website, where they have pretty extensive documentation. You generally won’t need to edit anything other than that one file unless it’s something very specific.

      In regards to compiling it, I personally find it easier to bypass Visual Studio / VSCode entirely. Having used this software for close to 20 years, it always seems to get hung up on missing libraries and other various problems. For the SKR Mini E3 boards, I just use PlatformIO straight from the command line, rather than relying on VSCode to automate it. With that approach, I just go into the firmware directory, open a command prompt, type “platformio” with my desired parameters and it dumps out a BIN file I can place on the SD card.

      I could potentially write a guide on whatever aspect you’re interested in, although I have been building a simple web-based firmware compiler tool. It was placed on the backburner during the holidays, but I will probably wrap it up and push it live here in the next week or two.

      -Brett

  3. at least for now i’m mostly looking for information on configuring, and then probably compiling. because i’m very new to all of this (modifying firmware, vs just using/installing pre-compiled stuff) – and its been almost 25 years since i took my OOP/c/c++ classes in college and realized i hated looking for a missing ; in the code and switched career paths lol

    Mostly right now what i *think* i need is where to look for the bits of data i’ll need to enable/disable from the default marlin 2.0.x firmware to get running on both my machines.

    Ive got an ender 5 pro with GCR Bed/silicone heating mat & the stock creality 4.2.2 board and just received my 2nd GCR bed/silicone heater to bring my 3 pro back to life too (stock board tried to catch on fire, yikes!) so i havent even cracked the case on that one to see which board is in there yet.

    ive currently got the stock firmware on the 3 pro, and running the creality Ender-5 Pro- Marlin2.0.1 – V1.0.1 – Endstop (sept 2020 version) that i had to update to so that i could remove the TCM communication error.

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