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.
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.
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 and Mount
- Bowden Extruder System
- (1) GT2 Belt
- Spool Holder
- (4) Hex Wrenches
- Putty Knife
- SD Card & USB Reader
Ender 3 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.
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.
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.
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
- Amazon ($189.00)
- Ebay ($195.00)
- Aliexpress ($169.99)
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 $800 and my first recommendation to anyone looking for a 3D Printer (regardless of past experience).
- All Metal Frame
- Large Print Volume
- 24V Electrical System
- V-Wheel Motion System
- Large Thumb Wheels
- Power Outage Recovery
- Thermal Runaway Disabled
- Noisy Stepper Motors
- Poor Quality Control
- Low Quality V-Wheels
25 thoughts on “Review: The Creality Ender 3 (3D Printer Kit)”
Thanks for your excellent review on the printer. I bought a Creality Ender 3 in April as my first 3D printer and couldn’t be happier. The only major issue I had was a broken plastic strain relief for the heated bed cable. The shipping box was pretty beat up so I’m sure it got broken during shipment. I just repaired the strain relief (hey, it’s only plastic) rather than hassle the vendor (Banggood). Assembly went smoothly but a couple of things to look out for is to check the tightness of all of the factory assembled components because several on mine were too loose. Also check the alignments of the rollers that ride on the V-channels because both the X and Z rollers on mine were installed with too much play allowing a small amount of wobble.
During use I found that the bed will not get hotter than 104C (verified with an infrared temperature gun) even though the spec is 110C. I also find the location of the memory card slot a little inconvenient. After about a dozen or so prints the build-tak surface ripped because some of the prints were stuck on really well. The build-tak was removed and replaced with glass and Kapton film. I have a few other upgrades in works.
All in all I think the Ender 3 is an outstanding value for the money.
Thank you for the feedback! I was definitely excited to write up a review after using it, I have almost every other popular 3D Printer from 150-500$ 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.
How many hours do you have on your Ender 3 now?
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.
Great review, thanks. Why do you recommend avoiding BangGood and GearBest?
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.
Oh boy. I ordered from GearBest about 20 days ago and am reading this post just now. I hope everything turns out well for me.
I honestly wouldn’t be too concerned if you already placed the order. For every nightmare experience a customer has with them, there are plenty of smooth transactions that keep them in business. While there is no doubt they are one of the worste options available, they generally come through for most customers with at least the bare minimum in service. Just make sure to purchase with a Credit Card because a charge-back is your best defense against these types of businesses in the event the screw you.
If you want to read the horror stories though, there are hundreds on Reddit’s /r/3dprinting, and if I recall correctly, even using the word “gearbest” in your post flags it for auto moderation, to be reviewed before it is actually active (that is how seriously they have burned various people in the past). This includes everything from not sending products to tacking on outrageous fees after the purchase has already been completed… usually when the person contacts them for an update on shipping/delivery.
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
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!
Would I need to upgrade it in order to print TPU? What upgrade would you recommend?
Most 3D Printers need a small modification to support flexible filament, which is usually some type of guide added to the extruder. Since the Ender-3 is a bowden setup it can be a bit more tricky, but it is absolutely capable of printing with it. Since the Ender-3 uses the exact same extruder/hotend as the CR-10, that also means we can steal whatever existing designs from that machine to use. Here are a few I found, but there are a lot of options.
I just purchased an Ender 3 this last weekend, however when I went to start my first print I realized that the extruder motor was running backwards. Is this a firmware fix? And if so how would I go about doing that? I’ve emailed Comgrow (who I purchased it through on Amazon) but I figured I’d hedge my bets and ask you too.
Sounds like it was wired backwards. Find the plug on the board Goin to extruder and flip it. You could also edit the firmware but you need to use an arduino to start that process.
That was my first thought, but I believe the stepper motors are a one way connector (some type of JST if memory serves). If you can flip the connector for the motor, that would probably be the easiest solution because flashing the firmware will require you to burn a bootloader first.
Enjoyed reading your article/review on the Creality Ender 3. I am thinking of getting one as it is to good a deal not to. I have lots of other printers and a fair amount of experiance building and maintening 3D Printers.
(1) Are there any issues with the single Z axis screw?
(2) How are the roller wheels compared to the linear bearings? They have got to be quieter I would think.
(3) Watching other builders of the Ender 3 show that their printer doesn’t sit flat on a table. They wobble. What is the problem with this? Is the bottom of the Aluminum frame not flat Did they build it wrong or is there something that needs attention?
A couple thinks I would likely add to this printer is Bed Leveling and either a Glass or metal plate on the print bed.
Thank you for your help with my questions.
Appreciate the feedback, glad to hear that you enjoyed the article! The Ender-3 is definitely too good of a deal to pass up in my opinion, it’s an absolutely fantastic machine. My only regret is not buying more of them when it was on pre-sale for $150, otherwise it has been my favorite of the 12 or so printers I have owned. Given your prior experience, it should be a cake walk to dial this in compared to other similar priced machines.
1) While they may have fixed this since I bought it, the only problem with the Z axis is that the Z motor clamps too close to the extrusion. In my experience, this pulled the lead screw inwards at the base and would result in binding. Initially I left the motor screws a bit loose to prevent that, but there are now printable spacer/bracket designs on Thingiverse that will completely correct this issue.
2) My first experience with v-wheels was on a self built D-Bot, and never quite get those to clamp evenly. After purchasing the CR-10 and now the Ender-3, I am much more preferential towards them over linear bearings. They are basically silent and roll smoothly when tightened correctly, which seems to trip up some new owners. The eccentric nut design makes it very easy to adjust them as needed.
3) When building the Ender-3, I had the same problem with a slight wobble. This is an assembly problem, where the frame is not square and being pulled out of alignment. I loosened the bolts on the bottom of the frame (that secure the vertical beams to the base) and then tightened them back down. After doing that, it does sit perfectly flat and the frame is rock solid.
I’ve never bothered with auto bed leveling on my other 3D printers, but decided to give it a try on the Ender-3. It wasn’t documented well and the 24V electrical system complicated things a bit, but now that it is installed and working, can definitely appreciate it a lot more. I wrote the guide How to Setup Auto Bed Leveling (Ender-3) not too long ago which covers the setup if you want to give that a read.
A glass or metal plate would definitely be a good addition, my biggest gripe is that the heated build plates have terrible QC from the factory and mine came warped in the center. I’ve already done hundreds of prints on the Ender-3 so it hasn’t been overly problematic, but the company I work for sells Ender-3 Borosilicate Glass plates, plus we are working on a Spring Steel sheet kit right now, so I will definitely be adding one of those to mine soon.
Thanks for the review. I just had question regarding the suggested vendors. Is the reason you suggest to avoid BangGood purely customer service related or are there other reasons?
For purchasing in Australia, BangGood ends up being a good $60 – $70 cheaper.
Sorry for the late response, was away for a few days this weekend due to holidays!
To answer your question, BangGood is definitely a step up from GearBest but they are still a far cry from the companies I would recommend. They will ship the product, it will most likely arrive, but past that you are on your own. If there are any problems, support is almost non-existent and you will be stuck dealing with the issues.
I’ve placed several orders with them in the past, and while most were delivered and worked as expected, a couple of the items were so poorly packaged that they ripped open in transit, meaning I received empty bags with nothing inside. I contacted support and got a canned response, but there was no real service and eventually ended up just eating the loss. Considering delivery was already somewhere around 2 months, it wasn’t worth pushing for a replacement that would delay my projects by a substantial amount even further.
If you are aware of the potential troubles that can arise before hand and proceed, then you are taking a gamble where the odds are most likely in your favor (but definitely not guaranteed). With so many visitors coming to this review though, I can’t recommend a company that may or may not deliver, so they ended up on the Avoid List for that reason. Hope that helps!
Thanks for the great review. It gave me confidence that this would be a great starter printer for my son. As we are completely new to 3D printing, the one thing I am unclear on is software. In my mind, there is controller software for the printer, design software, and then files you can download to print, but I want this printer to be ready to go for his birthday and was wondering what software you would recommend using for a beginner.
Glad to hear you enjoyed the review, it definitely is a wonderful machine and among the best options within the price range.
As for the software, you seem to have the general idea correct. The main software you will want to focus on is called the Slicer, a program that converts a 3D model file in to a file (.gcode) that the 3D Printer can understand. In the slicer software, you configure things like how fast should it print, how solid should the object be, etc. There are really only 2 popular choices, Cura (free) and Simplify3D (paid license). Being that Cura costs nothing to use, it is included with most 3D Printers (including the Ender-3) on the SD card and is very widely used.
To keep things simple at the start, you can just use an existing Ender-3 Cura profile (there is one included on the Ender-3 SD card), which is basically a collection of someone else’s settings for that particular 3D Printer. You then import this profile in to Cura, which will automatically configure all options to work with that machine. This gives you a jump start, making it unnecessary to learn what each individual setting does, but you can tweak these as desired later on. At that point, you can just find a 3D file you want to print online, drag it in to the 3D window on Cura and Save/Export it as a G-Code file that the 3D printer can understand.
So to summarize the general process…
1) Install Cura software from the included SD card
2) Import the included Cura profile (or someone elses) to load pre-configured Ender-3 settings
3) Drag your desired 3D model in to Cura
4) Use the Save/Export option to output that as a G-Code file
5) Place that G-Code file on the SD card and print it
This is a fairly basic rundown of the process but once you have done it a few times, it’s pretty simple to do. The slicer software keeps whatever profile active, so once you have it loaded, any future prints are usually a matter of just dropping in the desired 3D model file and spitting out the G-Code for the 3D Printer to use.
Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!
This is exactly the information I needed. I don’t foresee us doing anything real complicated early on, and I like that it comes (sort of) pre-configured.
Thanks for your help,
No problem, glad I was able to answer your questions! Feel free to ask if you have anything else you want to know or if you run into unexpected issues. I’m slowly building up the learning resources for this printer over time, but common topics and/or questions usually decide what my next articles will cover.
Hey nice review, and i want to ask something..
what about power consumption?? does is use significantly more power due to the 24v power supply?? or the difference is not much that i need to worry about
and could you share your printer profile?? i’d appreciate it
Honestly the power consumption of 3D Printing is so negligible that electricity costs is probably the least expensive aspect of the entire thing. I haven’t done any testing myself (although it may be a fun project to test for a future article) but based on tons of reports from other owners that did the legwork, the average print job costs a matter of cents from start to finish… in the range of $0.02 – $0.10 for example. The largest spike is when the machine is warming up the heated bed to temperature, past that the usage is almost nothing.
As for slicer profile, I would be more than happy to provide it. I currently use Simplify3D though and don’t believe I ever made one for Cura, what slicer do you use? I would be happy to give you download links for some of the highest rated slicer profiles for your preferred slicer though!