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.
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 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.
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
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