Creality Ender 3
2019-07-02-e3-01.jpg

I have (2) of these printers. The first one I purchased back in May 2019 and the second in June 2019. The second one is still in the box and has never been opened as I originally purchased it for spare parts and the price was ridiculously low from Hobby King at the time. I also thought that with the trade war between China and the US it might be difficult to obtain so inexpensively.

This printer is completely awesome despite the fact that if you use it for about a month straight the (plastic) extruder feeder starts wearing out and you have to take immediate action to solve the underfeeding problem that arises because the plastic extruder feeder and the spring start losing tension and your filament isn't being fed properly.

If you have not been paying attention to the forums around the net (like I was not) you will begin to think you have a problem with infill and start troubleshooting in the wrong direction.

The best approach in my experience is to just purchase an upgraded extruder feed kit, some stainless steel 40T gears and replace the entire junk with something a bit better.

I spent far too much time troubleshooting nonsense when I should have been reading online but I can be stubborn like that. Right now I also have way too much time on my hands as it is, and although I have to admit I was ready to throw this printer away several times but after musing on the problem a few days (and printing on my Tevo LM Delta) I did not give up.

A few days ago I was about to change the filament reel and accidentally pulled the filament out of the extruder and it slid out easily even though it was supposed to be fully loaded and the spring engaged on the extruder feeder.

That was when I finally realized what my particular problem was and starting devising solutions. At first I tried to stretch the spring but it didn't go nearly far enough to create enough tension on the filament so that it would feed properly at all times.

I started thinking about lame plastic junk and then I DID sit down at my workstation and start researching upgraded extruder hardware for the Ender 3. I soon realized that all the Creality models have this issue and there are a lot of upgrade options for the extruder feeder and the gears for same.

I wasted a lot of time and energy when I should have done more research and then ordered parts.

The reason why I said I love this printer was for the first month I could print anything and no matter how shoddy the leveling job I did with this (manually-leveled) printer it produced usable prints. It was simply unstoppable.

I believe I can make it behave well again if I just solve this extruder feed issue permanently. I found the various shim solutions you stick behind the spring in between the lever and the body of the extruder feeder) and it is working temporarily but but if you are going to stack shims to solve the tensioner issue, you soon realize the nub on the lever is too short to safely retain more than 2mm thick shim.

I guess if you could print a new lever with a longer nub the shim solution could be long term until something else breaks in this plastic assembly.

I feel the best and long term solution (if you want to keep this little basic printer in operation) is to replace the extruder feeder with something made from metal. I don't think you will regret it.

2019-07-18 I have been been working on several failures with this little printer.

I first completely replaced the extruder feeder assembly with an all-metal unit but due to poor design, and incorrect hardware that came with the "kit" I purchased has made the upgrade less than successful.
I originally had to replace everything because the plastic handle broke at the point it holds the grooved-wheel.
The screws included with the "upgrade" were too large to fit inside the spring as it was supposed to. I had to improvise that for now until I can find a matching thread with a small enough head to fit inside the spring.

It won't do any good to complain about the chinese hardware to the vendor as we already know.

I have learned a lot lately about the Creality Ender 3 extruder, it's design and it's characteristics.

Since the number of gear teeth is different I had to add this to my Creality Slicer start gcode:

; Because new extruder drive gear
M92 E92

I am still having issues with the mechanical function of the extruder feeder which occasionally causes under extrusion.

The second problem was the motherboard died, specifically the extruder circuit. All other (X,Y,Z) functioned normally. I was able to troubleshoot that easily and ordered a replacement 1.1.3 board from someone on eBay. Then I ordered (2) more boards from Creality Direct because I want some spares.

2019-07-14-ender-pcb.jpg

It's not a coincidence that somehow my extruder feeder falls apart and then the Extruder circuit on the mainboard fails too. I just don't know how I killed it if I did at all.

I have made several botched prints since yesterday and several successful prints. The ones that were ruined seemed to have under-extrusion issues. I am still working on this, but it is related to improper tension between the extruder feeder gear and the grooved wheel on the extruder handle.

I had to use plastic shims even on the new extruder feeder (I will add some pictures shortly.)

2019-07-22-extruder-drive-01.jpg

That has resulted in some successful prints since then.

I was 14 hours into a print on my Tevo Little Monster, the piece was 11.2 cm tall and I'd reached 10cm when somehow the brim broke loose from the glass bed and the object was wobbling around and everything was ruined. That is very frustrating, isn't it?

That has nothing to do with the Ender 3 though but it's the kind of day I have had.

2019-07-26 Let me count the ways in which this little printer has failed since I last updated the page…

I have replaced the bowden tube from extruder feed to hot end, along with both bowden fittings. First, the tube got clogged with some "Black Koil" which always sticks to everything more than you want despite lowering temperatures, et al.

That was impossible to clean well so I cut that end off (it was on the hot end side.) Then I was unable to free the tube from the bowden fitting on the hot end side no matter how hard I tried. I realized it had been fused into the fitting, most likely because i printed so much PETG at 260C.

Since these were the original bowden fittings (everyone said they were crap) I had already obtained replacements but they lasted longer than expected.

Every time I looked at the latest problem (under extrusion) I would clean the hot end with a needle going about 100mm+ inward through the nozzle and by the time I did that, the clog point was sufficiently melted to let the needle through but still impeded flow to the point where the print was also garbage.

On face value you'd also be troubleshooting the extruder drive since it was having problems pushing through the clog but you should remember to remove the bowden tube and examine the filament path into the hot end anyway as a matter of maintenance from time to time.

I recently found gobs of dried, melted filament in chamber of the Tevo Little Monster recently, a result of printing PLA too hot, I believe.

As of today, the little Ender 3 marches bravely onward, printing more objects and doing it surprisingly well despite the maintenance issues. Yes, I feel they are really just a question of keeping up with the wear and tear on a light duty printer that I have been beating on for 5-months straight.

Using this printer, I have been on a "manufacturing run" of the same 5 or 6 objects for months now and the Ender 3 has more than kept up with my work flow.

I use my Tevo Little Monster a lot as well and have a second Ender 3 (new in box) that I keep thinking about putting to use as well.

Despite all the things that have broken, you end up really grokking the mechanicals and the embedded control software simply just works.

So far I have been lucky in that I had prepared spares for the items I have replaced, ordered additional spares for those items and have anticipated some kinds of failures based on experience so far.

For the price it (still) is an absolute bargain and performs at a considerable level if you keep it in order.

2019-10-03 I now have three of these printers but one is being refurbished so only two are operational.

I wanted to document some findings related to replacing the bed springs with stronger versions, and also about adjusting the Z-Axis limit switch.

Once you have replaced the standard springs with the stronger springs you need to adjust the Z-Axis limit switch to 35mm.

I believe the latest versions of the installation manual suggest setting that to 32mm initially but if you set it to 35mm then you will have plenty of adjustment left on your bed and you won't find yourself about to loosen a knob to the point it falls off, or having to tighten the knob so tight that you can barely move it.