The Ender 3 V2 is an FDM printer, which stands for “Fused Deposition Modeling.” This type of printer works by printing thin layers of plastic one atop another to create or “build up” an object. The Ender 3 V2 follows the original Ender 3 in maintaining great specifications for a low price, offering a 220 × 220 × 250 mm (8.6 × 8.6 × 10 in) build area, tempered glass build plate, and can handle ABS, PLA, TPU, among other filament types.
It’s a sturdy little printer, too. Though it only weighs 17.6 pounds in its unmodified form, its all-metal body means that it sits well and doesn’t wobble, improving the build quality of your prints. That metal frame also comes in handy when you do want to start modifying it, offering a huge range of attachment point possibilities and easy access to the printer’s internal electronics.
As I showcased in my set-up guide for the Ender 3 V2, this printer is fairly easy to assemble if you take your time and follow the steps from beginning to end. I repeatedly found references to multi-hour complexity for assembling the Ender 3 V2 when I first started researching it, but my own experience putting it together showed that it could be finished and ready for testing in just 2 hours.
That said, I fancy myself a relatively technically minded person, I have a degree of orderliness and patience, and I’m a big guy capable of easily manipulating the 18-pound printer without any difficulty. I absolutely found points in the assembly process where someone without those qualities, someone easily made anxious by poor instruction manuals, or someone generally uninterested in DIY projects, would have a hard time.
I recommend the Ender 3 V2 specifically for those people who like a bit of a challenge, want to teach themselves all about the intricacies of how a 3D printer works, and who are excited about the prospect of upgrading their Ender 3 V2 in the future.
Upgrading the Ender 3 V2, as it was with the original Ender 3, is almost half the point of purchasing it. This printer, at its base state, is basic. It offers, out of the box, a powerful platform capable of turning out good prints, but where the real magic happens is inside the process of printing your own parts and using those parts to upgrade the printer’s look and functionality.
There is a massive range of potential modifications to make to the Ender 3 V2, some of which are relatively simple and cosmetic, others which will require soldering skill, knowledge of electrical circuitry, and the patience to experiment (and possibly mess things up in the process).
You can absolutely take your basic Ender 3 V2 and turn it into a powerhouse 3D printer capable of matching pre-assembled printers that come at a much higher total price-point, but doing so is going to itself be a long-running DIY project that will challenge you to acquire and practice a wide range of skills beyond simply learning how to use a Slicer program.
You can purchase upgrades, like an enclosure, stepper motor dampeners, and a whole new controller board. You can even purchase a Raspberry Pi mini computer and enhance the Ender 3 V2 with wireless compatibility and other awesome features.
You can also print your own modifications, like cable chains, custom enhancements for storage and filament unspooling, and even editions that allow your 3D printer to take on other functions, like turning it into a stability platform for macrophotography. With the range of options nearly limitless, and the printer’s initial cost so low, it starts to become easier to see why the Ender 3 V2 remains a dominant name in the 3D printing market.
Getting the Ender 3 V2 is a great choice for beginners who already know they love DIY experiences. But it might also be good for people who are hesitant about DIY work, too. Getting the Ender 3 V2 means you will need to teach yourself all the basics of how to use a 3D printer and how one functions, from the ground up. As you slowly start adding modifications to the printer, your skills will level up, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself capable of doing neat things like soldering in your own specialized power pack, or upgrading the circuit board with wicked Raspberry Pi integrations. If you go the quick and easy route of buying a printer that already does it all, you might miss out on learning some awesome skills and tricks. This might be the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself!
The reason we get a 3D printer is to, well, 3D print things. So, how well does the Ender 3 V2 actually perform in real-world conditions? Admirably, as it just so happens, even when you use it completely stock, sans modifications.
The Ender 3 V2 can handle a large variety of models, and it produces them with reasonable clarity. You will start to find problems emerging with longer, bigger prints, however. This is due to how easily the stock Ender 3 V2 loses its build platform level. At the very least, you’ll find yourself manually re-leveling your build plate after every print. But you might also find bigger prints getting a bit wonky, especially if your Ender 3 V2 was already a little off-level when you started printing. Upgrades can solve this, but that requires time, expense, and the sheer desire to DIY.
The Ender 3 V2 cannot create extremely high-definition minis (FDM printers in general aren’t great at this sort of work, you want to go for a resin printer instead), but I found that reasonable role-playing game mini figurines could be printed using its stock settings.
You can also print larger items, like a Boba Fett helmet for cosplay purposes, if you print the large model in pieces and then assemble it later using glue or heat.
The TLDR of it is: yes, the Ender 3 V2 works respectably well out of the box, but it’s still going to require some DIY and a more hands-on approach than printers with a few more automated and quality of life features built in. If you love going the DIY route, grab this printer right now. If you prefer to focus on learning how to slice models and just want your printer to work with a button press, I reccomend checking out the Anycubic Kobra Plus, which has become my go-to daily printer.
When considering which 3D printer to buy, especially as a beginner to the hobby, it’s important to think about the cost-to-benefit ratio.
A more expensive printer might have numerous features that will make your quality of life as a beginner easier from the get-go. However, starting out with a cheaper printer like the Ender 3 V2 might allow you to still produce cool prints, but can help you spend money on upgrading your printer more slowly, thus lowering the total coast and spreading that cost out over months or even years.
The Ender 3 V2
If you have a sub-$300 budget, the Ender 3 is probably the best way to go. Know that you’re going to have a steeper learning curve and a more basic experience, but keep in mind that your ultimate goals should be to slowly upgrade this printer into a 3D printing beast. You’ll learn as you go, and you’ll become a 3D printing wiz in no time.
The Anycubic Kobra Plus
My go-to recommendation if you care more about getting straight into printing and will read up on the fine points of the machinery behind it all as you go. This puppy comes with auto-leveling built in, and a whole host of other quality of life features that will make your experience fun basically right out of the box.
Elegoo Mars 3
If you want a printer that can handle fine detail, you need to go the route of a resin printer. The Elegoo Mars 3 is a 4K printer in a low-ish price range, offering good build volume for the cost. Resin printing comes with its own massive learning curve that’s totally different from what you’ll find with an FDM printer, but the quality of your prints is going to astound you.
In this guide, I will remove the stock Ender-3 motherboard and install a BIGTREETECH SKR mini-E3. The process is the same for both the 1.2 and 2.0 versions of the motherboard.