Below are the top 3D-printable Ender 3 mods and upgrades you can perform. Tons of other printable mods exist, but this is the core list that will give you the best bang for your print time.
Board fan guard
Before you print anything else, print this mod. The location of the mainboard fan is directly beneath the build plate, meaning bits of filament can fall in and damage the fan or board. The model is available on Thingiverse.
This filament guide holds the filament away from the feeder, allowing for a more consistent feed rate and less skipping. It snaps directly into the side of the upper support.
This cable chain is a must-have for preventing dangerous cable snags when the bed moves along the Y-axis.
Display PCB cover
This simple screen cover protects your Ender 3 display's PCB (printed circuit board) from damage.
Bowden tube fitting fix
If your Bowden tube has popped out of place or if you're having print quality issues, you might want to print these pressure fitting shims that will prevent your Bowden tubes from shifting or popping out during printing.
You've probably noticed how loud the Ender 3 beeps when navigating the menu interface. This beep can level villages and knock satellites out of orbit. This 10-minute print mutes the beep quite a bit, getting rid of that annoyance and protecting our countrysides and space assets.
There are two main sources of noise on your printer: 1) fans, and 2) the drivers (chips) that run your stepper motors. The "whirring" noise you associate with printing is caused by the cheap stepper motor drivers used on the stock Ender 3 board.
Enter the Creality Silent Mainboard (v1.1.5). This board directly replaces your existing Ender 3 mainboard, upgrading your printer to the silent TMC2208 stepper motor drivers. This is the biggest "sound" upgrade you can make. It reduces your printer's noise from approximately 48dB to 36dB, with the remaining sound coming from the Ender 3's fans (which can also be upgraded to quieter fans).
If I had to choose a single upgrade from this guide (other than OctoPrint), it would be this one. Combined with the MeanWell PSU upgrade also mentioned in this guide, I often forget my printer is running since it now generates so little noise.
Of course, in addition to decreasing noise, this board and its upgraded stepper motor drivers improve the quality of your prints.
OctoPrint is the #1 upgrade for making the overall 3D-printing experience easier and more enjoyable. While this upgrade doesn't relate directly to print quality, it will save you a ton of time and headaches. With OctoPrint, you won't need to load and start prints from an SD card ever again.
In a nutshell, OctoPrint is a library that runs on the small Raspberry Pi computer. When you want to print something, you'll log into a slick interface from your computer. This interface will allow you to control your printer, start and stop prints, and more. You can even monitor your printer remotely using a small camera!
There are several reasons to upgrade your Ender 3 to a MeanWell PSU including noise, safety, and even reducing bed-leveling issues.
Compared to the stock PSU whose fan runs continuously, the MeanWell PSU only runs when it needs to—usually less than 20% of the time. This means a much quieter printer, especially when paired with the silent board upgrade. This reason alone made the upgrade worth it to me. I work in the same room as my printer, so noise is a huge issue.
MeanWell PSUs use higher quality components than the cheap stock unit, providing cleaner power with fewer of the electrical spikes and sags that could pose a safety hazard.
Reduce auto-bed-leveling issues
If you're using an auto-leveling sensor such as the BLTouch or EZABL, the MeanWell PSU's consistent, clean power reduces issues related to power ripples and grounding.
The MeanWell PSU is noticeably thinner than the stock unit, which is handy if you're using an enclosure and need to relocate it.
Which one to buy (and where)
The MeanWell LRS-3500-25 PSU is the correct 24V MeanWell power supply for the Ender 3, and this upgrade takes about 20 minutes to perform, excluding PSU housing print time.
There are tons of different build plate surfaces out there: metal, magnetic, BuildTak, painter's tape, and tons more. But after printing for many years on several different printers, I've always had the best experience with glass.
Glass beds are supremely flat, fixing the all-too-common "warped Ender 3 bed" issue that many of us experience. Glass beds also save on prep time, are easy to clean, and offer effortless print removal with a semi-glossy print finish.
Choosing a bed
I wrote a comprehensive guide to 3D printing on a glass bed if you'd like to dive into the details. tl;dr; Choose a thin borosilicate glass bed, and adhere it directly to the existing build plate using small binder clips. This 235x235mm glass bed is the one I recommend for the Ender 3.
Bed leveling is key to the perfect first layer and overall print quality. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most annoying "chores" in 3D printing. Just when things are going well, you realize you forgot to relevel your bed and things look terrible.
"I love leveling my 3D printer's bed" -Nobody, ever
But what if a simple sensor, installed in just 45 minutes, could automatically level your bed for you every time? That's what BLTouch does.
How BLTouch works
BLTouch uses a small probe to build a mesh of points at the beginning of each print to determine exactly how unlevel (or warped) your bed is, and in which directions. It then takes that into account when performing a print, altering each GCODE instruction as needed to account for the imperfect build surface.
Here's a breakdown of what goes into this upgrade:
- Hardware: The probe mounts next to your print head assembly and connects to the existing Ender 3 mainboard.
- Software: A slight firmware modification is needed to allow BLTouch to work.
- Slicer/OctoPrint: You'll need to insert a few lines into your slicer (and OctoPrint, if equipped) so that each GCODE file you generate will include some BLTouch instructions at the top.
This Instructables guide does a good job of explaining how to do this on the CR-10, though the process is similar for the Ender 3.
Which one to buy (and where)
I recommend this BLTouch sensor (V3.1 or newer) since older versions won't work with newer Marlin firmware.
Proper print illumination allows you to identify issues with your prints early—it's also nice to be able to see what's happening clearly. There are tons of methods for adding an LED strip to your 3D printer. I prefer one that places the light source as high as possible in order to illuminate the entire print bed, not just the current print area.
I wrote a comprehensive guide on adding an LED strip to your 3D printer, featuring the Ender 3 specifically. Using the method outlined there, you can even power your LED strip directly from your Ender 3 by regulating the voltage using this buck converter in conjunction with this XT60 splitter cable.
Check out that guide for step-by-step instructions on what to print and how to wire everything up!
Your bed springs might seem like an insignificant part of your 3D printer, but they're actually quite important to bed leveling and stability.
The stock Ender 3 bed springs are terrible and can lead to print issues and frequent bed leveling. These issues are largely caused by:
- The cheap metal used to manufacture the springs, and
- The rounded design of the springs themselves
In fact, if you compare the stock and upgraded springs side by side, you can see only the upgraded ones feature a flat surface on the top and bottom. This leads to less shifting compared to the stock springs.
The plastic metal feeder assembly on the Ender 3 leaves something to be desired, and improper tension can even cause feeder gear skips, leaving gaps in the layers of your print. Installing an all-metal feeder assembly such as this one will add durability and stability to your printer.
Most Ender 3s ship with an outdated version of the Marlin firmware, which lacks mandatory safety features such as thermal runaway protection. Thermal runaway is a condition where a failure in the thermocouple (temperature sensor) can cause your extruder to continue heating, forever, until your extruder block melts and a fire occurs.
Here's a video demonstrating thermal runaway in action:
Thankfully, newer versions of Marlin have thermal runaway protection, a software-level safeguard that polls periodically for an increase in temperature and shuts things down if something isn't right.
I wrote an in-depth guide to updating your Ender 3 firmware that you can follow to perform this mod. You'll need any kind of Arduino to perform the firmware update, such as this inexpensive Arduino clone. This is a safety upgrade that you shouldn't skip.