The Best Ender 3 Mods & Upgrades

The Ender 3 is a bare-bones 3d FDM filament printer. It doesn’t come with much, but you don’t need much. There are all sorts of things you can add to this little printer to improve your life. None of them is required. You can print quite happily without any of these. Consider them only if they look like they might help. Replacement parts are handy, too. I usually get mine from Amazon.Com.

Ender 3 is good as it comes. It is even better with a replacement metal, magnetic print bed with a PEI coating. This allows for greater first-layer adhesion and easy removal of prints without any tools. A home-printed cover for the control board fan vent to protect it from debris is another great addition that you can find on Thingiverse.Com. Every other mod is a nice to have.

I have included links and descriptions to the modifications and replacement parts that I have used on my two Ender 3 printers. Many are free downloads from Thingiverse.Com that you print on the Ender 3 itself. I had a hard time with these at first, as I couldn’t get my prints to stick to the print bed at all. I started with a replacement print bed, listed below, and a new appreciation for leveling the print bed. Once the replacement was in and leveled, I had no problem printing the mods.

Replacement Parts for Your Ender 3

I’ll start with replacement parts, including the replacement print bed that I referenced above. I had to replace a clogged nozzle, and in doing that, I damaged my PTFE tube. Actually, I damaged (or it was already damaged) the connector for the PTFE tube to the top of the hot end, so I replaced it and both connectors. While doing all of that, I found that I had somehow gotten molten plastic under the tape insulating the hot end, and removed that too. I found a replacement silicone sleeve that just slips on (and off, should I need to clean it again).

Replacement Metal Magnetic Print Bed

The replacement print bed has multiple advantages over the stock rough sticker on the aluminum bed of the Ender 3. You don’t replace the whole bed, just peel off the rough sticker that’s there, and replace it with the magnetic sticker that comes with the plate. Once that’s in place, you simply magnetically attach the metal plate to the top of the bed. It has a PEI coating on one side. Put this side up.

The PEI coating makes filament stick to it rather well. It helped my prints a lot to stick down to the bed. To remove a finished print, simply flex the metal sheet (I don’t even have to remove the sheet – I just flex it a little and the print pops off). I do lightly scrape the surface with a plastic spatula to remove any stuck plastic particles, then wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol on a paper towel. It’s ready for the next print. I do this after every single print.

Replacement Brass Nozzles

Nozzles can get clogged, and there’s always the chance that you want to experiment with smaller or larger holes in your nozzle. The smaller nozzle is good for higher detail prints (due to the thinner layer height) and the larger nozzle is good for speed, but you’ll sacrifice detail. I say smaller and larger, but in fact, it’s only the hole that’s smaller or larger. The nozzles are all the same size.

The kit I liked above comes with multiple sizes of nozzle, but a bunch of the 0.4mm nozzle that I normally use. It also comes with some nozzle cleaning rods that are very thin, but useful for cleaning out nozzles. 

Replacement PTFE (Bowden) Tube and Connectors

I’ve only replaced the tube and the two connectors once, but I bought a kit that had 10 sets (only five tubes, but you can cut the tubes in half and you’ll have 10 full sets). I lost half of a thumb nail fighting with the original tube and connector on my printer. I was motivated by pain to purchase this kit and it saved me from more heartache. It fixed my problem and my thumb has since healed!

Replacement Silicone Sock for Hot End

When I was replacing my tube and nozzle, I saw that I had, at some point, not gotten the tube to butt up against the nozzle well. This caused molten plastic to leak out into the hot end through the gap, and all over the hot end. It got under the insulating tape that wraps the hot end, and made a huge mess. I removed it all and ordered these silicone replacement socks. Once clean, I just slipped the sock over the end. There’s a hole for the extruder so placement is easy. It’s held in place by the housing for the fan that you screw back on.

Replacement Electronics To Upgrade Your Ender 3

Creality 3D Ender 3 Silent Mainboard Control Board V1.1.5 with TMC2208 Driver

Thermal runaway protection enabled. Bootloader already installed.

The stock control board for the Ender 3 works just fine, but it’s lacking a few items. The most important, in my mind, is that the thermal runaway protection is disabled on the board. This just seems silly to me. It’s a safety feature that I would think is essential.

The second is a bootloader. This is the software that allows you to upgrade the software loaded on the board. You can’t update the stock Ender 3 software without first installing a bootloader to manage that install. The Silent Mainboard Control Board V1.1.5 comes with these two things already installed and working.

But best of all, for normal operations, it makes the axis servos much quieter by upgrading the driver that runs them. It makes the printer much quieter in operation.

In the future, should you want to upgrade the software on this board, or to install new software (like adding an auto bed leveling system), you’ll need to have an Arduino board and some connector wires that can connect your computer to the Arduino to the Mainboard. It has to have a bootloader, so this board is excellent for that. The board is a one-for-one swap with the existing board, and the connectors go in the same places, making it an easy upgrade.

LANMU Micro SD to SD Card Extension Cable Adapter

The Ender 3 comes with a perfectly serviceable microSD card reader. It comes with a small microSD card, and an adapter to convert it to be able to be loaded into a computer’s USB port. All this works just fine. The issue comes only if you find the microSD card fiddly and difficult to work with. This cheap accessory will plug into the microSD slot on your printer, and the other end presents a full-sized SD card slot.

Many computers come with SD card ports, so you could use this without needing an adapter. SD cards tend to be easier to handle, due to being a lot larger. They are far more fat-finger friendly!

Combine this with a 3d printed enclosure (see below) to make a nice, neat package that is housed on your printer.

Downloadable and Printable Mods For the Ender 3

Minimalist Rear Sliding Drawer

By Callahan Kovacs

Great for keeping tools out of the way but handy. It’s certainly not a need to have, but it’s a nice way not to have your screw driver, hex keys and 6, 8 and 10mm wrenches in one place. If you use this one, make sure you have enough room behind your printer to be able to access the drawer (and not jammed up against a wall or some other item).

Holder For Micro SD to SD Card Extension Cable Adapter

By Danny Street

I linked the Micro SD to SD Card Extension Cable Adapter above. This 3d print will allow you to house it and mount it to the frame of your printer, so it’s not lying loose. It keeps everything neat, and it away from anything moving.

Ender 3 Board Fan Guard

By Adam Thorpe – Regular Version – Jeep Grille Version

This is an excellent mod to print for your Ender 3. I use the regular version, but I might just upgrade to the Jeep Grille version (I’m a World War 2 vehicle guy, after all!) This keeps stuff falling off of the build plate and getting sucked into the fan that sits facing up on the box covering the printer’s control board. The Ender 3 Pro fixed this issue by putting the fan on the bottom of the board’s box, so it’s already covered. For those of us with the basic Ender 3, it’s a great mod to print!

Filament Guide for Ender 3

By Benjamin Williams

The filament comes off the top of the printer and can be quite taught before it goes into the feeder mechanism on the left side of the printer. This filament guide pushes the filament out, so that it has more of an arc before entering the feeder mechanism. It isn’t strictly required, but some like it. I broke mine off when reaching around the printer, so it can get in the way. I haven’t decided yet whether I will print another to replace my first one.

Ender 3 Vent Ring

By Benjamin Williams

The fan on the extruder head is also used to cool the print. To make that cooling more efficient, this vent ring will distribute the air flow and more effectively cool the print. I’m not convinced that this mod does a lot, but if you want to give it a try, it certainly does no harm, and theoretically can improve print quality. I don’t see any way to prove that, though.

Nice To Have Accessories For Your Ender 3

Sovol 3D Printer Tent Enclosure for Ender 3

If you’re printing ABS or some of the other difficult to print filaments, then you’ll want an enclosure. The enclosure removes any possibility of a draft or uneven cooling for the print, which could cause warping and the unsticking of the first layer of the print. To combat this, use an enclosure. You can make your own enclosure with whatever materials you have available, or you can consider something like this. It’s expensive (at two thirds the price of the printer itself) but it does have the advantage that you’re much more likely to succeed with your ABS prints.

Remember, if you’re printing with PLA in a temperature controlled room, it’s not really required that you use any of the above mods or enhancements. They’re all just nice to have. For me, the replacement print bed was the closest to a required enhancement, but I’m sure if I had worked at it, I could have gotten my prints to stick without it.

But that’s the point. These will make your life easier and thus less frustrating when it comes to 3d printing. And that increases the fun for me. As always, your mileage may vary (YMMV)!

Related Questions

Can the Ender 3 print metal?

The Ender 3 cannot print metal. It excels at printing PLA and ABS filament plastics, and it can work with other specialty filaments, but no form of metal filament will work with the Ender 3. No commercial FDM filament printer will work with metal filament.

Can the Ender 3 print TPU?

The Ender 3 can print with flexible TPU filament. TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, is a flexible filament that mimics rubber. It is great for printing model car tires, or smart phone cases, where flexibility of the material is of use. TPU filament can be purchased in a number of colors, and can be purchased from Amazon.Com or other 3d printing supply shops.

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