Below is the stock picture of my 3D printer – it’s Creality’s Ender 3 Version 2. It’s essentially the deluxe version of their lowest tier 3D printer.
However, my printer is far from stock. I’m honestly not sure if I’d recommend my approach or not. The advantage to slowly modifying an inexpensive printer is that you gain a greater understanding of how the printer works and what its weaknesses are. If you simply purchase a more expensive printer you get what you want out of the box, but you will be in worse shape understanding how it functions if and likely when problems occur.
My experience with my 3D printer is like the guy with the modified late model Ford Mustang GT. It goes around the track at just about the same rate as the guy that just wrote a check for the club racer Porsche Cayman. The Mustang required lots of research, labor and modifications to get everything to work together well. The Porsche just works and comes with a warranty.
The advantage to my approach is that for about $500 I have performance of printers costing well over $1,000. However, if you put any kind of value on my time it would have been far more effective to have just bought the more expensive printer.
Below are most of the major modifications. The two most highly rated modifications are the BL Touch Z axis sensor and the spring steel and PEI printer bed. The PEI allows the plastic to both stick to the bed well, while flexing the spring steel allows the piece to easily be removed. The stock bed is tempered glass. You get good adhesion, but parts are difficult to remove and the increased mass of the bed makes increases ringing artifacts that will show in the print.
It’s finally time to start printing. The opaque white device on the side of the print head and illuminated with a red LED that looks pink is the BL Touch. It’s probing the printer bed to zero out the Z height. Just like any machining, setting up the tools and zeroing everything is critical.
While setting up my printer this same probe is used to sample the high and low spots of the entire printer bed and map them accordingly. The so called “first layer” of printing is critical for getting a good piece. Similar to a building everything starts with the foundation.
It’s finally printing! On the left is the “purge line”. This is fat line of plastic designed to get the plastic flowing through the heated printer hot end. It’s scrap. In the middle the circle is another bit of scrap with a little bit of difference. In this case it mirrors the outline of the piece we will be creating and it it is done at the same layer height with the same amount of plastic that will be used for the actual piece. This allows us to check for proper plastic flow and adhesion to the bed. If this doesn’t stick the piece won’t print properly and we will get a big ball of plastic string.
Below is the completed print before being released from the bed.
And finally here is the completed piece. As I mentioned before this is the wrong plastic choice and nozzle size for a piece this small. That’s the reason for the “blobby” and slightly stringing details on the graphic. PLA has much less issues with stringing. That said for using PETG and a 4mm nozzle I’m quite pleased with how well this piece turned out.
If anyone has any specific comments or questions let me know.