Feb 5, 2019

3D Printer Upgrades – 19 Mods to Pimp Your 3D Printer

Feel like your printer just doesn't cut it in its current state? Wish it were a little easier to use? We've got a list of the best upgrades available to buy or print, perfect to improve both your machine and your user experience!

3D Printer Upgrades What We Look For in a "Good Mod"

An Anet A8 featuring many printed upgrades. Source: Nexi Tech / YouTube

There are hundreds of modifications for 3D printers floating about, many of them useful, and most of them printable. We’ve narrowed it down to a list of the best 19 that should work on just about any generic printer.

In this article, we’ve split the mods into four categories: Print QualityExperiencePeace of Mind, and Printer Rework.

Print Quality mods are ones that will physically improve the quality of prints from a given printer. Such mods could be hot-end related, such as fan ducts, as well as belt tensioners.

Experience mods will improve the overall experience of using your 3D printer. This type of upgrade would be something like new bed leveling knobs or a better spool holder.

Peace of Mind mods do exactly what the name suggests: Make your printer safer and more reliable. Such mods include wire strain relief brackets and mounts for webcams to monitor your prints.

Printer Rework mods involve completely replacing parts of the printer to improve or change their function. These sorts of mods include new extruders and control boards.

3D Printer Upgrades 1. Print Quality: Petsfang Fan Duct

A Petsfang fan duct. Source: PandinoAssassino / Thingiverse

When printing with materials like PLA, cooling the molten plastic as soon as it leaves the nozzle is very important to achieve good printing quality. For this reason, one of the best upgrades for any 3D printer is a shiny new fan duct. We like the Petsfang design because it is widely recognized by the community as one of the best, most reliable ducts that will fit a wide range of different printers.

Who made it? David Petsel (dpetsel)

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 2. Print Quality: Belt Tensioners

The printed belt tensioner. Source: SuperSonicFlea / Thingiverse

Over time, your timing belts can stretch out, and this means your prints can lose dimensional accuracy. The best way to combat this stretching is with belt tensioners. Several designs are available for a range of printers, but we like these simple belt clips because they will work with any printer design.

Who made it? Haydn England (SuperSonicFlea)

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 3. Print Quality: Corner Brackets

An assortment of corner brackets. Source: mce076 / Thingiverse

Keeping your printer frame square and trim is essential to maintain dimensional accuracy and to reduce wear on moving parts over time. To this end, it is a good idea to print out some corner brackets to brace the frame of your printer. As a bonus, they also help reduce Z-wobble!

This design will only work with printers made of aluminum extrusion, but other designs exist for different frame types.

Who made it? Mark Cesari (mce076)

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 4. Print Quality: Auto-Levelling Sensor

A BLTouch V2 Sensor. Source: RepRap.me

A perfectly level bed is likely the most important part of a good print. Improper levels cause a variety of problems, including (but not limited to) delamination, warping, elephant’s foot, etc.

The best way to keep your bed as level as possible is to install an automatic leveling sensor like the BL Touch or a P.I.N.D.A probe. Once you’ve leveled your bed manually, the sensor is able to probe the bed and automatically account for inconsistencies while printing.

BLTouch Auto Bed Leveling Sensor

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3D Printer Upgrades 5. Print Quality: TL Smoothers

A set of TL Smoothers. Source: vietquocnguyen / Reddit

Getting artifacts like salmon skin in your prints? You should look into getting some TL Smoothers for your motors. These upgrades are very inexpensive and are very easy to install thanks to their plug-and-play setup, so your printer can get to printing top quality parts in a jiffy!

TL Smoothers

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3D Printer Upgrades 6. Experience: Bed Leveling Knobs

The printed levelling knob. Source: Eyegoresky / Thingiverse

Are you tired of trying to get a good bed level with those fiddly little knobs that came in your kit? We’ve got a solution for you! These knobs are nice and big, allowing for precise, easy adjustment of your level. They are designed to fit around a 3 mm wing nut.

Who made it? Eric S (Eyegoresky)

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 7. Experience: Spool Holder

The TUSH Spool Holder. Source: filamentry / Thingiverse

A good addition to any printer is a new spool holder. This popular TUSH design incorporates bearings to help the filament reel roll smoothly, reducing stain on the extruder. It will fit just about any type of filament reel by adjusting the spacing. Best of all, the minimalist design makes it easier than ever to switch out your reel for a different one whenever you want! Genius!

Who made it? Vassil Gounev (filamentry)

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 8. Experience: LED Lighting

LEDs mounted to a printer. Source: flurin / Thingiverse

Being the rather bulky, noisy and somewhat unsightly machines that they are, 3D printers tend to get tucked into dim corners and garages, making it hard to see its parts. To combat this, we suggest adding a strip of LED lights to brighten up your printing experience and reduce the strain on your eyes when checking to see how prints are going.

To mount it, we would suggest using a printed structure which mounts straight to the printer frame.

LED Strip

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3D Printer Upgrades 9. Experience: Stepper Dampers

A set of stepper dampers. Source: Amazon

Tired of hearing those high-pitched motor noises all day? A good mod to reduce the amount of noise your printer makes is a set of stepper dampers! Not only are they relatively cheap and easy to install, but the difference in noise levels is also almost immediately noticeable.

Stepper Steel and Rubber Vibration Dampers

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3D Printer Upgrades 10. Experience: Better Bed Adhesives

BuildTak sheets. Source: MatterHackers

While glue sticks and painter’s tape are all well and good, they can vary in quality and are a bit of a hassle to use every time you want to print something. A surface like BuildTak will greatly improve the consistency of your bed adhesion and you won’t have to replace it half as often. 


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3D Printer Upgrades 11. Peace Of Mind: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi 3B+. Source: Adafruit

One of the most widely used systems for remotely accessing, monitoring and controlling your 3D printers is the Raspberry Pi. These powerful little microcomputers run a version of OctoPrint (known as OctoPi) that allows you to do everything from slice a file remotely to taking time-lapses while simultaneously streaming live video.

So, if you want to be able to view your prints, check for errors remotely and control your printer from the cloud, a Raspberry Pi might be the perfect mod for you!

We would also recommend printing out a nice case for your Pi.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

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3D Printer Upgrades 12. Peace of Mind: Wire Strain Relief Bracket

A CR-10 strain relief bracket. Source: Greg191134 / Thingiverse

We’d recommend investing a bit of time and filament into printing a strain relief bracket for the wires on your heated bed. This little part may not seem like much, but it will keep the wires from breaking off and shorting with the repeated motion of the bed.

There are many designs, but the two we have here are for the Anet A8 and the Creality CR-10.

Cr-10 Wire Strain Relief Bracket:

Who made it? Greg191134

Where to find it? Thingiverse

A8 Wire Strain Relief Bracket:

Who made it? Exterminate

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 13. Peace of Mind: PSU Covering

The PSU Covering, fully installed. Source: beefinator / Thingiverse

Another good safety feature to add to your printer is a cover for the PSU. Many cheaper printer kits do not come with one, and it gives the PSU a little extra protection.

A simple design like the one we’ve got here will keep your printer nice and safe, as well as provide a mounting point for an IEC switch, which will further reduce the hazards of mains voltage in relation to your printer.

Who made it? beefinator

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 14. Peace of Mind: Webcam Mount

The camera mount with a Logitech webcam. Source: RaffoSan / Thingiverse

Maybe you don’t want a Raspberry Pi, but you still want to monitor your printer with a nearby computer. In this case, a simple webcam mount can be very handy.

Various designs for these mounts exist, but we’ve picked this one because it is fairly popular and will fit most printer designs and a variety of cameras.

Who made it? Raffaele Biasiello (RaffoSan)

Where to find it? Thingiverse

3D Printer Upgrades 15. Printer Rework: E3D V6 Hot End

The E3D v6. Source: MatterHackers

Want to expand the range of materials you can print with? An E3D v6 hotend can do this and greatly improve the performance and reliability of your printer.

A genuine v6 might not be the cheapest on the market, but according to the community it is definitely worth the investment.

E3D v6 Hotend

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3D Printer Upgrades 16. Printer Rework: 32 Bit Control Board

A Duet 2 WiFi control board. Source: MatterHackers

While there’s nothing wrong with a Mega 2560-based controller or similar, a 32-bit controller like a Duet can greatly improve your printer’s performance. Such control boards can natively support cloud printing over internet and touchscreen interfaces and print more quickly due to their higher processing speeds. 

Additionally, 32-bit controllers generally support higher quality motor drivers with smaller micro-stepping capabilities, resulting in better overall print quality. They also have generally been noted to run much more quietly and more efficiently than their 8-bit counterparts. You can find a list of good 32-bit control boards in our article on the topic.

You can purchase a Duet 2 WiFi control board on MatterHackers.


Duet 2 WiFi Controller Board

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3D Printer Upgrades 17. Printer Rework: New Extruder

A BondTech QR extruder. Source: MatterHackers

Most of the time, stock extruders are just fine for printing in everyday PLA and ABS filaments, but what about those flexible materials? Installing a new extruder, like a Bondtech QR or an E3D Titan will greatly enhance your printer by allowing you to print a wider range of materials more easily and accurately, without the worry of filament jams and other extrusion mishaps.

Each variety of extruder will have a different set of qualities, like torque, grip, and filament path constraints, so it’s a good idea to shop around to find what will best fit your printing needs.

Bondtech Extruder

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3D Printer Upgrades 18. Printer Rework: Unique Extruder Systems

A 3D printer equipped with a pellet extruder. Source: Paolo Legnani / YouTube

Ever wonder if you could do more than just extrude filaments with your printer? Well, you can! With mods like a pellet extruder, you can create your own special color blends, or you can install a chocolate extrusion system to enhance your workshop snack cupboard with some personalized sweets.

The list doesn’t end there, either. Depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to expend, you can also revamp your printer with a powder extrusion system for full-color printing. If you wanted to engrave or cut materials, you could consider mounting a laser or a custom CNC milling system.

Indeed, your printer can become an all-in-one manufacturing machine with just a few additional pieces of hardware. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get creative!

3D Printer Upgrades 19. Printer Rework: Multi-Color / Multi-Material Systems

The Mosaic Pallette 2. Source: All3DP

So maybe you don’t want or need to completely change your printer’s functions, but you still want a little more variety in your prints. Enter Prusa’s MMU upgrade and standalone units like the Mosaic Pallette 2. Such devices allow you to print in multiple colors with only one extruder. Using this, you can get a range of colors and materials into a single print, allowing you to mix and match properties to your liking.

Of course, you could also consider an upgrade to dual extruders, or even something as radical as the E3D Kraken system with 4 separate nozzles! The only drawback of this alternative is that you need to find a way to combat oozing during your prints to ensure top quality results.

Mosaic Palette 2

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License: The text of "3D Printer Upgrades – 19 Mods to Pimp Your 3D Printer" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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