Apr 8, 2019

Ender 3 Bed Size – What Is It Really?

Like other low-price printers, Creality's Ender 3 makes compromises to print volume. Interested to know the real Ender 3 bed size? Read on to find out more!

Ender 3 Bed Size Great Printer, Small Secret

Ender 3 print bed with the factory binder clips. Source: iknowanswers / imgur.com

The Creality Ender 3 is a great printer, especially for its price point. However, if you’re looking to buy one, you may have heard mixed reviews on what is the actual vs advertised Ender 3 bed size.

The Ender 3 has an advertised and usable print area of 220 x 220 mm. However, the size of the print build surface actually measures 235 x 235 mm. That means an astonishing 14% of the print bed is going unused!

Keep reading to learn more about why this is and what you can do to fix it.

Ender 3 Bed Size What's the Big Deal?

Ender 3 print bed retention. Source: CHPOWER / Amazon.com

So now we know that the Ender 3 bed size is 14% larger than what’s being used. But now you may be asking yourself, why is that?

Here are a few reasons why the actual Ender 3 bed size would be larger than the usable area:

  • Machining Tolerances: The construction of the Ender 3 is a framework of mechanical joints and connecting rods of various sizes. Each component of any mechanical system has tolerance associated with the operation used to create it. If you add all of the potential tolerances, you get what is known as a tolerance stack-up. The extra bed space allows for tolerance stack-up in the machine. The over-sized bed allows for this error in manufacturing.
  • Bed Retention: Unless you have a magnetic bed or are printing on something adhesively connected to the carriage of the print bed, it is likely that you have a series of clips clamping the build surface to the carriage platform. The clips that come with the Ender 3 are office binder clips and take up a good portion of space. Having that extra 15 mm on all sides of the bed makes it easier to ensure that the nozzle will not interfere with the bed retention clips.

Ender 3 Bed Size The Bigger, the Better: Upgrade Your Hardware

Ender 3 alternative clip and bed options. Source: uxcell / Amazon and Enomaker / Amazon

Tired of losing that extra 14% of build space? We have your solution. First, instead of using and fighting with the binder clips that came with the stock Ender 3, you can change how the print bed attaches to the frame. There are two options, change the clips or change the print bed.

  1. Ditch the clips: Switch the binder clips for a low profile option like these photo frame springs. What’s cool about these photo frame springs is that they lock right into place and stay put. Should your printer crash and push into them, they also have enough give to move out of the way.
  2. Replace the print bed: Trade out the print bed that must be clamped down with Creality’s magnetic bed, which is made to fit directly on the Ender 3’s build surface. The flexible build platform easily peels off the magnetic base and allows you to deform it to remove your print easier than ever. Note, however, that the performance of the magnetic bed begins to suffer above 60 °C, meaning it is not compatible with ABS filament.

Ender 3 Bed Size The Bigger, the Better: Upgrade Your Firmware

A processor circuit. Source: Michael Jones / All3DP

Now that the print is clear of the bulky binder clips, let’s talk about the second step: programming your 3D printer to actually use this space. To unlock your Ender 3 bed size’s true potential, you’ll need to update the mainboard computer’s firmware. There are two essential steps to opening a larger bed size:

  1. Swap the firmware: By default, Creality’s Ender 3 firmware only allows you to use 220 x 220 mm of print surface. However, Creality’s firmware is an older and more basic version of the official Marlin RepRap firmware.  (Creality made some changes to make the software work with the Ender 3.) To change it, check out our article on upgrading your Ender 3 to the newest version of Marlin.
  2. Modify the code: Once you’re ready with the latest version of the firmware, you can make the necessary changes to the bed size in the Marlin code and flash it to your printer. Changing the Marlin code will require some experimentation on your part. For safety, we recommend giving a max bed size of 230 x 230 mm. (A 9% increase!) Note that, while reflashing the firmware might seem extreme, it comes with the added protection of hot end runaway protection and more advanced control.

Ender 3 Bed Size Putting the Article to Bed

Ender 3 Test Dog complete. Source: Zach / Howchoo.com

Creality decided to set the firmware with the usable Ender 3 bed size to be smaller than the actual size of the build platform, at 220 x 220 mm. When you consider the tolerance and bed fastening, this actually sounds logical. But does it really need 15 mm on each edge?

Technically, the answer is “no.” A 5-mm lip should be sufficient. Therefore, we’ve reviewed how to achieve a 230 x 230 mm print area by modifying the 3D printer’s print bed and firmware.

We don’t recommend setting the Ender 3 bed size to the full 235 x 235 mm, as printing right on the edge is likely to cause issues. However, feel free to play around with it and find what works best for you and your Ender 3.

As always, happy printing!

Read more:

Feature image source: MakeProjects

License: The text of "Ender 3 Bed Size – What Is It Really?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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