One of the most popular 3D printers of all time, Creality’s Ender 3 provides an affordable entry point into the world of 3D printing. Rivaling some of the higher-priced printers in terms of speed, quality, and print volume, we’ve been blown away by this affordable workhorse.
Naturally, a printer at this price requires some bed leveling, manual calibration, and perhaps a few modifications. But if everything were automatic, Creality would likely put most other 3D printers (or themselves) out of business.
To get started, the stock profile on Cura for the Ender 3 is remarkably good, so definitely load it up as a foundation:
From here, you’ll have default settings from which to build your perfect profile. Naturally, you’ll have to adapt to individual filaments and resolutions. By default, we’ll build this profile for PLA but also mention settings for ABS and PETG.
Below is a quick summary of the profile we recommend, with the rest of the article providing a more detailed breakdown of each setting.
Perfect Ender 3 PLA Profile:
One of the most important settings is temperature. An incorrect temperature setting can cause over or under-extrusion, curling, and blobs or zits. Most PLA filaments require at least 180 °C for smooth extrusion and can stretch up to 220 °C before over-extrusion becomes a problem.
Ideal temperatures vary between materials (ABS: 220-250 °C, PETG: 220-245 °C), but the brand of filament can also make a difference. When trialing a new filament, it’s a great idea to print a temperature tower. In general, we find 200 °C a great average temperature for PLA.
Remember: only change one setting at a time when calibrating your printer.
The bed temperature also depends greatly on your material. PLA doesn’t actually require heating (but still benefits from it), especially if you use something for bed adhesion, like blue painters tape, hairspray, or glue. Ideally, your bed temperature should always be higher than the ambient room temperature.
Bed temperature for ABS should be significantly higher than for PLA, around 110 °C. If you’ll be using your Ender 3 for ABS, then you’ll also probably need to build an enclosure to eliminate excess cooling and prevent warping and layer splitting.
Finding your perfect print speed is all about balancing the total time per job with print quality. As your print speed increases, unfortunately, your print quality drops. This is because a slower-moving hot end on finer details is much less likely to mess something up. On the other hand, nobody wants to wait two weeks for a single print.
On average, most users print PLA between 45 mm/s and 65 mm/s. You can increase this speed by utilizing OctoPrint and alternative firmware such as Klipper or Marlin. We’d recommend a starting speed of 60 mm/s, and decreasing the setting for prints requiring a greater level of detail.
Flexible materials must be printed significantly slower. A print speed of 20 mm/s to 40 mm/s should drastically heighten your chances of success.
PETG is slightly more stringy than PLA, and to combat this, you may want to drop your print speed by 20 mm/s or so. 30 to 55 mm/s works well. It’s best to start on the lower end of the scale and work up.
ABS requires roughly the same print speed as PLA. 45 mm/s to 65 mm/s is ideal.
For larger prints that require less detail, you can raise the print speed on your Ender 3 up to 120 mm/s.
Travel speed can be increased to 150 mm/s without any issue.
Layer height could be renamed detail, and the outcome would be the same. Halving the layer height doubles the print resolution. By halving the layer height, you’re fitting twice as many layers into a single print.
The inverse to greater resolution is significantly slower print times. Finding the perfect combination of print speed vs layer height is essential to high-quality prints in lower time frames.
Layer height can be broken down into “magic numbers”. Magic numbers are essentially layer heights that work best on the Ender 3:
You’ll notice that the magic numbers are all multiples of 0.04 mm. Simply put, this is because the Z-axis stepper motor on the Ender 3 will raise the hot end 0.04 mm per step.
Retraction is your best weapon to combat oozing and stringing in prints. Retraction is broken down into two main settings:
Essentially, retraction is a tool that reverses the extruder motor to relieve pressure on the nozzle during travel. Hopefully, without pressure on the nozzle, no excess material should be extruded.
For a while, the perfect setting was hard to find, and the Ender 3 became known for terrible stringing. That’s far in the past now, and online users have what appears to be the perfect retraction setting for PLA, a distance of 6 mm at a speed of 25 mm per second.
PETG prefers a shorter retraction distance, ideally around 4 mm. ABS benefits from a 6-mm retraction distance, but a faster retraction at 40 mm per second. It’s a good idea to play with these settings to find the best ones for you, to do this you can find retraction test prints on Thingiverse.
Infill affects both the strength and weight of your print. There is no ‘perfect’ setting for infill, as it purely depends on the purpose of the print. For lightweight, decorative prints, you can drop your infill down to 5% or 10%. This will decrease print time and make the print significantly lighter.
For functional prints, you’ll want a higher infill setting to increase strength and durability. Anywhere from 20% to 60% is ideal. Some prints may even require 100% infill.
Ensuring your first layer sticks to the print bed effectively is paramount to good print quality. Poor bed adhesion will cause a print to fail almost every time. As such, you should alter your initial layer settings to ensure the print won’t delaminate during the print, which wastes significant amounts of time and filament.
(Lead image source: BenNottelling via GitHub)
License: The text of "Ender 3 Cura Settings: Best Ender 3 Cura Profile" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.