Featured image of Ender 3 Filament Guide: Materials You Can 3D Print

Ender 3 Filament Guide: Materials You Can 3D Print

Pranav Gharge
Nov 1, 2019

Got an Ender 3 and looking to explore the filament spectrum? Check out this Ender 3 filament guide to learn all about the materials that are compatible with your machine.

All3DP is an editorially independent publication. All product reviews and recommendations are the unbiased opinion of our editorial team, and can not be bought or influenced. To keep All3DP free and open, we finance ourselves through advertising and affiliate revenues. When you purchase using a shopping link on our site we earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
Advertisement
Contents
Ender 3 Filament Guide

No Introduction Required

A clean and functional print on the Ender 3.
A clean and functional print on the Ender 3. (Source: Dave Gaston / YouTube)

The Ender 3 is one of the best printers under $200 right now, desired for its performance and versatility. Even though it’s a budget printer, the features it houses are comparable to many high-end printers out there. A wide range of material choices is one such benefit, so this guide is all about the different filaments that you can print on the Ender 3.

With some tweaks, you can get many of the available materials out there to work with your machine. Even so, some specific settings and tweaks are sometimes required. In this article, we’ll have a glance at the stock Ender 3 components, and then we’ll proceed with filament-specific settings for the machine.

Advertisement
Ender 3 Filament Guide

Ender 3 Elements

The Ender 3 test dog.
The Ender 3 test dog. (Source: charlesmilander.com)

Just like any other 3D printer, the Ender 3 uses some specific components, which we’ll have a look at one by one. The purpose of informing ourselves on these elements is that we’ll gain a better understanding of how each component affects the performance of various filaments.

  1. Hot end: The hot end on the Ender 3 is quite reliable and can easily reach up to 280 °C. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 240 °C due to the use of PTFE tubing and the quality of the components it’s made of. Nonetheless, these temperatures are enough to print the conventional plastics, including PLA, ABS, TPU, and even PETG.
  2. Nozzle: The standard 0.4-mm brass nozzle used on the Ender 3 will give you excellent printing performance with a wide range of filaments. You can’t use abrasive materials, though, since those would eat through the brass very quickly.
  3. Heated bed: The Ender 3 has a built-in heated bed that can reach temperatures of up to 110 °C. This enables you to print with materials prone to warping, such as ABS.
  4. Enclosure: The Ender 3 obviously doesn’t come with one, but we’ll be looking more into enclosures in the upgrades section of this guide.
Advertisement
1
Ender 3 Filament Guide

PLA

Iconic PLA models made on the Ender 3.
Iconic PLA models made on the Ender 3. (Source: electromaker.io)

Polylactic acid (PLA) is undoubtedly the most common 3D printing material. But what does it take to print it on the Ender 3?

Quite simply, nothing much. PLA is a versatile material, and the Ender 3 is a versatile machine. They go great together. The Ender 3 can easily reach the melting range of PLA, which is 180-230 °C, and the brass nozzle has no problems at all.

PLA settings:

  • Printing temperature: 180-230 °C. Naturally, the exact temperature you use depends on the brand of PLA.
  • Build plate temperature: PLA doesn’t necessarily need a heated bed but benefits significantly from having one. Having a heated bed will reduce your chances of warping. A modest 20-60 °C helps a lot. Any higher and the PLA at the bottom might deform.
  • Bed adhesion: The stock build surface on the Ender 3 provides excellent bed adhesion for PLA. But for a smoother bottom surface, glass is a better option. When using glass, hairspray or glue stick work the best. They give your prints a good hold on the bed.
  • Print speed: PLA has no issues as far as speed is considered. A general recommended speed of 60 mm/s works great, balancing quality with printing time.
  • Retraction: PLA is a stiffer material, and hence it can be easily tuned. As the Ender 3 has a Bowden style setup, retraction settings are much higher. We only need to consider two factors here.
    • Retraction distance: 5 mm
    • Retraction speed: 45 mm/sec
  • Part-cooling fan: This should be on. PLA is a runny material, so it needs to be adequately cooled.
Advertisement
2
Ender 3 Filament Guide

ABS

Some cable chains for the Ender 3 printed in ABS.
Some cable chains for the Ender 3 printed in ABS. (Source: johnniewhiskey / Thingiverse)

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a robust and durable material with high temperature and mechanical resistance. ABS was among the very early materials that were used with the FDM 3D printing. Its properties open up a wide range of applications, but achieving a high-grade component out of ABS is a task by itself. It’s notorious for being slightly challenging to print.

ABS settings:

  • Printing temperature: ABS need to be printed a little hot. A printing temperature of 230 °C is a good starting point. This varies between different brands, but ideal temperates range from 210-250 °C.
  • Build plate temperature: ABS is infamous for warping, but a heated bed does a good job of preventing this. A bed temperature of 80-110 °C should do it. Since the Ender 3 is capable of reaching such temperatures, ABS is a breeze to print.
  • Build plate adhesion: ABS needs some adhesion. Otherwise, you may find the corners of your prints lifted up. A raft or a brim helps in reducing the warping of the parts. Additionally, you should also be using a glue stick or ABS slurry for better adhesion.
  • Print speed: This doesn’t differ much from PLA. 60 mm/s works well enough for ABS, too. If you go any higher, you risk layer adhesion and layer splitting.
  • Retraction: Same values as for PLA.
    • Retraction distance: 5 mm
    • Retraction speed: 45 mm/sec
  • Part-cooling fan: Leave this off, since ABS likes to be cooled down gradually. If it’s cooled down suddenly, it can warp and the chances of layer splitting will increase.
Advertisement
3
Ender 3 Filament Guide

PETG

A PETG bracket
A PETG bracket. (Source: UsernameUSay / Reddit)

Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) is the middle ground between PLA and ABS, being strong, temperature resistant, and easy to print with.

PETG settings:

  • Printing temperature: PETG prints best at 220-250 °C. Fortunately, many brands have optimized their PETG filament to print at temperatures lower than 240 °C. In spite of this, if you’re finding it challenging to print, a small upgrade can set you straight. We’ll discuss it further along.
  • Build plate temperature: The first layers should be a little hot. It helps with adhesion and also reduces any warping. A bed temperature of 50-75 °C works well for PETG.
  • Build plate adhesion: You must use a releasing agent on a glass surface for PETG. Otherwise, you’ll be having a chunk of glass along with your part. PETG adheres very well to blue painter’s tape. Hairspray and gluestick also work well.
  • Print speed: PETG prints well at around 50-60 mm/s. With higher speeds, quality suffers, and there might even be under-extrusion issues. You can go slower at 25-30 mm/s, too, for better quality.
  • Retraction: This can get trickier, and nobody wants stringing or blobs on their prints. PETG needs higher retraction than PLA, but go too high and you’ll clog the hot end. These settings should help you get going:
    • Retraction distance: Start with a 5 mm distance and increase in 0.2 mm increments. The max is 7 mm.
    • Retraction speeds: A starting speed of 40 mm/s with 5 mm/s increments to dial it in.
  • Part-cooling fan: Keep this on, as it will give you very detailed prints and help you with reduced stringing and blobs. You can also choose to turn off the fan if you want a stronger part.
  • First layer height: PETG shouldn’t be squeezed on the bed. It should lay down smoothly, and hence the layer height of the first layer should be approximately 0.32 mm. It prevents the build-up of material on the nozzle, which would introduce strings and blobs.
Advertisement
4
Ender 3 Filament Guide

TPU

A flexible wrench.
A flexible wrench. (Source: bluekoala.com.au)

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is recently becoming more and more popular with users. Apart from being flexible, it has excellent shock absorption and abrasion resistance.

TPU settings:

  • Printing temperature: TPU prints well at temperatures between 210 and 230 °C.
  • Build plate temperature: A heated bed isn’t necessary, as TPU doesn’t shrink or warp like other materials. Even so, if you want, you can limit it to 60 °C.
  • Build plate adhesion: Blue painter’s tape works just fine. You can also use a brim or a raft, but they’re not essential.
  • Print speed: Make sure to go slow. TPU is a flexible material, and printing it fast will lead to problems, like the filament getting wound up in the extruder gear. The recommended maximum speed is about 25-30 mm/s.
  • Retraction: Keep this as low as possible. Higher values of retraction will lead to filament winding up in the extruder.
    • Retraction distance: 3 mm should do it to start. If you still have stringing issues, increase the value by 0.2 mm at a time.
    • Retraction speeds: 25-30 mm/s. This should be it. Any higher, and you risk clogging or extruder issues.
  • Part-cooling fan: Leave this on. This will help in the active cooling of layers and also prevent any stringing or blobs, thus improving print quality.
Advertisement
5
Ender 3 Filament Guide

Functional (Soluble) Filaments

HIPS is commonly used for functional models.
HIPS is commonly used for functional models. (Source: simplify3d.com)

Though the stock Ender 3 is a single-extruder machine, making it quite unlikely you’ll be using a secondary support filament, these filaments can also be used for other purposes. For instance, HIPS can serve as a lightweight version of ABS, exhibiting high stiffness and abrasion resistance.

Besides, it’s not impossible to hack together a dual-extruder Ender 3.

HIPS

Commonly used as a secondary support material for ABS, HIPS is also used standalone for protective cases due to its stiff and lightweight nature. It’s a little tricky to print since it likes things hot:

  • Printing temperature: HIPS prints at 230-245 °C, making it fair game for the stock Ender 3.
  • Build plate temperature: This material requires a high-temperature heated bed of between 100 and 115 °C for good adhesion. This is pushing the envelope in terms of a stock Ender 3 configuration, but it’s certainly doable. High ambient temperatures are recommended for printing HIPS, so you might need to invest in one if you’re interested in using it long-term.
  • Build plate adhesion: HIPS will stick to almost any common bed surface except bare metal; glass, painter’s tape, and Kapton tape are all great choices.
  • Print speed: Start with ABS settings, then turn down in 5-mm/s increments if you notice stringing.
  • Retraction: Similar settings to ABS should work fine.
  • Part-cooling fan: Not required for HIPS.

PVA

Most notorious as a secondary water-soluble support material for PLA, PVA can also be used for decorative purposes. It’s expensive, so you’ll want to make sure you print it right:

  • Printing temperature: This filament will print from 185-200 °C. Nothing special to see here.
  • Build plate temperature: A heated bed is optional, but if you’re using one, keep it at 45-60 °C.
  • Build plate adhesion: PEI or painter’s tape should work fine; it’s similar to PLA with the exception of sticking well to glass.
  • Print speed: Similar to PLA; start with the standard 60 mm/s.
  • Retraction: PLA retraction settings should work just fine.
  • Part-cooling fan: The cooling fan is required for PVA, since it can take a while to cool and harden naturally.
Ender 3 Filament Guide

Not Recommended

A failed wood material print.
A failed wood material print. (Source: jakeish_atelier / Reddit)

Well, the stock Ender 3 can only print with so many filaments. Now that we’ve gone through what filaments you can use with the Ender 3, let’s have a look at what you cannot use.

  1. Nylon (polyamide): This material requires temperatures above 250 °C, and the stock setup can’t sustain such high temperatures. Other than that, material storage and warping are also issues when it comes to nylon 3D printing.
  2. PEEK: Expensive and difficult to print, PEEK requires a printing temperature upwards of 350-400 °C.
  3. Metalfill/glow-in-the-dark: Both of these material types are abrasive and will wear out the brass nozzle quickly. In many cases, even the extruder gear will be worn out.
  4. Wood: Wood is also an abrasive filament. It will wear out the brass nozzle. Additionally, one typically needs a wider nozzle than the standard 0.4 mm.

If you desperately need something in a material you’re unable to print with, consider using a 3D printing service. Using Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP, you can find the best price and provider for your needs.

Advertisement
Ender 3 Filament Guide

Upgrade It

An Ender 3 acrylic enclosure.
An Ender 3 acrylic enclosure. (Source: 3dupfitters.com)

There are always ways that allow you to expand your filament portfolio. Upgrades, for example, let you do much more. Below are just a few enhancements that can enhance your Ender 3, but for a full list, check out our dedicated article:

  • Capricorn PTFE tube: This should’ve been the default tube on the Ender. It has tight tolerances and provides a constricted path to the filament, from extruder to hot end. TPU benefits from this the most.
  • All-metal hot end: This is a must-have if you plan on using some high-temperature filaments.
  • Dual-gear extruder: These extruders come with double gears that provide a better grip on filament. It’ll reduce many of your problems regarding extrusion and will ease printing with TPU.
  • Enclosure: Not essential but recommended for ABS and HIPS printing. The enclosure prevents any sudden breezes, keeps foreign material out, and in general, provides housing for your printer. It is a significant upgrade to have.

(Lead image source: Luke’s Laboratory / YouTube)

License: The text of "Ender 3 Filament Guide: Materials You Can 3D Print" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Subscribe to updates from All3DP

You are subscribed to updates from All3DP

You can’t subscribe to updates from All3DP. Learn more… Subscribe

You can’t subscribe to updates from All3DP. Learn more…

Advertisement
Recommended for you
Topics
Follow us

Advertisement