A Little Rewiring Teaches A Creality Ender 3 New Tricks

The Creality Ender 3 is part of the new wave of budget 3D printers, available for less than $250 from many online retailers. For the money, it’s hard to complain about the machine, and it’s more than suitable for anyone looking to get make their first steps into the world of FDM printing. But there’s certainly room for improvement, and as [Simon] shows in a recent blog post, a little effort can go a long way towards pushing this entry-level printer to the next level.

The first step was to replace the printer’s stepper drivers with something a bit more modern. Normally the Ender 3 uses common A4988 drivers, but [Simon] wanted to replace them with newer Trinamic drivers that offer quieter operation. Luckily, Trinamic makes a drop-in replacement for the A4988 that makes installation relatively easy. You’ll need to change out a few caps and remove some resistors from the board to make everyone play nice, but that shouldn’t pose a challenge to anyone who knows their way around a soldering iron.

Beyond quieter running steppers, the Trinamic TMC2208 drivers also offer direct UART control mode. Of course the Ender’s board was never designed for this, so the MCU doesn’t have enough free pins to establish serial communications with the three drivers (for the X, Y, and Z axes). But [Simon] realized if he sacrificed the SD card slot on the board, the six pins that would free on the controller could be cut and rewired to the driver’s UART pins.

Combined with the Klipper firmware, these relatively minor modifications allows him to experiment with printing at speeds far greater than what was possible before. Considering the kind of headaches that a ~$200 printer would have given you only a few years ago, it’s impressive what these new machines are capable of; even if it takes a few tweaks.

Folding An Off-The-Shelf 3D Printer

Most 3D printers don’t take up a lot of space, but they can be pretty bulky and awkward to travel with. [Jón Schone] needed a compact folding 3D printer for a secret project on his YouTube channel ProperPrinting, so he decided to modify a Creality Ender 3 Pro to achieve this.

Starting with a brand new Ender 3 Pro, and his first steps were to move the display and power supply unit into the bottom frame to make space for the folding top frame. For the folding mechanism, he settled on a four bar linkage that allows the vertical frame to translate to the front of the printer as it folds down, which lets it become a really compact package with minimal wasted space. The joints consist of fitting 3D printed in carbon fibre reinforced nylon, with bolts for shafts. The entire mechanism is made adjustable for fine-tuning by using threaded rod and sliding mounting points on the extruded frame. Small brackets on each side of the frame allows the printer to snap securely into both its upright and folded positions.

All in all we think this is well-designed and beautifully executed hack, enough to make us really want to build one for ourselves. It will remain to be seen if any slop develops with repeated folding and use, especially at the snap-in end stops, but that should still be an easy fix if it happens.

We’ve previously featured [Jón]’s custom 3D printed D-sub connectors, also for his Ender 3. Also check out another folding printer, the X-printer.

Continue reading “Folding An Off-The-Shelf 3D Printer”

Feeding Both Filament And Electrons Through A Custom D-Sub Connector

We sometimes forget that 3D printers are just CNC platforms with a hotend attached, and there a whole range of alternative tool heads to use. [Jón Schone] has been doing exactly that, and needed a way to quickly disconnect his hotend completely from his printer, so he 3D printed his own custom D-sub connector for both filament and wires. (Video, embedded below.)

[Jon] has added a number of upgrades for his Creality CR10 3D printer, including a quick change tool mount to allow him to also use a laser engraver and even a small spindle. When the hotend is removed there’s no way to quickly disconnect the wiring , so the print head is usually left connected and placed to one side of the printer. For a quick detach solution for both wiring and the Bowden tube, he first modified an off-the-shelf D-sub connector. The connector was relatively expensive, and the tube had a tendency to pop out, which led to some failed prints.

[Jon] wanted to use proper Bowden tube fittings inside the connector, so he designed and printed his own D-sub connector and bought loose contacts. Pushing the contacts into the housing turned out to be quite difficult to do without breaking them, so he’s working on making that process simpler. This is just one of many examples of 3D printing 3D printer upgrades, which has been a core feature of the RepRap project right from the beginning. Check out the video after the break

We have no shortage of 3D printer hacks and there will be many more to come. Some cool recent ones includes the Jubilee CNC that was built from the start with automatic tool changing in mind, and a printer that fits in your backpack. Continue reading “Feeding Both Filament And Electrons Through A Custom D-Sub Connector”

Add A Microscope To Your 3D Printer

There are many ways to keep an eye on your 3D printer as it churns out the layers of your print. Most of us take a peek every now and then to ensure we’re not making plastic vermicelli, and some of us will go further with a Raspberry Pi camera or similar. [Uri Shaked] has taken this a step further, by adding a USB microscope on a custom bracket next to the hot end of his Creality Ender 3.

The bracket is not in itself anything other than a run-of-the-mill piece of 3D printing, but the interest comes in what can be done with it. The Ender 3 has a resolution of 12.5μm on X/Y axes, and 2.5μm on Z axes, meaning that the ‘scope can be positioned to within a hair’s-breadth of any minute object. Of course this achieves the primary aim of examining the integrity of 3D prints, but it also allows any object to be tracked or scanned with the microscope.

For example while examining a basil leaf, [Uri] noticed a tiny insect on its surface and was able to follow it with some hastily entered G-code. Better still, he took a video of the chase, which you can see below the break. From automated PCB quality control to artistic endeavours, we’re absolutely fascinated by the possibilities of a low-cost robotic microscope platform.

[Uri] is a perennial among Hackaday-featured projects, and has produced some excellent work over the years. Most recently we followed him through the production of an event badge.

Continue reading “Add A Microscope To Your 3D Printer”

GPL Violations Cost Creality A US Distributor

One of the core tenets of free and open source software licenses is that you’re being provided source code for a project with the hope that you’ll “pay it forward” if and when you utilize that code. In fact some licenses, such as the GNU Public License (GPL), require that you keep the source code for subsequent spin-offs or forks open. These are known as viral licenses, and the hope is that they will help spread the use of open source as derivative works can’t turn around and refuse to release their source code.

Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the rules. In a recent post on their blog, Printed Solid has announced they are ending their relationship with Chinese manufacturer Creality, best known for their popular CR-10 printer. Creality produces a number of printers which make use of Marlin, a GPLv3 licensed firmware that runs (in some form or another) a large majority of desktop 3D printers. But as explained in the blog post, Printed Solid has grown tired with the manufacturer’s back and forth promises to comply with the viral aspects of the GPL license.

Rather than helping to support a company they believe is violating the trust of the open source community, they have decided to mark down their existing stock of Creality printers to the point they will be selling them at a loss until they run out. In addition, for each Creality printer that is sold Printed Solid has promised to make a $50 USD donation to the development of Marlin saying: “if Creality won’t support Marlin development then we will.”

As is often the case when tempers are high and agreements break down, Printed Solid has also pulled back the curtain a bit as to the relationship they have had thus far with the manufacturer. According to the blog post, Printed Solid claims that some models of Creality printers have had a 100% fault rate, and that the company needed to repair and tweak the machines before sending them out to customers. The not so subtle implication being that Creality printers have been benefiting from the work Printed Solid has been doing on their hardware, and that purchasing a unit direct from the manufacturer could be a dicey proposition.

We’ve previously covered an issue with Creality’s CR-10S printer that required the end-user to replace an SMD capacitor just to get reliable results out of the machine, and of course we’ve talked of the extra work that’s often required when wrangling a low-end Chinese printer. It’s even more disheartening when you realize cheap machines sold by shady manufacturers are pushing open source manufacturers out of business.

Creality CR10-S Upgrade Shows The Effect Of Bad Power

The Creality CR10-S is a printer that has become quite popular, and is not an uncommon sight in a hackspace or makerspace. Some models have a slight defect, a smoothing capacitor is of insufficient size, resulting in reduced print quality. [Jozerworx] has replaced the capacitor, and posted a full guide as to how the task can be performed.

Hackaday readers will have among their number many for whom replacing a surface mount electrolytic is no bother at all, indeed we’d expect most 3D printer owners to be able to perform the task. Maybe that the post has such an extensive FAQ and seems to be aimed at newbies to soldering points to 3D printing having moved to a wider market. But it has to be remembered that the value in this piece is not in the work, but in the characterisation. At the end he posts graphs showing the effect of the modification on the temperature of the extruder, and on the temperature noise brought about by the poor capacitor choice. A reduction from a +/- 3 Celcius variation to one of around +- 0.1 Celcius may not seem like much, but it seems it has a significant effect on the reliability of the printer.

So this isn’t the most elite of hacks, on a printer heading for a wider marketplace. But it serves to illustrate that bad quality power regulation can have some surprising effects. It seems every new printer comes with a list of community-developed mods to make it usable, perhaps one day we’ll find a printer that’s at peak performance out-of-the-box.