Printing structures that don’t naturally have support beneath them, such as bridges and overhangs, has always been a challenging part of the 3D printing process, as the lack of support causes these structures to be highly prone to issues such as drooping and even collapsing.
Fortunately, modern 3D printing software makes it possible to configure settings separately for these structures, which allows us to focus on improving the bridges and overhangs without having to modify any configuration for the standard parts of the print.
Today, our topic will be the process of improving the bridging capabilities of an Ender 3 in specific, which, due to how bridges are structured, usually requires a particular approach and fine-tuning alongside ensuring that the print settings are configured correctly for the standard areas.
So, how can you improve the bridging capabilities of your Ender 3?
Below, we have listed the steps we recommend taking to improve the bridging capabilities of your Ender 3:
- Perform rotations on the 3D model to minimize the number of bridges.
- Apply more cooling while printing bridges.
- Decrease the print speed while printing bridges.
- Decrease the nozzle temperature while printing bridges.
- Reduce filament flow while printing bridges.
- Add support structures to stabilize the bridges.
In the upcoming sections, we will take a more detailed approach towards improving the bridging of your Ender 3, discuss the reasons that will cause an Ender 3 not to print bridges correctly, and go through the common signs that indicate your Ender 3 may be having problems with bridging.
How to Improve the Bridging of Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
As successfully printing bridges depend on a fair few parameters that need to come together as optimally as possible, improving bridging is mainly about ensuring that all these parameters are configured accurately without leaving any room for error.
Here are the adjustments you can apply the improve the bridging of your Ender 3, alongside descriptions that explain how these adjustments will contribute:
- Rotate your 3D model to eliminate bridges – The best way to improve bridge quality is to avoid printing them whenever possible, which you can sometimes achieve by rotating your 3D model in a way that minimizes the number of bridges or even eliminates them.
- Increase bridge fan speed – You can find bridge-specific fan speed controls in most modern slicers, such as Cura, and increase this value separately from the standard cooling fan speed. Doing so will significantly contribute to the bridges solidifying on time, especially if you’re printing with a filament that does not require any cooling during standard operation.
- Decrease bridge print speed – Similar to the fan speed, it’s possible to set the print speed for bridges separately in most modern slicers, which will cause the printer to switch the print speed when it’s printing a bridge automatically. Decreasing the bridge print speed with this method will give the plastic more time to cool down before more plastic comes in and increase bridge quality.
- Decrease nozzle temperature while printing bridges – While setting the nozzle temperature specifically for bridges isn’t a common feature like the bridge fan speed and bridge print speed, it’s possible to achieve this by using plugins that allow you to set different print temperatures for certain heights, or adding the G-code manually. By decreasing the nozzle temperature while the bridges are being printed, you will speed up the cooling of the plastic, which will allow it to solidify before drooping.
- Decrease bridge flow – The bridge flow setting is standard, like the bridge print speed and the bridge fan speed, allowing you to set a specific flow rate value for printing bridges. Slightly decreasing this value can be helpful to get the bridge to solidify faster, as the amount of plastic that goes into the bridge will be less.
- Enable supports – When all else fails, enabling supports will prevent your bridges from drooping by giving them structures to stand upon, essentially causing them to be printed similarly to the rest of the model that already has support beneath it. While the supports come with the added task of removing them afterward, sometimes there is no other choice.
What Can Cause Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) to Not Bridge Correctly?
Due to the sensitive nature of bridge structures, even a problem that may be relatively insignificant for the other areas of the print can prevent your 3D printer from printing the bridges correctly, making it vital to take a close look at all of the factors to find the root cause.
Practically speaking, anything that causes the plastic not to have enough time to solidify before more plastic comes in can contribute to the issue of your Ender 3 not printing the bridges correctly, as the bridges will start drooping due to the lack of support beneath them.
The print temperature, the print speed or the flow rate being too high, and insufficient cooling are the first factors that come to mind in this case, as each of these factors can singlehandedly prevent the plastic from solidifying on time before any drooping occurs.
As printing bridges often require a distinct set of values for the parameters that we have mentioned above compared to the rest of the print, it’s natural for bridging issues to take place if you haven’t fine-tuned these parameters specifically for bridges yet.
How to Identify Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Having Problems with Bridging?
While issues related to bridging are usually very apparent to the eye, it’s still a good idea to be sure that the problems are indeed only related to bridges before moving on to applying specific solutions for increasing bridge quality.
The most apparent sign of your Ender 3 having issues with printing bridges is a droopy bridge, where the quality of the bridge becomes very poor, and it looks like it’s bending downwards due to the molten filament not solidifying on time, which can also end up with it entirely collapsing in some cases.
Aside from the drooping, you can also observe filament blobs and strings on the bridge, which further contribute to lowering its quality and causing it to look like a complete mess.
Bridges, just like overhangs, can definitely be challenging to get right due to a lack of natural support below them, especially in cases where they are large and heavy, which makes them even more prone to issues such as drooping and collapsing as a result.
To quickly recap, the best thing you can do to improve bridging with your Ender 3 is to eliminate as many of the bridges as possible by rotating the model before slicing, as bridges always introduce more complexity to the print.
For bridges you cannot remove, any change that gives more time for the plastic to solidify or makes it solidify quicker, like decreasing the nozzle temperature, the print speed, and the flow, or increasing the cooling rate, will come in extremely handy.
Finally, even though we know that nobody really likes using support structures since they create even more trouble to deal with after the printing process is over, especially if they come out way too strong, sometimes they are necessary to ensure that your Ender 3 can print the bridges successfully.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.