Printing a 3D model successfully, with no glaring problems that would cause it to be classified as a failed print, usually comes down to ensuring that you have the basic configuration, such as the nozzle temperature and the bed temperature correct, as supplying the optimal values for such parameters will allow your 3D printer to take care of the rest.
On the other hand, the pursuit of optimization never truly ends, even when the 3D printed models you obtain are satisfactory, as there are always more parameters that you can fine-tune to take your 3D prints a step forward in terms of quality if you would really like to dive deeper into the possibilities.
In today’s article, we will discuss the process of optimizing and increasing the dimensional accuracy of the 3D printed models that you print with your Ender 3, in particular, which will allow you to bring the actual dimensions of the models you print as close to the digitally specified dimensions as possible.
So, how can you increase the dimensional accuracy capabilities of your Ender 3?
Below, we have listed the steps you can take to increase the dimensional accuracy of your Ender 3:
- Print at lower nozzle temperatures
- Print at lower speeds
- Calibrate the E-step value
- Calibrate the extrusion multiplier (flow rate) value
- Ensure that the first layer is printed correctly
- Maintain the mechanical and electrical components
- Compensate for inaccuracies through scaling
In the upcoming sections, we will dive deeper into the process of increasing your Ender 3’s dimensional accuracy, find out how accurate the Ender 3 really is when it’s optimally configured, and go through the signs that may indicate there are dimensional inaccuracies on your 3D printed models.
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How to Increase Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Dimensional Accuracy?
While dimensional accuracy especially becomes essential for parts that need to have exact dimensions to be able to fulfill their purpose, increasing it is also a fantastic way to give your 3D printed models a higher-quality look.
Here are the steps we recommend taking to increase your Ender 3’s dimensional accuracy and print models that are consistent with the designs:
- Lower the print temperature value. Printing at temperatures that are higher than optimal can lead to over-extrusion due to the filament melting way too much and flowing uncontrollably as a result, which can quickly ruin the dimensional accuracy of your 3D printed models.
- Lower the print speed value. Pushing the print speed to figures that are way too high can cause the movement of the printhead to become inconsistent, introducing issues such as layer shifting that will harm the dimensional accuracy of your 3D printed models.
- Re-calibrate the E-step value to be as optimal as possible. As the E-step value is directly responsible for ensuring that the actual amount of filament that comes out of the nozzle is in line with your Ender 3’s calculations, a miscalibrated E-step value will either cause too much or too little filament to be extruded, directly affecting the dimensional accuracy of your model.
- Re-calibrate the extrusion multiplier value. The extrusion multiplier (flow rate) value controls the amount of filament that comes out of the nozzle at any given time, which makes it vital to configure it correctly for your 3D printed model to be dimensionally accurate.
- Make sure that the first layer is printed correctly. As the entire print is built on top of the first layer, an issue with it (e.g., a bed that isn’t perfectly level, causing some parts of the first layer to become too squished) will reflect in the whole 3D printed model, often causing dimensional inaccuracies.
- Maintain your Ender 3’s mechanical and electrical components. Mechanical components such as the timing belts and pulleys, the Z-axis lead screw, the eccentric nuts, and electrical components, such as the stepper motor drivers, are all directly responsible for the motion of your Ender 3, and even a slight fault in one of them can throw the positioning of the printhead off.
- Scale the 3D model accordingly to compensate for inaccuracies. While not direct solutions to the problem, scaling the model accordingly or using the compensation features of your slicer software (such as horizontal expansion in Cura) can often be convenient to combat issues with dimensional inaccuracies on your 3D printed models.
How Accurate is the Ender 3 (Pro/V2) with Optimal Settings?
Since hardware also plays a vital role in how dimensionally accurate a 3D printer can manufacture a model, it’s also crucial to keep your 3D printer’s limits in mind after ensuring that you have optimized the configuration as well as possible.
When everything is configured as optimally as possible, the Ender 3 should be capable of reaching a dimensional accuracy level that allows your 3D model to be printed with an error that is 0.1 mm in the worst-case scenario (less in most cases), which should almost always be negligible.
With such dimensional accuracy, you can use your Ender 3 to print mechanical parts that need to have exact dimensions with ease and not have to worry about whether the object will be suitable for its intended purpose or not.
For instance, if you’re printing a standard 20x20x20 calibration cube, a maximum error rate of 0.1 mm on each side would correspond to a range of 19.9 to 20.1, meaning that each side of your model can be 0.1 mm longer or shorter at most.
How to Identify the Dimensional Inaccuracies on your 3D Prints?
While the dimensional inaccuracies on your 3D printed models will be glaringly evident in more severe cases, the more minor inaccuracies can fly under the radar and not be visible to the naked eye, especially at first look.
The most effective way to identify dimensional inaccuracies is to measure each side of your 3D printed model with calipers, note the numbers down, and compare your findings to the intended (digital) size of the model, which will allow you to see exactly how severe the inaccuracy is.
This way, you will be able to catch even the most minor of dimensional accuracies on your 3D prints, which is especially important if you intend to use your 3D printed models for functional purposes where dimensions need to be exact for the object to fulfill its purpose.
Increasing the dimensional accuracy of your 3D printer as much as possible is one of the best optimizations to obtain high-quality 3D printed models and is essentially a requirement if you intend to print models that need to have exact dimensions.
To quickly recap, there are plenty of things you can do to increase the dimensional accuracy of your Ender 3, such as printing at lower temperatures and speeds, calibrating the first layer settings, the E-step value, and the flow rate as optimally as possible, and ensuring that the mechanical and electrical components of your 3D printer are well-maintained.
While not a direct solution to the problem, a trick you can also apply is to scale the 3D model that you will be printing accordingly to compensate for the dimensional accuracies that you cannot fix through any other method, which should save the day in most scenarios.
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.