3D printer issues come in many shapes and forms, ranging from software errors that display a simple message on the screen about the problem to mechanical troubles that cause the moving parts of the 3D printer to show inconsistent behavior without any error on display.
In most cases, software errors are more straightforward to solve due to the culprit behind them being apparent for the most part, whereas fixing mechanical problems can be a real puzzle at times, with so many distinct factors at play that can be behind the occurrence of the issue.
Today, our topic will be one of the mechanical troubles that the Ender 3 can have, where the printer starts making loud grinding sounds during the print, which, while isn’t the most significant concern by itself other than the loudness, could be a sign of something more problematic to come.
So, what can cause an Ender 3 to make grinding noises during the printing process?
As are a few distinct issues that can cause your Ender 3 to make grinding noise during the print, we have listed the most common ones below:
- The nozzle is scraping on the build plate or the model being printed.
- The stepper drivers are malfunctioning.
- The stepper motors are malfunctioning.
- The eccentric nuts are too tight.
- The belts are loose and skipping.
Next up, we will analyze the causes that can cause an Ender 3 to make grinding noises in more detail, go through the potential solutions to resolve the problem, and discuss whether the Ender 3 is a loud printer when it’s operating correctly without any issues that can cause it to become louder.
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What Can Cause the Ender 3 (Pro/V2) to Make Grinding Noises?
While repeatedly hearing grinding noises coming out of your 3D printer can become annoying over time, the more significant issue is that these noises are often a sign that something is wrong with your 3D printer, which will eventually reflect in your prints.
Below is the list of the most common culprits that can contribute to your Ender 3 making grinding noises, along with their detailed descriptions:
- Nozzle scraping on the model or the build plate – The nozzle scraping on the model or the build plate is perhaps the most common culprit behind the grinding noises, as a simple error related to bed leveling or the Z-offset value can easily cause this occurrence. As such a scenario can damage both your Ender 3’s nozzle and build plate, we highly recommend keeping an eye out.
- Malfunctioning stepper drivers – The stepper drivers are directly responsible for the signal that goes to the stepper motors, and in the case of a malfunction, the noise that the stepper motors make can significantly increase.
- Malfunctioning stepper motors – The stepper motors themselves are the components that are capable of generating the most amount of noise in your Ender 3, mainly when undesired situations occur, such as the motors overheating or vibrating, which can be the culprit behind the grinding noises.
- Overly tightened eccentric nuts – The eccentric nuts are responsible for determining the tightness of the rollers that allow the printhead and the build plate to slide on the rails, and tightening them way too much will cause the rollers to grind on the rails, making a grinding noise.
- Loose and skipping belts – Loose belts can prevent the stepper motors from turning the gears correctly, resulting in the problem known as skipping, which prevents the axes from performing the correct motions consistently. When the 3D printer’s actual position doesn’t equal where the 3D printer thinks it is due to these incorrect motions, the grinding sounds will appear due to the conflict.
Aside from going through the common causes that we have mentioned, we would highly recommend tracking the source of the noise and thinking of the modifications you have recently made to your Ender 3 to isolate the problem, which can help you pinpoint the issue quicker.
How to Fix the Grinding Noises Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) is Making?
As the grinding noise could be coming from a couple of different parts of the 3D printer, applying the correct solution comes down to locating the problem first and, if that’s not possible, going through all the potential solutions until the issue is fixed.
Here are the solutions we recommend applying to fix the grinding noises your Ender 3 is making, which correspond to the common causes we have listed earlier:
- Ensure that the bed is level and that the Z offset is configured correctly. In an optimal scenario, the distance between the nozzle and the build plate shouldn’t exceed the thickness of a piece of paper on any four corners and the center of the bed. You can use any of the standard bed leveling tools (paper, feeler gauge, automatic bed leveling sensor) for this process.
- Diagnose and maintain the stepper motors. The most straightforward way to diagnose the stepper motors is to disconnect them one by one and see if any particular motor is causing the problem. If one of the motors is indeed the problem, we recommend double-checking the wiring and replacing the stepper if all else fails.
- Diagnose the stepper motor drivers. The stepper drivers can make it seem like the stepper motors themselves are the problem, which is why we highly recommend connecting the motor that you think is malfunctioning (if there is one) to a different driver to find out whether the stepper motor or the stepper driver is the problem. If a stepper driver is malfunctioning, the simplest way to resolve the issue is to replace the mainboard.
- Loosen the eccentric nuts. You can locate the eccentric nuts right behind the rollers for all of the axes and very slowly loosen them not to make them way too loose as that will cause the issue of wobbling. It’s also worth noting that the standard rule of turning clockwise to tighten does not apply to eccentric nuts, and making a complete turn will put the eccentric nut in the exact same position you have started.
- Tighten the timing belts. The timing belts should be as tight as possible to grip and turn the gears correctly without skipping any steps. To tighten the belt, all you need to do is unscrew the screws next to the belt tensioners, tension the belts as much as possible with your hand, and tighten the screws back on.
Is the Ender 3 (Pro/V2) a Loud 3D Printer?
While not the first attribute that comes to mind, the amount of sound that the 3D printer generates during the printing process can also be a deciding factor in 3D printer selection for those who prefer not to have a loud device in their environment.
As 3D printing is generally a process that we can consider to be loud due to the many noise-making components involved, such as the stepper motors and the cooling fans, the Ender 3 doesn’t exactly stand out as a particularly loud 3D printer by any means, and we can say that it’s a moderately loud printer at most.
On the other hand, thanks to the customizable nature of the Ender 3, it’s always possible to perform a plethora of upgrades to make your Ender 3 quieter, such as replacing the cooling fans and stepper drivers with quieter ones (or entirely replacing the motherboard with one that comes with silent stepper drivers), installing TL smoothers, and adding vibration dampeners to the stepper motors.
Alongside the modding that you can directly perform on the Ender 3, you can also look at ways of externally reducing the noise, such as using an enclosure, refraining from 3D printing on unstable surfaces, and adding foam under the 3D printer to dampen the overall vibration.
Finding the root cause behind the grinding noise your Ender 3 is making before moving on with another printing process is definitely a good idea, as conducting more prints while the grinding is still taking place could cause damage to the 3D printer and also reduce the quality of your prints depending on the cause.
To recap, while there are a plethora of issues that can cause your Ender 3 to make grinding noises, some of the most common ones are the nozzle scraping on the bed or the model, the stepper drivers or the motor malfunctioning, the belts skipping, and eccentric nuts that are too tight.
As always, we would like to mention that the list we have provided isn’t exhaustive by any means, especially for such a complex hardware issue that can have many reasons behind it, which makes finding the root of the problem the most challenging part of solving it in most cases.
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.