As there are so many distinct factors that need to come together for a successful 3D printing process, it’s only natural not to be aware of a potential misconfiguration that causes your prints to fail at times, especially if you haven’t familiarized yourself with the inner workings of the 3D printer just yet.
On the other hand, there is no need to beat yourself up over failed prints either, as every failed printing process is a learning experience that will take your 3D printing knowledge, and as a result, the quality of your prints, to the next level.
In today’s article, we will be going into one such overlooked configuration, known as PID tuning, particularly for the very popular Ender 3, which is a vital setting that your 3D printer requires to be configured correctly to maintain its temperatures during the printing process as best as possible.
So, how can you PID tune your Ender 3 correctly?
The best way to correctly PID tune your Ender 3 is to use the PID Autotune functionality that will auto-adjust the PID values for both the extruder and the bed, which you can find by navigating to the Configuration, Advanced Settings, and Temperature sections of the Ender 3 menu, respectively.
Next up, we will dive deeper into the process of PID tuning your Ender 3, discuss the purpose behind the PID tuning process is, find out whether you can utilize Cura for the PID tuning process, and finally, compare automatic PID tuning to manual PID tuning to find out which one works best.
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How to PID Tune the Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
Ensuring that the PID values of your Ender 3 are tuned correctly is one of the vital steps in the pre-print checklist, as starting the printing process with misconfigured PID values is highly likely to cause issues for your prints.
Below, you can find a step-by-step guide that will allow you to PID tune your Ender 3 in a straightforward way:
- Navigate to the Configuration menu on your Ender 3 LCD controller.
- Navigate to the Advanced Settings menu.
- Navigate to the Temperature menu.
- Select the “PID Autotune E1” option for the hotend or the “PID Autotune Bed” option for the heated bed.
- Input the target temperature you would like to tune the PID values for, which should be the temperature you will be using to print.
Alternatively, you can utilize the M303 (PID autotune) G-code command (Marlin) to invoke the same functionality, which will automatically tune the PID values of your Ender 3 accordingly for the target temperature.
Below, you can find the parameters that the M303 G-code accepts, alongside detailed descriptions that explain their purpose:
- C (Count) – The number of cycles running for the calibration, with more cycles producing more accurate results. The default value is 5.
- D (Debug) – Determines whether the debug output will be displayed during the PID tuning process.
- E (Index) – The index of the hotend for which the PID values will be tuned. For PID tuning the heated bed, use -1 as the value. (indexing starts from 0, meaning that 0 is the index for the first hotend)
- S (Target) – The target temperature for which the PID values will be tuned.
- U (Save) – Determines whether the results of the PID auto-tuning process should automatically replace the current PID values. U1 to save, U0 to only print.
For instance, to autotune the PID values for the heated bed of your Ender 3 with a target temperature of 50 degrees Celsius, an example would be as follows:
M303 E-1 S50 U1
On the other hand, for autotuning the PID values of the hotend of your Ender 3 with eight (which is considered to be optimal) cycles and a target temperature of 210 degrees Celsius, a suitable example would be:
M303 E0 S210 U1 C8
When you’re through with the PID tuning process, whether you have chosen the interface route or the G-code route, remember to save your settings permanently to the EEPROM with the M500 (Save Settings) G-code or the Store Settings menu entry on your Ender 3.
What Is the Purpose of PID Tuning Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
Having a better understanding of what PID tuning is and how tuning affects the printing process is a piece of knowledge that can come in quite handy in some troubleshooting scenarios, especially considering that the word PID does not really reveal much about what it is unless you are familiar with electronics.
PID stands for Proportional, Integral, and Derivative, which are the variables that the algorithms in charge of controlling the heating elements use for calculating the optimal path for reaching the target temperature and keeping the temperature stable at that point.
The purpose of PID tuning your Ender 3 is to find the most optimal P, I, and D values for the algorithm to work as best as possible, which will allow your 3D printer to reach the desired nozzle and bed temperatures in the most efficient manner, and hold the temperatures without any fluctuations.
When the PID values are not adjusted correctly, the 3D printer will struggle to maintain the temperatures at the desired levels, causing fluctuations that can cause them to swing both upwards and downwards as the firmware tries to hit the target temperatures, which will have adverse effects on the printing process.
Can You Use Cura for PID Tuning Your Ender 3?
While the standard way of performing the PID tuning process for your Ender 3 is to send G-code commands through a 3D printing interface such as OctoPrint or Pronterface, there is an alternative method that you can use if you don’t have a 3D printing interface set up.
You can indeed use Cura for sending the necessary PID tuning G-code to your Ender 3, whether you’re using the command for auto-tuning or manual tuning.
Below, you can find a step-by-step guide to PID tune your Ender 3 through Cura:
- Click the Settings tab on the Cura menubar.
- Hover over the Printer option, and click Manage Printers.
- Choose the printer you would like to make the modification for from the left pane.
- Click the Machine Settings button.
- Add the M303 U1 C<cycles> S<target> G-code in the Start G-code section, where <cycles> refer to the tuning cycles the process will perform, and <target> refers to the target temperature.
Remember that the PID tuning you perform with this method won’t be permanent unless you specifically use the M500 G-code command to save the modification to the EEPROM.
Automatic vs. Manual PID Tuning the 3D Printer – Which Is Better?
As it’s possible to perform the PID tuning process both manually and automatically, having an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of both methods is the best way to make the correct choice that will work for you.
Considering that manually tuning the PID requires a high-level understanding of electronics and mathematics and the auto-tune process uses the same method to adjust the PID (Ziegler-Nichols method), automatic tuning is the most reliable and straightforward way of tuning the PID of your 3D printer.
On the other hand, while rare, it’s possible for the PID auto-tuning to produce less than optimal results in some cases, which may make it necessary to go through the process of manually tuning the PID values instead to find values that are more stable.
As your Ender 3 won’t be able to conduct the printing process correctly with PID values that are not tuned, we highly recommend adding the task of taking a look at the PID values and tuning them if necessary in your checklist of things to control before starting the printing process.
To PID tune your Ender 3 in the most user-friendly way possible, we recommend using the PID autotune functionality that you can find by going through the Configuration, Advanced Settings, and Temperature menus, with the entries PID Autotune E1 for the hotend and PID Autotune Bed for the heated bed.
Since the auto-tuning feature will take care of the entire PID tuning process and even set the PID values of your Ender 3 to the optimal values that it has calibrated, you won’t have to do anything more than specify the target temperature.
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.