While the standard way of using an Ender 3 (Pro/V2) involves preparing the print files on a computer, copying them to an SD card, and allowing your 3D printer to access the print files via the SD card, this isn’t the only method.
If you haven’t thoroughly examined your Ender 3, you may not have noticed that it features a mini USB (micro USB in the case of Ender 3 V2) port that allows the printer to connect to a PC. By connecting your Ender 3 to a PC, you can do all the necessary operations through your computer and eliminate the need to use the built-in terminal of your 3D printer.
So, how do you use the Ender 3 USB Port to connect it to your PC?
To connect your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) to your PC, all you need is a mini USB (micro USB for V2) cable and control software, such as Pronterface.
By launching Pronterface and connecting the USB cable from your PC to your Ender 3, you will be able to control your 3D printer through the Pronterface program.
While setting Pronterface up is quite simple, it may be slightly challenging for those who aren’t familiar with computers in general, mainly because there are few things to look out for to ensure that the connection works as intended.
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Connecting Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) To Your PC Directly With the USB Port
Fortunately, with the right steps, you can easily get your Ender 3 to connect to your PC through the USB port in a matter of minutes.
- Start by downloading Pronterface. While there are alternatives to it, we found out that Pronterface is the easiest to set up and use. Also, it’s completely free.
- Install Pronterface and launch it. You will be greeted with an interface where you can control your 3D printer.
- Now, bring the Device Manager dialog up (you can do this by right-clicking the Start Menu and choosing Device Manager) and navigate to the Ports section.
- Connect your Ender 3 to your PC by plugging the USB cableas you watch the entries in the Ports section. You will notice that a new entry appears soon after the 3D printer is connected to the PC.
- Right-click this entry, bring up Properties, and navigate to the Port Settings tab.
- Click the Bits per second dropdown, and choose 128000. Proceed by closing the Properties and the Device Manager dialogs.
- On the top left corner of Pronterface, choose the correct Port (denoted in Device Manager in the name of the entry) and the baud rate of 128000.
- Hit the Connect button, and watch the right side of the screen for the message “Printer is now online.”
Congratulations, you successfully connected your Ender 3 to your PC! While Pronterface gives you full control of your 3D printer, the Load file, SD, and the Print buttons are more than enough to print something.
While the Load file button allows you to transfer a file to your 3D printer directly from your PC, you can also use the SD option if you would like the file that you have copied onto the SD Card of your printer.
Things to Look Out for While Connecting Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) To Your PC With the USB Port
Operating your Ender 3 with a PC comes with a few things you need to look out for, as offloading the printing process to an external device such as a PC can come with a few liabilities.
- Your computer needs to stay on during the printing process. As the printing process is controlled by your computer, an event where your computer ceases to function, such as a power cut or your computer going to sleep, will instantly stop the printing process and most likely ruin your print.
- Your computer should have enough resources for the printing process. Depending on how powerful your computer is, you may have to close some programs or even completely stop using your computer to ensure that the printing process goes smoothly. If your computer is already under heavy load (such as gaming or rendering), you may experience problems with the print due to problems with data transfer.
- You should have enough USB bandwidth. While this won’t be a problem in most cases, not having enough USB bandwidth will also prevent the printing process from continuing smoothly. Problems related to bandwidth are often seen in scenarios where USB hubs are used as a USB hub divides the available bandwidth of a single USB port between multiple devices. For this reason, it’s best to plug your 3D printer directly into your computer.
How To Network Your Ender 3 With Your Computer (Pro/V2)?
Even though the Ender 3 doesn’t have network functionalities, another cool thing you can do with the USB port is networking.
This method is handy for those who rather not directly involve their PC in the printing process but would still like the ease of use that comes with operating their Ender 3 through a computer.
That being said, this method will be slightly harder to follow compared to the one we talked about earlier in terms of technical knowledge.
- Start by downloading OctoPi.
- When the download is over, you will be presented with a zip file that contains an image file. Unzip the image file and install it to an empty SD (you most likely bought one with your Raspberry Pi as it requires one to operate) card. To do so, you can use a program called Etcher that makes the process quite simple. As this process will wipe everything on the SD card, make sure that you don’t use one that contains valuable information. If you’re planning on using a cable to network the Raspberry Pi, you can move to step 7.
- Open the root directory of the SD card, where you will find a file called octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt. Open this file with a text editor (Notepad will do, don’t use WordPad or Word as it’s known to cause problems).
- Configure the file by typing the name of your WiFi network next to the line ssid (such as ssid=”my network”) and the password next to the line psk (such as psk=”mypassword”).
- Starting from the line that says network down to the line that says }, remove the # symbols at the start of the lines. If you aren’t familiar with programming, the # symbols are used for commenting the code, causing the code on those lines not to execute.
- Scroll to the bottom of the file, where you will find a list of countries. Once again, remove the # symbol next to your country of residence (only the one at the start of the line). As the United Kingdom is uncommented by default, you will also need to add a # at the start of that line. Finally, save the file.
- Insert the SD card into your Raspberry Pi.
- Turn your Raspberry Pi on, and connect to it through SSH. To do so, you will require the local IP of your Raspberry Pi first, which you can find in the interface of your router. The default username is pi, and the default password is raspberry.
- When you’re in, run the command sudo raspi-config, then change the password through the Change User Password option.
- Test the connection by inputting the local IP of your Raspberry Pi on your browser. If everything is working as intended, you will be greeted with the OctoPi interface.
- Finally, connect your Ender 3 to the Raspberry Pi with a USB cable, and press the Connect button on the OctoPi interface.
Congratulations, you can now control your Ender 3 from any device that is connected to your home network and enjoy printing wirelessly at all times.
The USB port of an Ender 3 is quite powerful, which is why we highly recommend using it one way or another to make 3D printing more convenient for yourself.
While the method of networking comes with the extra cost of buying a Raspberry Pi and a process that is slightly harder to follow, connecting your Ender 3 directly to your computer doesn’t need anything other than a USB cable and software that you can download for free.
You can trust us when we say that once you get used to controlling your Ender 3 through your computer, you will never want to go back to the old way of doing it.
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.