5 Most Common Problems with the Creality Ender 3: Troubleshooting Guide
This guide covers the frequently reported complaints of Creality Ender 3 users and lists the most effective solutions for each problem.
The Creality Ender 3 is a fan-favorite 3D printer that retails far below the expected price for printers of this caliber. Owing to its low price and higher end features, a lot of beginner hobbyists buy the Ender 3 as their first 3D printer. After reading the manufacturer’s guides, going through a few “recommended settings” articles, and installing the recommended slicer, many makers have been extremely disappointed with poor print quality or problematic layer deposition. We dug into the top five problems experienced when printing with the Ender 3 and covered the solutions here, so you don’t have to dig into old Reddit threads and forum posts that don’t provide the answers you need.
5 most common Ender 3 problems
- Missing layers
- Bed adhesion
- Pre-loaded slicer settings not working
- Axis misalignment
Under-extrusion is by far the most common problem faced by Ender 3 users. You can identify an under-extrusion problem by evaluating your test prints. If the filament looks thin and/or has portions missing, it is likely that your printer is not extruding the filament at an even rate.
1. Decrease speed and increase temperature
Flow rate is an essential aspect of print quality that is easy to overlook when tuning settings for a new filament or when setting up a new printer.
Decreasing the print speed will ensure that the filament is laid evenly and has sufficient time to set before the next portion of the print is deposited on the build surface. Increasing the temperature will increase the filament flow rate, which can improve very spotty or “broken” prints.
As always, we only recommend changing one setting at a time, and any change should be in small increments (around 3 ℃ for temperature). Have a quick test print ready because you will likely have to print a few until you find the optimal settings for your printer.
💡 To reduce the risk of stringing and poorly set prints, be sure that you don’t change the temperature to more than 10 ℃ above recommended settings.
2. Adjust the nozzle
Adjusting the Z-distance, which is the vertical distance from the nozzle to the print bed, can typically improve layer uniformity and setting. You can typically identify a poor Z-distance setting by a thin first layer.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reset and calibrate the bed leveling and nozzle settings. If you are still having problems, follow our more comprehensive bed leveling guide to cover any nozzle or bed alignment issue that could be affecting your print quality.
3. Clean the nozzle
Though this is unlikely to be an issue for brand-new machines, if you have used your Ender 3 printer several times without problems and are suddenly facing extrusion problems, it is very likely that a clogged nozzle is to blame.
Run a short test print and carefully watch the filament as it is extruded. If it begins to curl as it comes out, there is a partial clog in the nozzle.
There are a few ways to clean a 3D printer nozzle. The most common method is to perform an atomic pull. You can also use a thin piece of metal to gently coax the clogging filament through the nozzle. We cover these processes in greater detail in our 3D printing troubleshooting guide.
4. Fix the hot end
If you are still having extrusion problems, you may be facing a deeper problem with your printer that adjusting settings and cleaning nozzles just cannot fix.
Unfortunately, it is somewhat common for the Ender 3 to have a faulty PTFE tube that does not sit flush with the nozzle surface, causing extrusion problems. The gap between the tub and the nozzle surface can generate accumulated filament and lead to reduced flow.
One tried-and-true solution to this hot end problem is this hot end fix, which adds a spacer inside the hot end that allows the tubing to be compressed tightly against the nozzle and minimizes the gap that can occur in some stock Ender 3 printers. The linked Thingiverse page includes detailed printing and installation instructions.
Another method is simply dismantling and rebuilding the hot end with new couplings. Taking apart any portion of your printer requires extreme care. If you choose to do this, be sure to take photos at every step to facilitate re-assembly with the correct pieces.
When printing larger pieces, you may find that there are gaps or skipped layers in the print. People have reported several probable causes for this issue, including poor gripping by the extruder and a misaligned Z rod.
During extrusion, the printer “grips” the filament and pushes it through the hot end. The parts for this process are sometimes not capable of providing adequate pressure to push out filament at a consistent rate. Depending on the severity of this issue, you may be able to fix it by hand.
1. Adjust extrusion
First, try tightening the extruder arm by adjusting the screw around which the extrusion assembly pivots. Then, increase extrusion to 105%. This is a good fix for minor skipping issues but may not be sufficient for chronic layer gaps.
2. Add external extrusion pressure
If the problem persists, try swapping out the filament and adding external pressure. When swapping filament, compress the spring tightly by pushing the tabs in opposite directions. This causes the bearing to squeeze the filament more tightly and the spring to rest in a more compressed state. Because you are applying mechanical force to the existing parts, you will have to do this every time you swap filament, but it should provide adequate pressure to initiate even filament flow.
3. Swap extrusion gears
If this does not work, you will likely have to purchase new extrusion gears that have better grip. As noted above, take care when changing any parts in your printer if you are not getting it serviced by someone who does this professionally.
Bed adhesion problems are easy to spot—if your first layer is curling up or not setting properly on the build surface, you likely have adhesion problems that can affect the quality of the entire print. Luckily, these problems are easy to fix.
Quick troubleshooting tips are presented below. We have a much more comprehensive bed adhesion guide here that details the basics of bed adhesion and what you need to check to ensure optimal adhesion for all prints.
1. Level the build surface
Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to reset the bed settings. To fine tune your bed settings, all you need is some patience and a piece of paper.
First, move the nozzle to the left corner of the print bed. It does not have to reach the corner fully. Keeping the nozzle about ½ inch from each side is sufficient.
Next, place the piece of paper between the nozzle and the print bed. If you cannot get it under the nozzle, slightly adjust the corner of the bed until it slides through.
Once the paper is in place, move the bed corner up in small increments. After each move, gently move the paper. As soon as you feel resistance, stop adjusting the bed.
Then, repeat this process for the remaining three corners. After each corner has been calibrated, re-do the process for final adjustments.
2. Clean the print surface
Use rubbing alcohol and a microfiber cloth to remove any debris, dried filament, and dust from the build surface.
3. Add a raft or brim
By increasing the surface area of the print, bed adhesion can be improved. This is particularly helpful for larger prints.
A common complaint for Ender 3 users is that after downloading Cura and using the recommended settings, they start experiencing print problems like spotty first layers or poor layer quality.
There are a variety of issues new Ender 3 users can face when working with a new slicer, such as over-adjusting or forgetting to set the initial Z offset. Many other Cura-related problems come down to one thing: G-codes.
1. Start from scratch
If you’re anything like us, you love 3D printing and everything it has to offer. It is extremely tempting to try to consume as much information about perfecting prints as much as possible, but this can lead to significant problems if you are just starting out or using a new printer. Forget every YouTube video about optimal settings you have binged, every blog post you have read, and every Reddit thread showing a beautiful armor piece that look like they were printed using a professional industrial machine.
Reset your slicer to the recommended settings. Typically, the recommended Cura settings will yield decent prints that can be tuned after identifying initial problems. Then, print several test prints to identify any problematic print settings or points of failure. We recommend 3D Benchy, the All-In-One 3D Printer test, the calibration cube, and the temperature tower.
Carefully evaluate each test print for stringing, gaps, drooping, brittleness, and bowing. By specifying points of failure or scope for improvement, you can begin the time-consuming but ultimately simple task of fine-tuning your settings for your specific filament. Remember, it is always best to change settings one at a time in small increments to avoid over correcting.
2. Check your G-codes
To familiarize yourself with the nuance of 3D printing technology, you need to understand G-codes. Simply put, G-code is the language by which human users translate their instructions to be machine-readable. Cura uses specific G-codes for each setting. One common issue for new Cura users on Ender 3 printers is that the fan speed was not set properly, leading to poor layer setting and adhesion.
Check your printer’s G-codes. There are comprehensive code lists that can help you decode which lines to edit for a specific setting. For example, common G-Codes for Fan On and Fan Off are M106 and M107, respectively. Using these control lines, you can set the fan speed to maximum for the top layers, which can improve the thermal gradient of your print.
Adjusting fan speed G-codes is specifically important if you go from small to large prints consistently. Small prints tend to require less care for the thermal gradient as there is not as much room for a harsh temperature differential to exist. Larger prints, however, are much more likely to have significant temperature differences that affect print quality and stability.
Another common issue with the Ender 3 is Z-axis misalignment. There are a few fixes for this problem, but the easiest are careful re-assembly and adding a shim to the Z-axis stepper.
1. Re-assemble the Z stepper motor
The Z stepper motor has a small rectangular mount adapter mounted on it. Loosen the two screws that secure the adapter to the motor before installing it on the rail. Position the motor in the right spot and attach the adapter to the rail. After the adapter is tightened on the rail, tighten the adapter to the motor. Doing it in this order helps ensure that the Z-axis is carefully aligned without swaying.
2. Add an external support
Adding a shim to the Z axis stepper can help keep the mechanism from binding when the gantry moves. There are two auxiliary support pieces that have been very helpful for fixing this problem without physically adjusting the machine pieces themselves. This motor support can assist in alignment without causing binding, and this shim corrects bent carriage brackets to support the stepper motor.