The Ender 3 is a terrific 3D printer best known for its insane affordability, and great value. However, when it comes to filament compatibility, there are numerous options to consider. This article is all about choosing the best filament for your Creality Ender 3 that’s going to take your 3D printing game to a new level.
The best filament for a Creality Ender 3 are PLA, ABS, PETG, and TPU. Other materials such as HIPS, PVA, and PLA+ also offer a great, yet different printing experience that’s bound to get satisfactory results with the Ender 3.
Now that we know what works with our budget-friendly printer from Creality, keep reading for an in-depth analysis of each of the supported filaments. This will ensure the correct purchase decision and clear you of any doubts.
The following is a detailed overview of the most common 3D printing filaments that work like a charm with the Ender 3.
Polylactic Acid or more commonly known as PLA, is the most universal thermoplastic in the 3D printing world. It is user-friendly, comes in multiple shades and packs diverse features that make it a perfect fit for the printer in question.
Furthermore, PLA is biodegradable which means that where other printing filaments can take thousands years to decompose, PLA would take just 6 months under the specific compostable conditions.
This converts to a convenient experience when using PLA, which is also exempt from any foul-smelling odour. It’s the material widely known to cause the least amount of hassles to the user, minimizing curling and warping to an extent where the process is smoothly manageable.
Being a versatile thermoplastic, PLA comes along really well with the Ender 3, which is also a versatile printer. PLA is 3D printed at 180-230°C, a temperature that’s easily reachable on this machine.
It is also famous in the regard that it literally flows out the extruder of the printer, being far away from any prospect of nozzle clogging.
Since the Ender 3 comes equipped with a heated bed, and while PLA doesn’t really need the enhancement, a heated platform could definitely improve the experience on the user’s end, eliminating even the slightest chance of print warping.
The recommended temperature range of heating the bed is around 20-60°C. Anything considerably beyond this could make a mess on the build plate, since PLA isn’t exactly famous for withstanding high temperatures.
For PLA, the build surface of the Creality Ender 3 is more than enough to provide solid adhesion, and a good grip. But even so, using a glue stick, or a hairspray on an alternate glass surface could provide even more of a well-ordered bottom surface.
The Ender 3 really puts PLA filaments to good use with the great quality of prints that are produced because of it. PLA also comes cheap, and delivers first-rate dimensional accuracy.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene or ABS, is one of the very few filaments that FDM printing started out with. Owing to its longevity in the industry is its supreme durability, high strength, and moderate flexibility.
Moreover, the filament secures top marks in mechanical, heat, and abrasion resistance.
The Ender 3 is perfectly compatible with ABS, and is able to produce some quality prints right out the box.
However, accomplishing great things with ABS can be quite a hefty task. Apart from being a worthy printing filament, ABS is also known as a thermoplastic that demands attention, and precision.
First off, the temperature range of ABS is 210-250°C, which is quite a bit. This makes it prone to warping as it cools, and if not handled with care, the corners of your prints are bound to start curling inwards.
In addition, because ABS melts at high temperatures, the melted plastic coming from the extruder gives off toxic fumes that could cause discomfort, and prove to be very irritable for the eyes, and the respiratory system. Caution is advised here.
Nevertheless, to shed light on the warping of ABS, the Ender 3 with its heated build plate is very potent in reducing the formation of warped prints. Not extremely, but the Ender 3 is indeed comfortable in reaching high temperatures.
Therefore, heating the printing platform up to 80-110°C is enough for proper adhesion, and making the prints stick to the heated bed.
The Ender 3 also packs a cooling fan. When printing with ABS, it’s recommended not to let it on as parts printed with ABS will have the least amount of chances of warping when they cool down themselves naturally.
Despite everything, ABS lends toughness, great durability, multiple forms of resistance, and all in all, a premium quality finish to parts it’s printed with. The process will get a bit hectic at times, but it should be worthwhile in the very end.
Post-processing is also made easy with ABS. A method called Acetone Vapor Smoothing is best known for providing, as the name suggests, a ‘smooth’ finish to the printed parts. It’s easy to set up and works just as well.
Polyethylene Terephthalate, reinvigorated with Glycol gives it the name of PETG.
PETG lies between PLA and ABS, and brings the best of both worlds with it. It borrows its ease of use from PLA while strength, toughness, and resilience from ABS.
Being food-safe, PETG offers a combination of sturdiness and a refined surface, and is less prone to warping. It can also be recycled.
One of PETG’s featured highlights is its superb layer adhesion which amounts to the formation of great, compact prints. Additionally, overheating the filament won’t be a problem which on the other hand, indeed is with its downgraded variant PET.
220-250°C is the optimal temperature range of PETG. Since the Ender 3 is more than capable of working at such temperatures, it shouldn’t be a trouble to get everything right.
The build plate temperature can help PETG adhere better to the printing platform although it already possesses stupendous sticking properties.
Therefore, a releasing agent might be required in cases where a glass build plate is used so it could come off without taking a part of the printing platform along with it.
Nevertheless, somewhere around 50-75°C of bed temperature should work great for PETG.
To talk about Ender 3’s cooling fan, when PETG is being used, it’s suggested to let it on. This will help in detailing your prints, and reduce chances of stringing.
Stringing, also known as oozing, is common to occur with PETG unless certain measures have been taken. This is basically leftovers of small strings of plastic that come out of the printer extruder.
To avoid this unwanted bother, the first layer’s height setting should be maintained at 0.32 mm of the Ender 3. This will prevent the nozzle from getting clogged which would ultimately end up in stringing.
To top it off, PETG is a flexible all-rounder printing material that excels in many aspects and the Ender 3 capitalizes on this.
Thermoplastic Polyurethane or simply TPU, is a sensation in 3D printing. To the core, it’s an elastic polymer having abundant uses in FDM technology.
At times, we could need something different for a change. Something that would have unique, and different characteristics. Opening up a new domain of possibilities, this is exactly where a filament like TPU marks its significance with its top of the line flexibility.
It comprises a little more toughness as compared to other flexible filaments. This makes it very easy to use as it comes out of the extruder.
Furthermore, apart from being highly elastic, TPU serves to be exceedingly durable as well. It can tolerate compressive, tensile forces to a great extent. This makes it such a desirable 3D printing filament in many applications.
TPU is on the rise currently as many people have started to use it. The fact that it’s highly resistant to abrasion, and poses little to none problems in warping, appeals tremendously to the average user.
Between 210°C and 230°C, TPU produces the best results. Moreover, another appreciable trait of this flexible filament is that it doesn’t require a heated build plate by far.
Nonetheless, a temperature of about 60°C wouldn’t hurt, but only add to its great adhesive properties.
The pliability of TPU demands that the material be printed slow. A speed of around 25-30 \mm/s is advised when printing with the Ender 3. This will help prevent any mishappenings inside the extruding nozzle.
The pre-installed cooling fan, as with PETG, is recommended to be used with TPU as well. It decreases any unnecessary prospect of stringing or the formation of blobs, which is a deposition of overly excessive filament at a specific point in the part.
While TPU doesn’t pose a health concern like its notorious counterpart, ABS, it definitely isn’t food-safe. It’s also hygroscopic in nature, which is the ability to absorb moisture in the surroundings, so proper storage is advised.
All things considered, TPU does require a bit of attention to work with, but anyways, the end-product looks great, and offers a distinct experience.
Top-Rated Filament Brands
With an increasing amount of filament makers present in the market today, there is difficulty involved choosing the right brand for your favourite thermoplastic.
The following are the best filament brands from top manufactures with a high-rated listing on Amazon. They have been reported to work amazingly well with the Creality Ender 3.
Hatchbox has quickly gained fame and success in 3D printing, and all for a good reason. With more than a thousand reviews on Amazon, Hatchbox PLA offers the great base attributes of PLA, but with an extra touch of magic.
The company from the USA offers great quality PLA at a decent price. The uniqueness here is that Hatchbox’s PLA is a combination of bioplastics and polymers. According to them, this makes the filament more “earth-friendly”.
The finish associated with using it has developed more smoothness, and the filament itself boasts reduced traces of CO2.
The upgrades include more resistance, flamboyant colours, increased flexibility, and additional strength, which is unlikely for PLA to a certain extent. On top of it all, Hatchbox’s PLA exhibits a pancake-smelling odour.
The spool of this PLA is shipped in a cardboard box that’s recyclable. The plastic bag however in which the filament is sealed isn’t resealable. There are other easy solutions for storing your Hatchbox PLA.
With the substantial capabilities of the Ender 3, and the comfort of using PLA, Hatchbox’s variant of the filament is top-notch, and highly recommended to every printing enthusiast out there.
One of the best-selling filament brands of ABS comes directly from Amazon itself. AmazonBasics ABS is a top-seller with more than a 1,000 positive reviews and critical acclaim that make it the optimum ABS for the Creality Ender 3.
While warping in ABS is commonplace, the AmazonBasics edition of the filament offers sublime versatility.
People have claimed that upon use, they have come across total smoothness, perfect bridging, and more surprisingly, minimal warping for a thermoplastic like ABS.
AmazonBasics have seemed to up the ante with their ABS. The filament produces excellent prints with hassle-free use. Combined with any PVA glue, the problem of bed adhesion is also solved within a matter of minutes.
One great distinct feature of AmazonBasics ABS is that it arrives with a built-in gauge which informs the user about how much the filament is left. Moreover, it contains slots for storing the filament when it’s not being used to print.
There is a degree of inconsistency involved with the ABS from AmazonBasics, but given the price range, they are nothing but negligible.
The manufacturer lives up to the expectations as loads of optimistic feedback piles up on the order page on Amazon.
As multifaceted PETG is, eSUN, a Chinese printing material company, adds to the convenient features and makes the thermoplastic run great with the Ender 3.
Customers have said that eSUN PETG has proved to be nothing but great for them. Their order arrives well-packaged, manufactured with superb quality, and the end-products are just simply dazzling.
One of the most interesting attributes of eSUN PETG is that even though it requires a high temperature to print like ABS, it gets nowhere near the warping issues that arises in ABS.
Quite surprisingly, it’s highly beginner-friendly, and does not create any frustrations in terms of a curled print.
The Ender 3 utilizes the efficiency of this PETG variant to produce premium quality, durable, and strong prints.
The highlighted features involve:
Unparalleled transparency which delivers a good look
Exceptional endurance and impact resistance
SainSmart’s Flexible TPU isn’t the Amazon’s Choice with more than 900 positive reasons for nothing.
Over time, the brand has made people really happy with using it because the filament is something everyone could work with, and is highly reliable.
The edge here is how SainSmart has developed TPU so it could have a pleasing use in multiple variations ranging from toys, home, and garden to phones and their accessories.
Although a Direct Drive system would be more convenient with the TPU, the Ender 3’s Bowden style setup still holds quite well.
Products finished with SainSmart’s TPU are immensely flexible, and require a very powerful stretch before they could start coming off. The print quality is also reported to be applaudable making it the best brand to choose when printing with TPU.
A Few Noteworthy Ender 3 Upgrades
Every 3D printer out there has the potential to be upgraded to something better, and while Reality’s Ender 3 is no stranger to this, below are some substantial improvements to add that make the machine a lot more valuable, and enable it to work with more demanding filaments.
Replacing the Stock Bowden Tube
The Ender 3 is equipped with a Bowden tube that can be promptly substituted with the recommended Capricorn PTFE tube. This allows for a more direct pathway to the filament, which is from the extruder to the hot end.
Flexible filaments like TPU makes the most of this substantial upgrade.
Fully Metallic Hot-End
When it comes to utilizing filaments that require high-temperatures, replacing the stock plastic hot-end with an aluminum one, preferably with the MK10 All-Metal Hot-End, the Ender 3 pumps things up a notch, and works with an added stability.
An enclosed print chamber is one of the most fundamental upgrades any printer could have. The enclosure is a major help in keeping the temperature inside stable and constant. It also denies any unnecessary breezes that could make their way to the prints, ultimately affecting print quality.
Use a Hardened Steel Nozzle
The stock nozzle that comes with every 3D printer and the Ender 3 are brass nozzles, which don’t hold up so well against abrasive filament. If you want to be able to print abrasive filament, a hardened steel nozzle change would be in order.
They have the ability to withstand those harsh melted filament for long periods of time, without wearing out quickly like a brass nozzle would.
We know what runs like a dream with the Ender 3, but what doesn’t?
The nozzle of the Ender 3 is made of brass which cannot stand abrasive materials since those will tear right through the extruder. The glow-in-the-dark filaments being abrasive are not recommended by far to use with the Ender 3 unless the nozzle is wholly replaced.
The standard 0.4 mm won’t cut it if one intends to use the abrasive filament of wood with the Ender 3. Nevertheless, the process isn’t impossible, but can be done with a bit of advancements, and using a brand such as Hatchbox PLA.
Polyamide, typically known as Nylon, requires very high temperatures which the Ender 3 cannot maintain without prior enhancements. Therefore, this is a filament better off without Ender 3.
Even though these are inadvisable, if you upgrade to a fully-metal hotend and use a hardened steel nozzle, you’ll be able to print with a massive range of abrasive and high temperature filament.