Last Christmas I was looking to buy my first 3D printer. I planned to use the printer just to tinker with at home. Over the next few blog posts you can read about which printer I selected, why, and how I ultimately modified it to add some higher end features.
The most successful mainstream consumer grade printers are from Prusa. This was the first printer that showed up in all of my google searches for starter 3D printers. The Prusa printers just works out of the box. Not much modding required. The price tag is fitting for all of the features you are getting but it is still a bit high for a starter printer in my opinion.
I also enjoy modifying and working on stuff. The Prusa printers offer some easy to implement aftermarket modifications but the initial price tag made me look for an alternative.
The Prusa i3 design was developed under the RepRap project so it is essentially open source. This means that you can find clones of the i3 for a lot less than the retail price. Be cautious though, I would say the clones are great if you have some experience building and working with 3D printers but it could be frustrating for a beginner.
This lead me to the Creality line of printers. The Creality Ender 3 is probably the most notable of their printers (now offering a Pro version). They enjoy a large user base and many online hacks and mods are available to help you explore this new hobby. In fact, the majority of the things i 3D printed when I first started were just more things for the 3D printer..
While researching the Creality Ender 3 I found the Ender 5. The Ender 5 is a larger box frame style printer for just a little more money than the Ender 3. It was closed to Christmas so I pulled the trigger and bought the Ender 5 Pro model. The Pro was only $30 more at the time of the sale. After all the upgrades I have done to the printer. I recommend the lower cost Ender 5 to start with. Most of the Pro features end up being replaced with mods over time. The price difference is about $30 to $50 depending on the sales at the time of purchase.
The Pro comes with the Creality v1.1.5 Silent Mainboard that includes the quieter TMC2208 stepper motor drivers. This is a very nice feature if you plan to stay with the stock mainboard. The v1.1.5 Silent Mainboard includes an 8-bit processor. The aftermarket community includes numerous aftermarket 32-bit options. As you might imagine the stock mainboard didn’t last long in the printer before I had pulled it out, sold it on e-bay, and swapped it for a 32-bit alternative.
The Ender 5 is very solid printer and it works right out of the box which means you can start hacking it right away.Official Creality Ender 5 Pro 3D Printer Upgrade V1.15 Silent Mainboard with Metal Extruder Frame Use Capricorn Bowden PTFE Tubing 220 x 220 x 300mm Build Volume
Ender 5 Pros
- Easy to assemble
- Can deliver high-quality prints with PLA out of the box
- Decent print speeds (80mm/s without quality problems)
- Magnetic bed lets you easily remove the prints
- Hackable and upgradable
Ender 5 Cons
- Magnetic bed is flimsy and not very durable – I eventually replaced it with a new system I am very happy with
- Filament loading can be tricky – I replaced this system as well.
- Printer menu lacks some functions – I replaced the mainboard and display
- Manual print bed leveling – I added BL touch for bed leveling
- I had some trouble getting decent PETG prints out of it – I eventually replaced the hotend
You can see from the Cons list that being Hackable was key. This is a great printer for the DIY’er. If you enjoy learning by tinkering but you want a functional printer out of the box to start with. The Creality Ender is a great first 3D printer.
If you are looking for a rock solid PLA printer out of the box that you can learn with before you start hacking. This is a very good candidate. See my future posts for Ender 5 mods and upgrades.Official Creality Ender 5 Pro 3D Printer Upgrade V1.15 Silent Mainboard with Metal Extruder Frame Use Capricorn Bowden PTFE Tubing 220 x 220 x 300mm Build Volume