ABS is the second-most-common hobbyist 3D printing material after PLA.
However, it is not as easy to work with as PLA, and you might even wonder whether you can use it on your Ender 3 printer.
You can print ABS on Ender 3. For the best results, set the nozzle temperature between 220°C and 240°C and heat the bed to 110°C. Add some glue to the build surface to improve adhesion and turn off the cooling fan to prevent warping.
Can The Creality Ender 3 Print ABS?
While some 3D printers can’t reach the necessary bed temperature for printing with ABS, that’s not the case of Ender 3.
According to Creality, printing with ABS on Ender 3 is possible. Most of the settings even stay the same as those of PLA, making it very easy to work with this material.
However, ABS does require a few different settings. Knowing them can help you prevent warping and create exceptional prints every time.
Best ABS Settings For Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Users
Getting perfect ABS prints is sometimes tricky, especially if you’ve never used the material before.
While you may have to go through some trial and error, using the best ABS settings for your Ender 3 Pro or V2 is key to a smoother learning curve.
Initial Layer Height
Almost all 3D printing textbooks teach you that 0.2mm is the standard layer height. However, ABS benefits from a thicker first layer.
The ideal first layer height can vary from brand to brand, but it is generally between 0.24mm and 0.28mm. You should maintain this height for the first five layers at least, then switch to the standard height.
Top tip: To improve bed adhesion and prevent the separation of the first layers, you should also set a slower initial speed. An initial speed around 40mm/s is your best bet.
According to Creality, the best nozzle temperature for printing ABS filament on Ender 3 is 230°C. However, you might have to tweak this temp based on the filament brand.
Consider a range between 220°C and 240°C.
To find the sweet spot for your ABS filament, start from one end of the range and work your way up or down in 5°C increments. When the extrusion temperature is right, the material will flow smoothly without stringing or warping.
Something to keep in mind is that ABS is particularly fussy when it comes to cooling.
This filament type tends to warp when cooled down quickly, so it doesn’t require the fan on full blast. It doesn’t require the part cooling fan either.
The part cooling fan is located near the extruder. Its role is to cool down filament that is particularly fluid, such as PLA. When it comes to ABS, this initial cooling can bend the filament, so you must turn off this fan.
The hot end fan’s speed should also be reduced to around 50% or less, depending on the ABS quality and brand.
Like the nozzle temperature, the fan speed may require some trial and error to get it right.
Tip: When setting the cooling fan, also check the mainboard fan and make sure it works when the part cooling fan is disabled.
In some Ender 3 setups, the mainboard fan only works when the part cooling fan is enabled. When you disable it, the mainboard can overheat and negatively affect the quality of your print, even if your cooling fans’ settings are right.
In case the mainboard fan disables automatically when you disable the part cooling fan, you might have to rewire all fans.
If instead you don’t want to rewire the fans and plan to keep the part cooling fan on, you should invest in an enclosure.
Another important setting to consider is retraction.
Retraction optimizes the amount of filament a nozzle releases and the speed at which it recoils. There are two parameters to consider: retraction speed and range.
ABS materials require a retraction speed around 45mm/s and a retraction range of 5mm.
Generally, ABS brands recommend a bed temperature between 90°C and 100°C. That’s not the case on the Ender 3, though.
For some reason, ABS requires a slightly higher build plate temp on this printer. For most ABS types, 110°C is the sweet spot. Some filaments, however, only need around 105°C.
To find the perfect setting for you, set the bed temperature at 110°C. If you notice bending or any issues with adhesion, turn the heat down a notch to 105°C.
ABS is similar to PLA as far as the print speed is concerned, requiring an extrusion at about 60mm/second.
This number isn’t set in stone either, however. Some filaments like a slightly slower extrusion of about 50mm/second. Also remember that the first layers should be printed at a slower pace of only 40mm/second.
ABS is a malleable material with a higher chance of warping or elephant foot. It usually needs rafts or other types of supports for proper printing.
Rafts can also increase bed adhesion, eliminating the need for glue stick or other adhesion enhancers.
Top tip: If you don’t want to use rafts or other support types, you can increase bed adhesion by adjusting first layer speed and filament diameter in the settings. Opt for a very slow speed for the first layers (30 to 35mm/second) and decrease the filament diameter to 1.73mm (ABS filament is typically 1.75mm thick).
By decreasing the diameter, you let the printer over-extrude a bit. The extra filament increases adhesion and minimizes the risk of warping.
Common Issues With Your ABS Settings On Ender 3
As explained Ender 3 doesn’t always conform to general ABS setting recommendations. You can avoid some of the most common issues by following the tips below.
Reasons: Wrong Cooling Settings or Uneven Temperature Distribution
ABS is a particular type of filament that can shrink by almost 1.5% upon cooling. For this reason, it warps more than PLA, and if shrinkage happens too fast, the material will warp badly.
The most common causes of warping are too fast cooling or an uneven distribution of temperature (both during printing and while cooling).
Too fast cooling can be the result of a too high cooling fan speed. Not turning off the part cooling fan near the nozzle could also cause warping.
Uneven temperature distribution could be caused by the wrong location of the printer or an unevenly heated bed.
How To Fix
To prevent warping, you must investigate what causes it and fix that particular issue. Here’s how to do it:
- Check the cooling fan settings and speed. Select a speed of 50% or lower for the main cooling fan and disable the part cooling fan near the nozzle. If this disables the mainboard fan too, consider rewiring your Ender 3.
- Pay attention when selecting the printer location. Place the machine away from open doors and windows, as air currents can speed cooling and affect the quality of your ABS print. You should also regulate the room temperature with a space heater if necessary (keep the room on the warmer side).
- If you can’t ensure an even room temperature or your space is small and drafts of air might occur, invest in an Ender 3 enclosure (or print one yourself). Make sure the chamber remains sealed until printing is over and your part has cooled down.
- Heat the bed to at least 110°C and make sure that the surface is heated evenly. A dirty bed with filament residues left from previous projects may struggle to heat or distribute the temperature evenly. Thus, keeping the bed clean is paramount.
- Don’t hit the print button straight away after the bed has reached the desired temperature. Give it a few more minutes so that the temperature gets stable.
In addition to all the steps above, you should also adjust the slicer settings and reduce speed, at least for the first layers. Rafters or brims could provide further aid in preventing warping, and you should use glue or blue tape to improve bed adhesion.
Heat Bed Not Reaching Desired Temperature
Reasons: Dirty Build Surface, Faulty Wiring, Upside-down Build Plate
As explained, ABS requires a relatively high and absolutely even bed temperature. However, your Ender 3 may sometimes struggle to reach that temp.
The most common reason is dirt on the bed.
Filament residues left on the build plate can accumulate and act as a sort of insulator. They trap heat underneath. Besides, they can also prevent ABS from adhering properly because they coat the actual surface of the bed.
If you keep the build plate sparkling clean but it still struggles to reach the desired temperature, the most likely cause is a faulty wire. Either it is loose or improperly connected, you should check the circuit and fix any issues.
Insufficient power voltage could also cause heating troubles.
Before doing anything else, though, make sure the build plate has been set correctly, with the right side up.
How To Fix
Cleaning the build plate after each use is the main step to ensuring an even distribution of heat and proper heating of the bed.
To clean the bed, gently scrape off any residue left after printing, then wipe the entire surface with isopropyl alcohol and a soft cloth. Let the build plate soak in warm soapy water for a few hours if the residue is very stubborn.
When using stubborn filaments, such as PETG, consider coating the bed with hair spray or blue painter’s tape.
If the bed is clean but still struggling to heat:
- Make sure you’ve placed the build plate with the right side up after cleaning it. Ender 3 Pro and V2 printers come with a temperate glass bed that is coated with a carbon-silicone compound on one side. This is the up side of the plate, while the shiny glass side should be down. Using the uncoated side of the plate is recommended for some filaments, such as PETG, so double check if you’re not the only one to use the printer.
- Check the wires to the build plate and make sure they are all connected. Check how they are connected and rewire if necessary. For this step, you should have the Ender 3 manual nearby so that you can check the circuit.
- Check the voltage to the bed. If it is too low, the bed might not heat up regardless of how well it is wired or how clean you keep it. To increase the dissipated power, you should increase the circuit voltage to 16 to 20 volts. You can do so by turning the trimpot on the mainboard to the right. Use a multimeter to read the voltage output, as a too high value could damage the machine. If you accidentally went over 20 volts, turn the trimpot in the opposite direction (left) to lower it.
If you’ve done everything above and the bed still struggles to maintain or reach the temperature, consider adding a thin sheet of thermal insulation under the bed.
While this can increase heat retention and enhance temperature distribution, keep in mind that you’ll have to wait longer for the bed to heat up.
ABS is one of trickiest filaments to work with, despite its popularity. The considerations below can help you achieve success faster:
- ABS filament hates cooling, and using an enclosure is recommended even if you’re keeping the printer in a windowless room with no drafts of air.
- Be patient during the heating phase. Not only should you let the nozzle and bed reach and stabilize the temperature, but you should let everything warm up at least half an hour more than necessary. In this way, the enclosure can become nice and toasty for your ABS.
- Setting the cooling fan to 50% is only recommended if you’re in a hurry or for printing prototypes. Otherwise, you may find that turning off the fan can yield better results.
- While ABS can warp due to air currents, the enclosure and room still need ventilation. This material releases potentially toxic fumes and microplastics that you should not inhale.
- ABS can benefit from over-extrusion, but pay attention to cleaning the nozzle right after printing. Otherwise, the excess material could clog it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you change from PLA to ABS in Ender 3?
Switching from PLA to ABS on all Ender 3 printers requires you to go to Change Material in the printer’s menu and select the latter. You can also select ABS from the preheat menu after turning on the printer.
What materials can an Ender 3 print?
Ender 3 Pro and V2 printers are extremely versatile. They can print ABS, PLA, PETG, and TPU. You may also print other materials successfully on your Ender 3, including composite filaments.
Does ABS need a cooling fan?
ABS doesn’t need a cooling fan. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can turn on the hot end fan up to 50%. Just make sure that the part cooling fan is turned off.
ABS is a tricky but popular material, and one that you can print with your Ender 3. Turning off the part cooling fan and reducing the hot end fan speed can improve the results. Keep the build plate hot (around 110°C) and also heat the nozzle to 220 to 240°C.
We hope that these settings and the tips in this guide can help you print ABS successfully from square one.