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Deeper Down the 3D Printing Rabbit Hole

On September 22, 2023, the experiences with resin and FDM 3D printing were discussed. Quite a bit has happened since then and I’d like to take a few minutes to share some additional information which may be helpful. The lifecycle of the Creality Ender 3 V3 SE took multiple turns for the worse since the initial prints and perceptions of the experience. After cranking out about a half dozen skull bowls to prepare for Halloween, gears shifted toward printing other models from a number of popular aggregation sites. Filament changes between black and white were smooth. Eventually, a request was received to print a Steering Wheel Rotary Knob using the models on Thingiverse. The damper was recommended to be printed with TPU. A quick trip to Amazon resulted in the purchase of a small reel of GizmoDorks Flexible Filament to create the damper.

The print completed with very minor stringing, which was better than expected based on cursory searches for caveats. As there was still plenty left over, searches for other projects yielded models for cable management ties and clips. Continued printing resulted in twenty-four usable ties. The output quality started going downhill with the clips, as there was egregious stringing between the ends and along the perimeter. While the bulk of these anomalies could be cut to not waste the output, cleaning out the nozzle and reverting to PLA filament using appropriate material temps in the slicer did nothing to correct the issue. Stringing remained prevalent with all new prints. At this point, a nozzle change was looking like a reality. This is where things fell apart – figuratively and literally.

The nozzle was heated in preparation of the swap. During the nozzle change, the head snapped off before threading was completed. No gorilla-force torque was applied in this effort. With a partial nozzle shaft stuck in the hot end, the lowest effort and least amount of risk would involve procuring a new hot end. Based on feedback through various social media channels, the Creality Ender 3 v3 SE is new enough that replacement hot ends aren’t available for purchase. An e-mail was sent to Creality asking how one would obtain a replacement hot end. As the wait began, heading down the rabbit hole of their service tutorial ended up being the death knell for this printer.

Creality Ender 3 v3 SE Extruder Disassembly Video

At 0:24 into the video above, you’ll note the two wired connections with the plastic clips that are interfacing with the board. Pay close attention to the lack of hot glue on the clips because you’ll find said connectors are hot glued on retail models. This adhesion tactic is common and provides an additional layer of protection against such connections being jostled out of the socket during transit from a factory to the customer. Similar gobs can be found on the CR-Touch sensor below those connections on the bottom left-hand side. What the video WON’T demonstrate is that the hot glue blobs are structurally significant for the wires and pins within the harness. Peeling or prying these back to continue with the process to get to the hot end may result in the pins becoming detached entirely. Furthermore, the lower connector was incredibly fragile; crumbling when attempting to reinsert it into the socket.

Having worked on hundreds of laptops with smaller-yet-sturdier connections, it appears that too many pennies were pinched within the development of this specific model. Engagement with support took four days for a response and began with the standard boilerplate e-mail template. Ultimately, the option to return the faulty product for refund was selected in lieu of heading down a path which may have involved ownership of a paperweight for an unknown period of time. While the speeds on the Ender v3 SE were impressive considering it’s not a CoreXY printer or a printer utilizing Klipper firmware by default, these issues were exacerbated by random events where it either simply refused to print without a power cycle or the one and only time that it extruded a blob of filament that was hot enough to damage the flex plate.

The outcome of a smoother overall experience using FDM printers for 3D printing led to the acquisition of two different models to replace the failed Ender 3 v3 SE. The first replacement, which has been set up and is cranking out quality yet slow prints, is the Sovol SV01 Pro. The SV01 Pro’s “auto leveling” feature differs considerably from the Ender v3 SE. With the Ender v3 SE, you run an auto-level from the screen and wait for that to complete. Once that’s done, printing can commence. In comparison, the SV01 Pro requires an initial leveling process using an A4 sheet of paper. This isn’t much different than leveling the plate on the Saturn 2. However, once the center is leveled, there are four other points on the bed which have to be adjusted manually using the wheels underneath the bed. Dialing these settings in takes some time and, at least with the unit that is in operation, benefitted from repeating the cycle between the five points twice. With everything tuned accordingly, the infamous Skull Bowl model was loaded onto the Micro SD card and the product which finished in twice the amount of time of the Ender 3 v3 SE turned out exceptionally well. Additional details in the teeth that were not present in the Ender v3 SE’s output were clearly visible. For a sub-$200 USD printer (after coupon), the Sovol SV01 Pro is a fair option which will require a bit more patience to set up. Although the touch screen interface can be slow when committing new values during the setup process, the build quality and parts availability instill confidence that one won’t end up in a dead paperweight scenario.

The second printer procured is at least a half-tier above the Ender v3 SE from a setup, operation, and performance perspective. The newly reduced price of $600 USD may be a tough pill to swallow when it comes to the Ankermake M5, but the experience of making it operational hews closer to the Ender v3 SE from an “assemble, plug, and play” perspective. With print speeds of up to 500mm/s, a robust touchscreen interface, integration with the Ankermake smart app, one of the least frustrating assembly processes, and many appreciable design considerations, it’s a product which will receive a formal review. While there’s pros and cons to the speed it offers and the methods utilized to get a model to the printer, more time will need to be spent to run through the various benchmark models to determine what impact subsequent firmware updates may have contributed to its capabilities.

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