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For the Ender Enthusiasts

Ender 3 & ABS: Tips & Tricks to Get Great ABS Prints

Picture of Pranav Gharge
by Pranav Gharge
Jul 20, 2019
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Printing with ABS on an Ender 3 can be quite challenging, but rewarding if done right. Follow these tips to and let that ABS shine on your Ender!

Ender 3 & ABS Why 3D Print with ABS?

A print-in-place chain by ferjerez on Thingiverse, printed with ABS.
A print-in-place chain by ferjerez on Thingiverse, printed with ABS. Source: Pranav Gharge

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is an industrial thermoplastic with applications in a wide variety of fields. If you know LEGO bricks, you know ABS. Particularly famous for its great impact resistance and toughness properties, it stands out among all of the 3D printing materials.

ABS is still the second most common 3D printing material. Although it is known for being notoriously difficult to print, once perfected, it is sure to give you some excellent results. ABS prints, when post-processed with acetone, have a smooth and glossy surface finish, making them aesthetically similar to injection molded parts.

In this article, we’ll look into tips that’ll help you get those great ABS print with your Ender 3.

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Ender 3 & ABS Tip #1: Fix That Fan

Ender 3 motherboard fan fix.
Ender 3 motherboard fan fix. Source: K44R31 / reddit

Check if the electronics case fan is ON by default. If not, just read this section.

This might not seem directly related to getting great ABS 3D prints, but when it comes down to ABS with Ender 3, this is one of the very first things that you should be doing.

The stock setup for some reasons turns on the cooling fan in the electronics case, only when the part cooling fan near the hotend is ON. The thing is when printing with ABS, the part cooling fan is to be kept OFF. We’ll discuss further why that is so. So, this means that the board fan will be OFF too. This causes the internal electronics to heat up, affecting the printer’s performance.

The fix is very simple, you just need to rewire the part cooling fan wires with the hotend wires as shown in the figure.

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Ender 3 & ABS Tip #2: Get That Bed Right

Ender 3 stock build surface.
Ender 3 stock build surface. Source: All3DP

The Ender 3, by default, comes with a heated bed. This is essential for 3D printing with ABS. A heated bed helps with good first layer adhesion and keeps the ambient temperature toasty. This reduces the chances of warping when printing ABS parts.

The stock Ender 3 comes with a Buildtak-like surface. This gets those first layers of ABS down very smoothly and firmly. There is no need for any adhesives to be used with this. You can also use PEI-coated sheets, which are also well known for good surface adhesion.

In case you’re using Creality Glass or any other glass surface, Aquanet hairspray helps with good bed adhesion. Likewise, you can use ABS Glue to get that first layer glued down properly.

As with the Ender 3 Pro, a flexible magnetic build surface is provided as the default bed. This is great for PLA, but it might lose its magnetism once the bed temperature exceeds 80⁰ C. To be on the safer side, it is recommended to go with glass.

If you’ve tried everything and are still not getting those prints to stick to the bed, it is quite possible that you’ve got a warped bed. It’s not something to worry about, though. You can always just switch to Creality Glass or any other glass surface. Also, if you’re having to level your bed for every other print, you can consider upgrading the stock springs. Optionally, you can also use an auto-leveling sensor.

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Ender 3 & ABS Tip #3: Material-Specific Slicer Settings

ABS settings in Cura.
ABS settings in Cura. Source: Ultimaker Cura

If you’re already printing with PLA, you’re already halfway there. ABS prints very similar to PLA and hence only some of the settings need to be changed.

  • Nozzle temperature: ABS material flows smoothly between 220⁰ and 240⁰C . Get your perfect temperature by printing some temperature towers.
  • Bed temperature: Bed temperature plays an important role in getting perfect ABS prints. A higher bed temperature allows the part to cool down gradually, reducing the chances of any defects. As a general rule of thumb, set your bed temperature at 100⁰C to 110⁰C.
  • Part cooling Fan: ABS tends to warp if cooled down quickly. For this reason, the part cooling fan near the hotend needs to be turned off. This allows the ABS to cool down gradually, reducing chances of warping.
  • Brim or raft: Using a brim or raft helps to mitigate the effects caused by thermal contraction. These additions will also ensure that your first layer sticks well to the surface.
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Ender 3 & ABS Tip #4: Get an Enclosure

An Ikea-hacked enclosure for the Ender 3.
An Ikea-hacked enclosure for the Ender 3. Source: Pro_maker / Thingiverse

Lastly, you should have an enclosure, or at least an isolated corner that will not encounter a breeze, to print ABS reliably.

The Ender 3 is an open frame machine. This isn’t ideal for printing ABS, as the model is exposed to all kinds of external forces, such as wind and overly curious house pets, while printing is taking place.

But most importantly, an enclosure helps in keeping the ambient temperatures warm enough to prevent warping and layer splitting by reducing the effects of thermal contraction. It traps the heat from the bed and also prevents exposure to any external factors.

It can be as simple as a cardboard box, photo tent (not recommended, but will get the work done), or even a DIY fully-framed enclosure. The point is to maintain a warm ambient temperature to let ABS cool down naturally.

Note: Enclosing your printer, especially with a DIY solution, might introduce a fire hazard to your setup. To be on the safe side, you should remove your power unit so that it lies outside the enclosure.

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Ender 3 & ABS You're All Set!

Motor mounts after vapor smoothing.
Motor mounts after vapor smoothing. Source: rigid.ink

The above tricks should be enough to get you well set for some great prints with ABS on your Ender 3. Still, if you’re thirsty for some more ABS knowledge, take a look at some of these articles:

Feature image source: Teaching Tech / YouTube

License: The text of "Ender 3 & ABS: Tips & Tricks to Get Great ABS Prints" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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