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Not the End of the Story

Ender 3 Hot End: What to Consider & Which to Buy

Picture of Tobias Hullette
by Tobias Hullette
Jan 14, 2020
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If the relationship between you and your Ender 3's hot end is getting heated, consider replacing the stock model with one of several alternatives.

Ender 3 Hot End

The Heated Discussion

Simon Sörensen from RCLifeOn is an Ender 3 fan
Simon Sörensen from RCLifeOn is an Ender 3 fan (Source: RCLifeOn via Youtube)

Creality has been busy. In a relatively short amount of time, they’ve produced the best 3D printers under $200, $300, and $500. And if not for the Prusa i3 MK3S, they would also have the best 3D printer under $1,000. You probably know which printers we are talking about: the Ender 3, Ender 3 Pro, Ender 5, and Cr-10 series printers have taken the 3D printing community by storm by supplying it with cheap, reliable machines.

Part of the reason Creality are able to produce such adequate printers for such reasonable prices is that they tend to use simplistic designs across a range of printers that use some of the same components. The hot end assembly is one such component.

The standard Creality hot end is simple and, for most tasks, capable. However, especially when printing with specialty filaments that require more consistent or higher temperatures, this generic stock hot end can be a pain.

Let’s first take an in-depth look at the Ender 3 hot end and then consider three alternative hot ends that would make excellent upgrades.

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Ender 3 Hot End

Default Ender 3 Hot End

components of the hot end assembly
This diagram highlights the components of the hot end assembly (Source: Creality)

The default Ender 3 hot end is very simple. A Teflon (PTFE) tube meets a metal heatbreak in the center of a metal heat sink. This construction screws together with an aluminum heater block and brass (or alternative material of choice) nozzle. Let’s take a look at the specs of this hot end as well as some of its pros and cons.

Specs:

  • Max temperature: 260 °C
  • Filament size: 1.75 mm
  • Price: around $20

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Easy to replace and install
  • Teflon tube resists clogging

Cons:

  • Low maximum temperature
  • Non-metal components require more frequent maintenance
  • Loose connections between components can easily cause leakage and clogs

In order to find a true upgrade to this default hot end, you need to find one that solves the problems demonstrated by the above cons. Therefore, better hot ends will have higher maximum temperatures, require less maintenance, and be engineered so that loose connections are fewer.

That said, if you plan on printing with materials that require printing temperatures higher than 260 °C, you’ll need to edit the temperature restrictions in your printer’s firmware as well as upgrade the thermistor.

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Ender 3 Hot End

Micro Swiss All-Metal Hot End

This Micro Swiss Hot End is almost done with installation
This Micro Swiss Hot End is almost done with installation (Source: Brett via Let's Print 3D)

If you’re looking for a super easy hot end upgrade, the Micro Swiss All-Metal Hot End is just what you need. It’s compatible with any Ender 3 3D printer, and it requires no extra brackets.

Higher maximum temperature? Yes: As its name suggests, the Micro Swiss is, in fact, all-metal. This means that it’s capable of reaching much higher temperatures. Once again, in order to take advantage of these temperatures, you’ll need to adjust the restrictions in your printer’s firmware. This hot end is capable, but you’ll need to make sure the other components are, too.

Less maintenance? Yes: A titanium heatbreak distances the PTFE tube from the heater block. This eliminates PTFE degradation and the need to replace hot end components. This hot end also comes with a wear-resistant nozzle that can be used much longer than a normal brass nozzle. With it, you can also print abrasive materials, such as carbon fiber and metal-filled filaments.

Anti-leak and anti-clog? Yes: As mentioned above, this hot end has a titanium heatbreak. This stops heat from creeping beyond the heater block, so you don’t have to worry about the filament melting, cooling, and forming clogs in the cold zone.

Having met all our prerequisites, there’s little more to say: The Micro Swiss All-Metal Hot End is a solid choice for an Ender 3 upgrade. The installation process for this hot end is extremely straightforward, and Let’s Print 3D makes it even simpler with this tutorial.

Micro Swiss All-Metal Hot End
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Ender 3 Hot End

E3D v6 All-Metal Hot End

v6
The v6, in all its glory (Source: 3DJake)

E3D is one of the most popular 3D printing companies, and this is with good reason. This British company strives to create top-notch, super reliable 3D printing parts that have become the standard for 3D printer components.

But is the E3D v6 All-Metal Hot End a true upgrade to the default Ender 3 hot end? You bet it is.

Higher maximum temperature? Yes: The V6 can comfortably reach 285 °C with the provided thermistor. However, as the engineers at E3D explain, “by swapping a thermistor for a thermocouple (which may require additional electronics) or a PT100 temperature sensor, you can reach over 400 °C.”

This opens the door to a wider range of materials, including polycarbonate, nylon, and even PEEK. If you plan on printing materials at temperatures higher than 260 °C, prepare to edit your printer’s firmware to raise the max temp safety feature.

Less maintenance? Yes: This is an all-metal hot end, and the PTFE tube that leads the filament is distanced from the heater block by a stainless steel heatbreak. This eliminates PTFE degradation and the need to replace hot end components.

Anti-leak and anti-clog? Maybe: In the absence of a PTFE tube, the heatbreak conducts heat much faster, so the filament is subject to a significant difference in temperature. In the scenario that heat creeps from the heatbreak to the heat sink (which is actively cooled with a fan), the filament can melt and then solidify on the walls of the heatbreak. This will indubitably result in a clog. However, by making sure that the heat sink is sufficiently cooled, you can combat and avoid hot end clogging.

Overall, the E3D V6 All-Metal Hot End is a fantastic choice for an Ender 3 hot end replacement. It’s durable, reliable, and a joy to use. Tutorials and 3D printable mount files for installing the E3D V6 are readily available to help you out.

E3D V6
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Ender 3 Hot End

E3D Hemera (Direct Drive Kit)

The Hemera looks and works like a beast
The Hemera looks and works like a beast (Source: Joe Casha via MyMiniFactory)

This next upgrade option is a kind of two-in-one, being both a hot end and an extruder. If you were already thinking about making your Ender 3 printer direct drive, the E3D Hemera would be an excellent choice.

Higher maximum temperature? Yes: Equipped with its thermistor, this all-metal hot end can reach 285 °C. Once again, if you want to reach this temperature, you will need to upgrade the thermistor as well as the brass nozzle.

Less maintenance? Yes: This hot end and extruder assembly constrains filament so that extrusion is consistent and the need to disassemble the hot end to remove a clog or bits of filament is much less likely. Also, forget about replacing your PTFE tube. This all-metal hot end will protect the tube from degradation.

Anti-leak and anti-clog? Yes: The extruder that’s attached to the hot end we’re discussing is a dual drive, meaning that it can push a 10-kg spool of filament! E3D has also created a unique heat sink that will prevent issues that result from heat creep, where irregular heat can move through the hot end.

With this hot end, you’ll definitely upgrade your Ender 3 and end up with an excellent hot end paired with an excellent extruder, a double whammy! If you need a step-by-step guide to install this hot end and extruder, check out this tutorial by Dan Rock.

E3D Hemera Dual Drive Extruder and Hot End
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(Lead image source: Brett via Let’s Print 3D)

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License: The text of "Ender 3 Hot End: What to Consider & Which to Buy" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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