I decided to modify the Ender 3 to see how well I could get it to print, starting with software.

I started with the software first, because I wanted time to learn the software while I decided what
new hardware updates I will need to make to make my new parts.

The great thing about the Ender 3 is that it's totally open source - a new concept that means
that Creality (the manufacturer) deciced to totally open all of its intellectual property about this
printer to the world. This means that there is a large and growing 'hive mind' (web based community)
 that supports this printer with not only software but also actual hardware too!

The first thing I changed was the printer's firmware, or the basic program the printer uses to 'do its thing'.
The Ender's original factory firmware was Creality 1.1.3, which is fairly old by today's standards.
I updated the firmware using TH3D thirdparty programming for the original printer's computer, and
saw an immediate improvement. You can see it in this first photo.

These are examples of parts I made before and after I started to upgrade my software.

The part on the left was printed with the original software my Ender 3 came with from
the factory. I'm not quite sure what caused the random indented groove lines in the part, as I had
no issues with the plastic not sticking properly to the bed. You can also see rough grainy areas
on the extreme side edges of the part that should be smooth, though.

The part on the right was printed using the new TH3D computer firmware and Prusa Slicer
2.0 software.This is a nice example of a 'utility grade' print. Tthe only issues I can see are the
scratch cutting perpendicularly across the print lines (caused by the scratch in my bed glass you
can see in the third photo) and a couple of slight plastic issues at either side of the large round hole
caused by power issues I had while printing it. I guess that'll teach me to 3D print something during
a thunderstorm... or maybe I need to dig out my Furman.

Everything else was the same... same plastic, same heater and bed temperatures, and even
the same speed the plastic deposits onto the bed of the printer.

The second thing I changed was the slicer software - the software that takes the drawing you make
of the object you want and generates the G code instructions the printer actually uses to make your
object. I switched from Cura 4.1 to Prusa Slicer 2.0, and was amazed... the prints I made were not only
more accurate than before but they were also finished much faster than before too. The second photo
is of a part I made using the Prusa software, and it's actually a very nice 'utility grade' part.

This is the 'inside' of the part I printed after upgrading my Ender's firmware and slicer software.

What is it?

One of the Ender 3's design issues is that it uses a microSD card as a hard drive for its files,
and the card slot was put in a really inconvenient place. This part and a microSD to SD card adapter
fixes the issue. I apologize for the camera flare - I had issues with the plastic adhering to the bed from
time to time, and I was told to remove the black 'Ender' plastic bed sticker you saw in the very first photos.
It seems that if I use both a glass plate and the bed sticker, the plastic sticker may act as a heat insulator
and keep the glass from heating up correctly.

They were right, as the bed heats up much faster than before and more evenly too. The downside of this
was I can't take photos of things on the bed anymore.

BTW... both of the parts in the first photo were printed using this new bed modification.

The third photo shows the first layer of the print in the second photo.

The first layer of a new print is probably the most important one of all, because if the molten plastic
doesn't stick well to the base or doesn't stick well to the other layers your print will be ruined. The plastic
not only has to stick so the part doesn't move on the bed relative to the computer's programming, it also
has to stay at least warm so the newly placed plastic layers can stick to each other to make a solid part.

I also switched my CAD drawing software to Autodesk Fusion 360, written by the same people who wrote
the Autocad program I learned in school. I'm hoping that since the two programs were written by the same
company, it shouldn't be too hard to learn the new software. I'm working on this now...

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