We have owned the Ender 5 for awhile now, and you know we have been trying all types of upgrades! Currently our printer is at a state which is quite “finished” and can generate great parts in no time at all, with as good accuracy as you can ask from thermoplastics. The journey of trying multiple modifications on a 3D printer is never without hassle, and some items actually even redeemed themselves! We do all of this on a shoestring budget as nobody offers to give us free parts, and we cannot afford to spend the cost of the printer in modifications.
Nonetheless we feel that the Ender 5 is THE place to start in 3D Printing. Even someone with experience in the 3D printing industry should consider this machine; for it’s rigid frame and excellent out of the box performance. With just a few simple upgrades for someone with moderate technical ability, you have a printer that rivals one that cost twice and even three times as much!
#1 BigTreeTech SKR Mini E3 Mainboard
The BTT SKR Mini E3 mainboard is the very first upgrade that we performed to our Ender 5. It actually arrived the very next day that we received the printer, and we only spent a little over 24 hours on the stock board. There are many reasons behind this upgrade, and the biggest is the silent stepper drivers which also perform better in every other aspect. Not only this but it brings extra functionality such as NeoPixels, extra Z motor driver and pins (2.0), 32 bit processor, and integrated BL touch pins. YouTube Teaching Tech has called it the best value upgrade for the Ender 3, and we feel like that applies to the Ender 5 as well. The installation process is basically a direct drop-in for the Ender 5 and instructions are nearly identical. Check out his video over on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtCz_-2zvZo
#2 Hero Me Gen 5 Base and Part Cooling Upgrade for Ender 5
This upgrade is one that I generally do on any printer I purchase that is using those measly little 4015 24v Fans that don’t barely blow any air. I always opt to upgrade to at least a single 5015 24v fan. I also use the HeroMe to use aftermarket hot-ends, my auto bed leveling sensor mount is based off of it also. This upgrade is a must-have, although there are other options out there as well for the part cooling fan and mounts; this one is a direct fit for my next mod in the list.
#3 PrinterMods.com Direct Drive Plate Conversion for Ender 5
I opted for the PrinterMods.com kit when looking around for Direct Drive conversion options. There are quite a few options out there, including chinese knock-offs and even some other US based companies selling them directly. This kit just seemed more “modular” to me, and they were also offering some linear rail kits which I planned to use in the future. Not only did everything seem modular and cross-compatible but my part cooling system was also a direct fit and had parts designed just for it! The kit overall was great, had good detailed instructions included with the package and every piece of hardware is included. It took literally all of 10 minutes to install this with the stock hot-end, and about the same with my modded gantry adapter for the HeroMe. It’s a must-have option for someone serious about 3D printing TPU or PETG without having issue with retraction on the Ender 5.
#4 PrinterMods.com Linear Rails Kits for the Ender 5 X & Y axis
That’s right, not only did we go with the PrinterMods MDD kit we also opted to use their Linear Rail adapters! We had used the printed linear rail adapters in the past, and something about anodized aluminum just appealed to me. The made in USA, great pricing and fast shipping was also something that was quite awesome; oh and their support is top notch! You must follow their instructions for how to install these rails, and use the linked videos on how to prepare them the right way. I tested the rails before and after prepping them, and you can tell a difference in how smooth they move. I am so glad to be rid of those stupid Creality rubber wheels and the eccentric nuts, these linear rails make this machine all the more rigid and sturdy.
The last part to our Top 5 is going to be something that we just suggest in general, which is an All Metal Hot-End upgrade. We chose TH3D because of the support that was thought to be included with their products, but I should have read through the fine print. This item is a “community support” based item, which means the support comes from the community on Discord or the forums not directly from TH3D. Initially I had some serious issues with this hot-end, even after tearing it down and rebuilding it to the E3D assembly instructions TWICE. I spent almost an entire day on this hot-end not wanting to give up on it being a part of this review, ultimately I decided to tear it apart and put the stock hot-end back on. While the hot-end was off the printer I decided to investigate why the hot-end had such bad stringing and why the amount of plastic coming from the nozzle seemed to be so much larger than my stock one. When pushing filament by hand at a normal PLA temperature, the strands of filament coming out of the nozzle were almost 1mm thick! It was way more than I had ever seen a “0.4mm” nozzle push out, even when forcing it by hand.
Later I decided to order some E3D genuine nozzles, and when it arrived I used strands of wire to test the nozzles. The nozzle I had installed from the TH3D kit was closer to a 0.55mm strand of wire, versus the E3D genuine was more like a 0.39mm. I was using different strands of wire and a digital caliper to perform these tests, and you could tell an obvious difference in the hole in the nozzles even though the TH3D was labeled as 0.4mm.
Once re-installing the TH3D tough hot-end and using the E3D genuine nozzle, the thing printed like a champ! I was glad to finally be able to use this hot-end without all the crazy stringing and extrusion problems. It has now found it’s home on our Ender 5 and we will continue to use the genuine nozzles. This upgrade is one that is not neccesary unless you plan to print more abrasive filaments, or run filaments such as ABS and PETG in large quantities. The stock hot-end has a PTFE lined heat break which will degrade over time and let off toxic fumes around your family and pets which can harm them, so don’t take it over 240* without installing an all metal hot-end. Overall I would say that I do recommend the TH3D tough hot-end for it’s super fast shipping, and great price compared to the original E3D; but make sure you buy some spare genuine nozzles and avoid the headaches I did! It may be fine, or you may end up with a problem!
We have shared our top 5 favorite mods for the Ender 5 with you; and we hope you will consider our suggestions when upgrading your own machine. These 5 upgrades are ones that will require a little bit of technical know-how and experience with wiring and installing mechanical parts. One good thing is that all of these kits and parts were installed without tools outside of the Ender 5’s own toolkit. We feel like the Mainboard, Linear Rails and Direct Drive upgrades are the most important and the ones that make the biggest impact on print quality and the sustainability of the printer. Our auto bed leveling ugprade isn’t included in this Top 5 because it’s not even considered a modification anymore to us, it’s a necessity! (Come on it’s 2020, we don’t have to eyeball an object to level it when you can buy 8$ Capacitive Proximity Sensors!!)
Have any questions or concerns on these upgrades? Sign up on our new forums and leave a post, we are always glad to help people with their 3D printers!