Creality’s Ender 3 series is one of the most popular budget 3D printer lines on the market today, and if you own one then you likely already know why. Beyond the unbeatable price, they’re easy to use, reliable, and quite powerful for their range.
Moreover, their open-source nature makes them highly modifiable, an ideal trait for today’s tinkerer. One of the most popular modifications for the Ender 3 is the upgrade to a dual extruder, as the line only comes with single extruders as standard.
It’s easy to see why Ender 3 dual extruder modifications are popular. The ability to print using more than one filament type or color at once makes for some excellent and unique-looking prints. Not to mention the use of a stronger filament alongside the main one creates more reliable projects with the lessened need for post-processing.
There’s also the cost difference to take into account. Adding a dual extruder to your Ender 3 is significantly cheaper than simply buying a similar printer with a dual extruder already installed.
3D printers with dual extruders as standard are normally around $600, over three times the price of a standard Ender 3.
So, how do you go about fitting your Ender 3 dual extruder? What should you take into account before getting started? And what options for dual extruders are out there for which Ender 3 models?
We’re going to answer all of these questions here.
Ender 3 Dual Extruder Options
The open-source community for the Ender 3 is huge, and there’s no shortage of people out there with cool ideas on how to modify and upgrade Ender 3 printers with laser engravers, improved frame guards, and even advanced touchscreens.
Because of this, it’s understandable to not know off the bat exactly which one is right for you. So here we’re going to look at some of the best and most reliable Ender 3 dual extruder upgrades you can check out today.
Mosaic Palette 3 / Pro
- Price: $599-$799 — Available at Matterhackers here
While technically more of an honorable mention than an actual Ender 3 dual extruder, the Mosaic Palette 3 and Palette 3 Pro are by far the simplest option to use your Ender 3 to make multicolored prints without needing to actively modify your printer.
This is great news if you’re unconfident or otherwise unwilling when it comes to taking tools to your Ender 3, but still want to make prints using different colors and filaments.
The Mosaic Palette models act as automatic switchers, like changing the orientation of a railway line to divert specific trains or uncoupled carriages in different directions. The Mosaic Palettes act as changers that swap between up to eight different filaments per print and automatically manage each one.
The downside is the cost. At around $700, they are not cheap machines. But if you’re not very handy and have the money to spend, this is the most streamlined way to attach what could be described as a ‘multi extruder’ to your Ender 3.
The Chimera Project, named after the Greek concept of an animal amalgamation rather than an ideological improbability, is the first great example of a DIY dual extruder that was designed for the Ender 4 but is still compatible with all Ender 3 models.
A standard dual extruder that’s quite cheap to produce, the Chimera Project sits on a mount that you will need to print out yourself. While that sounds like extra steps, don’t discount how cool it is to use your 3D printer to make its own modification parts.
The instructions and necessary parts are all included and linked to in very clear detail on the project’s Thingiverse page here.
Safety precautions and recommended hardware are all laid out so even the most humble of beginners will have an easy enough time getting to grips with how it all works.
Regardless of your experience with DIY, all you’ll need to get this Ender 3 and 4 dual extruder up and running so long as you maintain caution and follow the instructions.
Cyclops Hot End
The Cyclops Hot End is a spiritual sibling to the Chimera. The two are usable with the same printed mount, and both can alternate between different filament colors and types mid-print. The Cyclops gets its name by the fact that it looks like a single extruder but has all the capabilities of a dual extruder.
As well as standard multi-filament printing, it can also mix filaments together. While it does act like more of a ‘filament management system’ than a standard dual extruder, it still performs all the functions you’d expect.
The instructions and files, along with some hints for building and use, are all found for free here. This Cyclops seems to be a reliable and very simple way to convert your Ender 3 to have a dual extruder, unlike actual cyclopes, whose implied lack of depth perception would likely render them far less menacing than their mythology would have us believe.
Proper Printing’s Dual Extruder Ender 3 Mod
Proper Printing has developed a unique kind of dual extruder that doesn’t require a second servo. Instead, this very interesting and surprisingly clever design relies on a spring mechanism that allows the two extruders to switch use seamlessly by operating like a teeter-totter.
The extruders move in a sort of slanted V shape, with only the active extruder being parallel to the build while the other is slanted to the side while not in use. This allows extruders to be used with the same servo instead of either one spending any time-wasting space by simply waiting their turn.
This minimizes the amount of build volume lost by conserving space as well as parts in its design.
Known internally as ‘The Rocker’ and available as printable files for only $3 on their website here, it’s an absolute steal for something no Ender user should go without.
While it is said to work on any standard Ender 3 model (that is, out of the box and since unmodified) it’s unclear as to whether it will function well with other 3D printers or more modern Creality Ender models.
Though since the $3 is for the files and instructions, you’re free to experiment and tweak to see if The Rocker does work with other 3D printers provided you’re confident and techy enough to do so.
You can even modify the design yourself if it doesn’t work right away with the model you have in mind, such is the beauty of mods!
Upgrading Your Ender 3 To a Dual Extruder: Pros and Cons
Upgrading your Ender 3 with a dual extruder may seem like a no-brainer. One is more than two, and therefore better. But, like most things relating to 3D printers, it’s not quite as simple as it appears.
Dual extruders come with a host of benefits, but that’s not to say there aren’t drawbacks. While not a one-way modification (meaning you can go back to a single extruder if you want), installing an Ender 3 dual extruder only to then realize it wasn’t worth the hassle will be a waste of time, money, and effort on your part.
Equipping your Ender 3 with a dual extruder comes with some negative effects that, depending on your desired uses, may not be worth the effort after all. So be sure to keep these points in mind before deciding whether or not to break out your toolbox.
- Print with more than one filament/filament type at once.
- Multicolored prints are far easier and take less time because you won’t need to constantly switch your filaments mid-print.
- You can reinforce your prints with dissolvable filaments like HIPS and PVA for better surface finishes.
- Upgrading/modifying single extruder printers is often cheaper than buying dual extruder printers.
- Dual extruders are unwieldy and difficult for beginners to handle and manage.
- Unnecessary if you’re happy enough printing in one color.
- Far more maintenance, care, and cleaning are required to keep a dual extruder clean and functioning properly.
- Lower build area volume due to the larger extruder requiring more space.
Essentially, a dual extruder requires a lot more work and maintenance to use reliably than a single extruder. If you’ve got your sights on fortified and/or multicolored prints, then upgrading your Ender 3 with a dual extruder is a fantastic idea.
On the other hand, if you’re happy with monochrome prints or are otherwise not confident you could handle the upkeep, it might be best to stay with a single extruder.
However, if you’re willing to put in the work and are still convinced you want a dual extruder on your Ender 3 despite these cons, then we’re here to help you move forward.
Before Installing a Dual Extruder on Your Ender 3
Ender 3 models are equipped with single extruders by default. However, as we’ve seen with your options for adding laser engravers, they are highly modifiable machines. This means that, with enough know-how and effort, you can upgrade your Ender 3 with a dual extruder.
Be Safe and Sure!
There is no official dual extruder extension for the Ender 3, so you’ll need to get your DIY cap on. Just remember that you’ll be dealing with mechanical parts that are designed to get extremely hot, so make sure everything is switched off and unplugged before you begin.
In addition, remember that you’re working with moving mechanical parts, and will be manipulating them in ways for which they weren’t designed, like adding an extender cable to a standard outlet. So take the greatest of care to protect yourself and your machine while you work. Always double-check your equipment and instructions before beginning so you can move forward as confidently and safely as possible.
Modifiable as the Ender 3 is, be sure you take great care in upgrading yours. Removing and replacing parts must be done with care to ensure each piece functions correctly. An improperly installed extruder will back up or fail mid-print, which increases the risk of blockages, failures, and even fires.
Be Ready to Roll Up Your Sleeves
Any third-party modification to a device will require effort and know-how beyond what you’ll find instructions for in the box. User-guided, well-explained modifications will be much more reliable than selecting any old mod at random, but all will require at least some work on your end.
These upgrades are more often than not far more complicated than buying a new part and screwing it in, so be sure to read instructions carefully and carry out tests before you really put your new mod to use. Attention to detail and cautious handiwork are musts before you’re ready to plug in and get printing.
The main difficulty in installing your own dual extruder on an Ender 3 or any 3D printer is the requirement of an extra servo. While this isn’t the case for all dual extruders (we’ll get to that later) it is certainly the case for most, and the correct installation of said servo is very important and quite finicky.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Ender 3 laser engravers
- The best dual extruder 3D printers
- The best Ender 3 upgrades
- Ender 3 vs Ender 3 V2 vs Ender 3 Pro vs Ender 3 Max: Compared
- Ender 3 vs Ender 5
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