Everything You Need to Know About Linear Rails and the Ender 3 (V2/Pro)

Everything You Need to Know About Linear Rails and the Ender 3 (V2/Pro)

The Creality Ender 3 has been a popular model of 3D printer among amateur printers and enthusiasts alike. With open-source code and compatible parts, this printer series is extremely versatile and provides unlimited customization options to users. The popularity of the original Ender 3 was so great that Creality released two additional models — the Ender 3 Pro and V2 — so fans could get more out of their printing experience. Hobbyists can easily print bigger prints or upgrade the parts for smoother operation with an endless array of add-ons available online. 

For movement on the three axes of motion, all Ender 3 models combine aluminium V-slot extrusions with roller-bearing brackets (X, Y, and Z). This combination is great for smooth and reliable performance. But, Roller bearings can loosen over time and build up dirt and grime which can affect their performance. Thankfully, there is an easy solution to these problems. 

Everything You Need to Know About Linear Rails

Linear rails can be a great addition to the Ender 3, Pro and V2. Before installing the linear rails, it is important to understand how they work and what the upgrades are. This article outlines the basics of linear rails and provides an in-depth look at what is needed for installation. It also covers some steps you need to take to ensure a successful upgrade.

Linear Rails

Linear rails are a reliable and efficient upgrade from roller bearings for many engineering applications. Instead of relying on only one or two large roller bearings, this alternative motion system is characterized by a stiff metal base and an attached carriage with numerous small roller balls. As the carriage moves along the linear rail, the tiny rollers provide significantly less friction than their larger counterparts, allowing for smoother movement with higher accuracy.

Upgrading to linear rails can be an excellent choice for those seeking improved print quality. Linear rails allow for smoother movement of the printer head along its axis, resulting in laser precision and fewer imperfections when printing. Additionally, with linear rails on the Z-axis, one can eliminate banding and other undesired visual effects often seen in prints. Moreover, using linear rails can also reduce backlashes and rings during printing, creating a smoother finished product.

Even though linear rails have a lot of benefits, they can cost a lot, usually, Basic models cost between $15 and $30 each, while higher quality versions can go up towards $90 apiece. This is why it’s important to handle linear rails with care and make sure that the carriage is always securely fastened onto the rail.  

The Enhancement

The Ender 3s is an impressive FDM printer, capable of achieving amazing 3D-printing results. It’s important to recognize that–like most FDM printers–the Ender 3s has three axes enabling motion. An understanding of the physical locations for each of these axes – X-, Y-, and Z- –  will inspire trust in its functionality among its users.

  • X-axis:  Responsible for printhead left-right movement (when viewing the printer from the front)
  • Y-axis:  Parallel to print bed motion (or its direction of motion)
  • Z-axis:  parallel to the printer’s height and the Z-axis lead screw

It’s best practice to use linear rails on each of the printer’s three axes – X, Y and Z – though often people will choose to use them on either one or two axes, usually the ones that need the most movement.

Most linear rails can be easily attached to most 3D printers with a few screws. The Ender 3 is a great example of a 3D printer that uses linear rails. The holes in the linear rails allow you to attach them by the V-slot extrusions that the Ender 3s have. This makes it easy to add carriages and adapters to your Ender 3.

While most people opt for metal linear rails, there are some who prefer to make their own out of 3D-printed materials. The advantage of 3D printing these parts is that you can customize the design, choose from a variety of colours and materials, and not be limited by the standard sizes available for metal rails. 

Now it’s time to get your materials together.

The Required Materials

Let’s go over everything you’ll need for the upgrade first before we get started with the actual installation. We strongly advise making use of a linear rail upgrade kit designed specifically for your model of the Ender 3, as doing so will ensure that all components are compatible with one another. In the following, we have outlined the basic criteria for this upgrade:

The process is fairly easy and straightforward, but it’s a good idea to find a tutorial that suits your needs before beginning. Fortunately, there are tons of excellent video tutorials from some of the top names in 3D printing such as Teaching Tech, BV3D: Bryan Vines, and 3Drcnc that go over the entire installation process step-by-step. 

We can finally get started!

The Installation Process

  1. While installing linear rails, remove the axis carriage or printhead from the axis of motion.
  2. Remove any lead screws or belts from the chosen axis.
  3. Put T-nuts to the linear rail’s mounting holes while the linear rail and carriage are still attached.
  4. Slide the linear rail onto the desired axis of the aluminium extrusion.
  5. To firmly mount the linear rail to the extrusion, tighten the screws after making sure it is absolutely straight and aligned.
  6. Connect the adapter attachment plate to the Z-axis carriage, print bed, or hot end of the Ender 3 and the linear rail carriage.
    • The Ender 3 V2 should have a different hot end adapter mount than the original Ender 3 and the Ender 3 Pro because its hot end shroud is different.
    • Since the print bed on the Ender 3 Pro is made from a 4040 extrusion rather than a 4020 extrusion, a separate print bed adapter mount will be required.
  7. Put the printhead or axis carriage on the linear rail carriage’s mounting plate.
  8. Put the lead screws and belts back on.
  9. Move any endstops the right distance off to account for any differences in size.

Congratulations on successfully installing linear rails! Now that the task is complete, it’s time to make sure your printer is performing at its best. 

Recalibrating your Ender 3 after the installation will help give you a benchmark for future prints and achieve consistent results. Releveling your bed may result in more accurate first layers, enabling better adhesion and overall improved print quality.

Bheema Shankar
Author | Website

I am Bheema Shankar. I have worked on SLS, CJP, DLP, SLA and FDM technologies at Think3D. Currently working as Process and application engineer at VEER-O-METALS PRIVATE LIMITED. I am always fascinated by the process of creating things layer by layer. This fascination led me to pursue a career in 3D printing technology. I am passionate about how 3D works and enjoy exploring new ways to improve the 3D printing process.

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