Just about the only thing original and stock on my two Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D printers are the extruded aluminum frames and the control interface with its infinite-turn control knob. Everything else has been replaced; mainboard, extruder hot end and direct filament drive, Z-axis upgrade with additional stepper motor, auto bed leveling and, of course, the firmware and the addition of printer management software, Octo Print via a Raspberry Pi 4b. Oh, and a web camera. The incredibly cluttered photo to left is one of my two heavily upgraded Ender 3 Pro printers.

If you are new to the 3D printer scene, and in particular the world of upgrades and modifications to kit-printers, let's step back and have an brief overview. I won't get into the super-weedy-details because that has likely been covered ad nauseam.

The gist of 3D printing is, you have filament; it can be made of a whole host of materials; everything from nylon with carbon fiber embedded in it, to the more mundane, polylactic acid or more commonly called PLA. This filament is softened enough to flow by way of the hot end and is pushed out of a precision nozzle. This hot end is most often mounted on a series X and Z-axis rails. A heated bed is mounted on the Y-axis. All the movement is made possible by the use of stepper motors. The motors, the hotend and bed temperatures are all controlled by a mainboard.


The upgraded mainboard has a STM32 F103 RET6 microcontroller. The upgrade gives you a 32 bit processor versus the original 8 bit -- this allows for more complicated firmware installs. The board also has improved, silent stepper motor controllers. In order to fully take advantage of this motherboard and accessories like the CR Touch or BL Touch, you will need configure and recompile the Marlin Firmware. We get to that later in this post.

The upgrades listed above are what I eventually arrived upon. There was a Micro Swiss Direct Drive Extruder.

Upgrade Costs Breakdown
Part Cost
Micro Swiss Direct Drive Extruder $99.75
Creality Sprite Direct Drive Extruder Pro Kit $109.99
Micro-Swiss All Metal Hotend Kit $63.50
Ender 3 Dual Z-axis Upgrade Kit $35.79
Upgrade X-axis Belt Tensioner $15.98
Ender 3 Dual Z-axis Upgrade Kit $35.79
Spring Steel Flexible Build Surface Magnetic Removable Bed Sheet $15.98 (2x)
Creality Ender 3 Pro 32-bit Silent Board Motherboard V4.2.7 $42.99
Raspberry Pi 4b - 2GB $45.00
DC 6V 9V 12V 24V to DC 5V 5A Buck Converter Module, 9-36V Step Down to USB 5V $42.99
Logitech C920x HD Pro Webcam $69.99
Creality BLTouch V3.1 Auto Bed Leveling Sensor Kit $47.99
Base model Ender 3 Pro $236.00
Total $877.72

UPDATE 2023/02/25: I purchased a Creality Sprite Extruder Pro ($109.99) This is an improvement on the Creality Sprite Extruder; it allows for filament temperatures up to 300℃. I have a longer term project in mind that will require printing with material at or above 260℃.

As you can see, a base model Ender 3 Pro costs $236.00, but throw in an armful of higher end upgrades (for the retail market), and you suddenly have a setup that has cost nearly $900.00. Yikes! Are all of these upgrades necessary? I would have to say, No. The Creality Direct Drive extruder is well worth the money - never again deal with bowden tubes. The other two must upgrades are the mainboard and adding a CR Touch or BL Touch auto-leveling sensor. Runners up is the dual Z-axis; it really stabilizes the frame.


In order to take advantage of a CR Touch or BL Touch, you will need to configure the firmware to use it. The probe-to-offset also needs to be changed when using the Sprite Direct Drive as the nozzle is a slight different location than the stock nozzle. I won't go into all the details of, but you can compare Configuration_og.h (the original) and Configuration.h as well as Configuration_adv_og.h and Configuration_adv.h. The changes range from enabling CR Touch/BL Touch and enabling a comprehensive bed leveling system, to adjusting the position of the nozzle and enabling thermal safety features.

git clone https://github.com/ajokela/ender3pro_marlin-2.0.x.git

Open Visual Studio Code, and Open Folder. Navigate to where you cloned the repository to and open it.

If you are wanting configuration and compile your own firmware, checkout Marlin and Platform.io. It will get your started. Once Platform.io is installed, you can clone the repo and open it in Visual Code.

Here are the things that were changed in Configuration.h and Configuration_adv.h

#define STRING_CONFIG_H_AUTHOR "(Alex, Ender-3 Pro)"
Who made the changes.
#define CUSTOM_MACHINE_NAME "Ender-3 Pro 4.2.7 - fw v2.0.9.3 - 2023-02-23"
I like to put the date and version numbers in firmware so it is easy to identify a what and a when
#define HEATER_0_MAXTEMP 315
You will want to be careful with this setting; it is the temperature of the hotend in celsius; Needed higher than default for printing nylon and PET-G. Because of HOTEND_OVERSHOOT, maximum temperature will always be MAXTEMP - HOTEND_OVERSHOOT
#define BED_OVERSHOOT    15
(°C) Forbid temperatures over MAXTEMP - OVERSHOOT for hotend and (°C) Forbid temperatures over MAXTEMP - OVERSHOOT for bed
Smoother curve motions
Comment out because we will be using a CR-Touch or BL-Touch
Force the use of the probe for Z-axis homing
#define BLTOUCH
Enable BL Touch/CR Touch
#define NOZZLE_TO_PROBE_OFFSET { -10.0, -10.0, 0 }
Move the offset for the Sprite Direct Drive hotend
A little more buffer around the perimeter
#define EXTRA_PROBING    1
Add extra probings to eliminate outliers
  #define PROBING_NOZZLE_TEMP  200   // (°C) Only applies to E0 at this time
  #define PROBING_BED_TEMP     60
Require minimum nozzle and/or bed temperature for probing; bump temperature to match pre-probing temperature
#define Y_BED_SIZE 210
Adjust bed size; I ran into problems where the extruder would overshoot the bed.
Unified Bed Leveling. A comprehensive bed leveling system combining the features and benefits of other systems. UBL also includes integrated Mesh Generation, Mesh Validation and Mesh Editing systems.
Always enable leveling immediately after G28.
Enable the G26 Mesh Validation Pattern tool.
Use Hilbert distribution for less travel when probing multiple points. Run several commands in a row to get a complete mesh.
Add a bed leveling sub-menu for ABL or MBL.
Moves the Z probe (or nozzle) to a defined XY point before Z homing.
#define PREHEAT_1_TEMP_BED     60
Bump up the preheat temperatures of hotend and bed
#define THERMAL_PROTECTION_PERIOD 120        // Seconds
#define THERMAL_PROTECTION_HYSTERESIS 10     // Degrees Celsius
False positives with Thermal Runaway
  #define EXTRUDER_RUNOUT_SPEED 1500  // (mm/min)
  #define EXTRUDER_RUNOUT_EXTRUDE 5   // (mm)
Extruder runout prevention. If the machine is idle and the temperature over MINTEMP then extrude some filament every couple of SECONDS.
  #define HOTEND_IDLE_TIMEOUT_SEC (10*60)   // (seconds) Time without extruder movement to trigger protection
  #define HOTEND_IDLE_MIN_TRIGGER   195     // (°C) Minimum temperature to enable hotend protection
  #define HOTEND_IDLE_NOZZLE_TARGET   0     // (°C) Safe temperature for the nozzle after timeout
  #define HOTEND_IDLE_BED_TARGET      0     // (°C) Safe temperature for the bed after timeout
Hotend Idle Timeout and Prevent filament in the nozzle from charring and causing a critical jam.
Add Probe Z Offset calibration to the Z Probe Offsets menu
Enable to init the Probe Z-Offset when starting the Wizard. Use a height slightly above the estimated nozzle-to-probe Z offset.
Set a convenient position to do the calibration (probing point and nozzle/bed-distance).
Add an 'M73' G-code to set the current percentage
Use remaining time from M73 command instead of estimation; and Display (P)rogress, (E)lapsed, and (R)emaining time
Show a progress bar on HD44780 LCDs for SD printing
Add an optimized binary file transfer mode, initiated with 'M28 B1'

Display total babysteps since last G28
Combine M851 Z and Babystepping
Enable graphical overlay on Z-offset editor
  #define HOST_PAUSE_M76             
  #define HOST_PROMPT_SUPPORT        
Tell the host to pause in response to M76
Initiate host prompts to get user feedback
Send some status messages to the host as notifications
Add a menu item that tells the host to start
Add a menu item that tells the host to shut down

Even with all of this add-ons and modifications, the printer remains finicky. It is constantly needing adjustments which is expected to an extent when you are dealing with moving material and high heat.

Does it print well? It depends. It depends upon the nozzle wear, the flexibility and moisture content of the filament, and the type of the filament. These are all variables that any 3d printer would encounter. I just don't know how big of a deal these would be to another printer. I have also two Creality CR-6 SE printers, and they worked well until they did not. Maybe someday I will get a higher-end printer and be able to do more comparisons.

Download most recent compiled firmware (v2.0.9.3)