When you want to start a 3D print, you probably slice a 3D model on your computer, plug in a MicroSD card, save it, and then load it into the slot on your printer’s motherboard.
But what if there was an easier, much more concise way to go from a 3D model to a 3D print?
Well, there is!
The Creality Ender 3 (Pro/V2) features a Micro USB port on the motherboard, which you can use to connect your printer to your PC. With a connection between your computer and a 3D printer, you won’t have to fiddle with a MicroSD card because you can communicate with your printer and send prints using the USB connection.
Want to learn how you can connect your Creality Ender 3 (Pro/V2) to your personal computer? Well, just keep reading!
Table of Contents
Why Connect to Your 3D Printer?
You might want to connect your 3D printer to your computer if you don’t like dealing with a MicroSD card, which is what you usually need to upload prints to the Ender 3.
Moreover, if you’re like me and have chubby fingers and always lose things, then you probably hate having to use the SD card. Connecting your Ender 3 to your computer via USB means you don’t have to deal with that stupid, ugly, and way-too-small SD card to print things.
Additionally, compared to the MicroSD card, a USB connection to your printer allows you to interact with the machine in more ways. For example, if the printer is connected to your PC, you can manually send G-code commands or even change the firmware on the motherboard.
Another reason you might want to connect your printer to your PC is if you don’t have a MicroSD card reader. I actually broke the first USB-to-MicroSD reader I got, so this is 100% a reasonable excuse for using a USB connection.
How to Connect to an Ender 3 (Pro/V2): Step-By-Step
Connecting your PC and Ender 3 (Pro/V2) is super simple, and I’ve gone over every step of how to connect Ender 3 to PC in the sections below.
It’s also worth mentioning that, while I made the instructions specifically for the Original Creality Ender 3, Ender 3 Pro, or Ender 3 V2, they should work on similar printers, such as other Creality machines.
1. Turn On Devices
First, you need to turn on the devices, including your Ender 3 and PC.
And, just so you know, when I say “PC”, I mean any form of personal computer, whether it’s a desktop, laptop, or a similar type of device (e.g. Raspberry Pi computer).
I probably don’t need to explain how to turn on your computer, but if you’re new to the Ender 3, make sure it’s plugged into the wall, and the switch is flipped on.
2. Plug In USB Cable
Next, grab the right cable for your printer depending on its motherboard USB port. The motherboards on the Original Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro have a Mini USB port, so use a Mini USB cable. The motherboard on the Ender 3 V2 has a Micro USB port, so use a Micro USB cable.
Also, make sure that the USB cable can transfer data. Some cheap Micro and Mini USB cables only have power and ground wires (no signal).
Once you’ve got the right cable, plug the USB Type-A side of the cable into your PC’s USB port and the other side into the respective USB port on the Ender 3’s motherboard.
3. Install Slicing Software
You probably already have a 3D slicer for your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) downloaded, but if not, make sure to install one on your PC.
I like to use Ultimaker Cura, as it offers the most print settings and it also allows you to communicate with your printer via a USB cable.
Other options include PrusaSlicer, Simplify3D, OctoPrint, and more.
4. Add the Ender to Cura
If you’re using Cura, which I recommend, make sure to add the Ender 3 (Pro/V2) to the slicing platform. This will create a profile (assortment of settings) for the printer so Cura what hardware you’re using.
To add the Ender 3 to Cura, start by clicking “Settings”, then “Printer”, and “Add Printer”. When the pop-up screen appears, select “Add a non-networked printer” and then go into the “Creality” selection and choose “Ender 3”. It doesn’t matter what version of the Ender 3 you choose, as the hardware is all the same from Cura’s POV.
5. Test Print
Once connected, upload a 3D model to Cura and slice it. There should be a “Print via USB” option in the bottom right corner of the interface. Click this to start your print, as seen in the image below:
You can also go in the “Monitor” tab of Cura to find more control options. Moreover, you’ll be able to control your printer’s temperatures and movement.
And that’s it! You’ve successfully connected your Ender 3 to your PC!
What 3D Software to Use?
While I focused on Cura in the connection process, it’s not the only software you can use. I’ve listed the most popular software options below:
Pronterface, sometimes called Printrun, is a G-code terminal developed specifically for 3D printers and CNC machines. As a G-code terminal, Pronterface’s main purpose is to allow you to manually send G-code commands to your machine to tell the machine to perform specific actions like moving to its home position, PID tuning the hot end, or heating the nozzle.
You can send G-code commands to your Ender 3 through Pronterface with a USB connection by selecting the right COM USB port and then typing in the command and clicking enter. Pronterface also provides some other relevant controls, like a joystick for easily telling different parts on your printer to move certain distances. There are even temperature inputs for the hot end and heated bed.
As we mentioned, Ultimaker Cura is a 3D slicer software, meaning it can turn a 3D model file (e.g. STL) into a set of G-code commands based on given parameters and settings. On top of its slicing capabilities, you can use the software to upload and start 3D prints on your Ender 3 over a USB connection.
And, in the “Monitor” tab on Cura, you’ll find an easy-to-use control panel for your USB-connected printer. There are buttons for moving the different axes of the printer and input boxes for setting the nozzle and bed temperature.
There’s even a firmware flashing feature on Cura, though it doesn’t usually work on the Ender 3.
OctoPrint is an online remote control interface for 3D printers that runs off of a host computer, like a Raspberry Pi board, and is connected to a machine via a USB cable.
While OctoPrint is usually used to control a 3D printer remotely, you can also utilize its features to control your printer directly. Moreover, you can use the built-in G-code terminal and other control features on the online OctoPrint interface to control your connected Ender 3.
Disadvantages of Connecting Your Ender 3 to PC
There aren’t really many disadvantages of connecting your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) to your PC, but we can name a few.
First, a PC connection to your Ender 3 isn’t as stable as uploading a print using a MicroSD card. That’s because if your PC crashes, an ongoing print job will stop. On the other hand, an SD card can’t shut down or crash, making it a much more reliable option.
Additionally, connecting your Ender 3 to your PC doesn’t allow you to remotely control the printer as an OctoPrint server would. That’s because your PC needs a physical USB connection to your computer, whereas an OctoPrint server controls your 3D printer by offering an online server interface.
But besides these two fairly minuscule downsides, connecting your PC to your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) is a great idea.
If you hate dealing with a MicroSD card, whether because you lose it constantly or you just don’t like how you have to move it back and forth between your computer and 3D printer, then you should connect your printer to your PC!
Connecting an Ender 3 to a computer is super easy. All you’ve got to do is find the right USB cable, and plug it into your printer’s motherboard and your computer. And then you can open up a compatible software, such as Cura or Pronterface, and control your printer in many ways, whether it’s starting a print, PID tuning the hot end, or setting a temperature.
Hope this helps!