The journey to convert my Ender 5 Pro to direct drive.

Well, now that my printer seems to be getting dialed in, and is printing reliably, I want to convert it to direct drive. I found a printable mount on Thingiverse that let me move the extruder from the vertical support to the hotend mounting plate. There are several aspects of the mount that I would’ve done differently, and might yet do, but it works, so there’s that.

I also discovered that the data cable that connects to the extruder stepper motor was too short to reach it in its new location. Oops! I looked online for extender cables. There a few available, but not many, and they’re ridiculously expensive, like $18 for one 18" cable. That’s just price gouging. So, I found some spare 6-wire cable in my stockpile. I only needed 4 of the wires so I just peeled off the extra 2. I then got out the old soldering iron, plus small heat shrink tubing and spliced about 20" of it into the middle of the existing cable. That way I didn’t have to deal with fitting new connectors.
Despite triple-checking the wiring to make sure I wasn’t accidentally cross-wiring any of the 4 wires, I managed to cross-wire 2 of them anyway. I put it down to my declining eyesight. From having between 20/5 and 20/10 eyesight most of my life, I’m down to something like 20/27, with cataracts starting to form. I will definitely need surgery in the not-to-distant future.
Anyway, I left it late last night and tackled it again this morning. I did a continuity check with my DVOM and found the cross-wiring. A few minutes of desoldering and resoldering had the problem sorted.

That leaves the spool holder to sort out. The normal side mounting position is certainly not ideal for feeding a direct drive setup, and mounting the existing holder to the top of the rail the holds the Y axis motor is not possible because it’s too low, which can lead to the hotend mounting running into the spool. I found a spool holder extension on Thingiverse that will lift the spool up high enough to clear the X axis altogether. The kit also includes a spool insert that’s supposed to make the spool rotate easier. I’m currently printing both pieces.

I’ll post some photos when I have the new pieces installed. Now, have to go to Amazon and order some T nuts and bolts.

I may need to order some extra T nuts for my Ender 5. Can anyone tell me the proper spec to search for, or even post a link to an amazon page for the right ones?

I am guessing as I never got any more but any 2020 t-nut should fit - - for example.

Thanks, but it seems there are different sizes, so many that I decided to ask if anyone knows the exact size. As you say, the fact that they are 2020 extrusion specific does help.

​​OK, quite a few developments over the past 4 days:

  1. I have printed and installed an adapter plate from Thingiverse to the stock hotend mounting plate;

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I have discovered that the small gap between the extruder and the Bowden tube is an issue. Last night, I was printing when I noticed that the filament had skewed to the side of the tube and had begun coiling like spaghetti around the tube. I’m not sure why this happened, but it did, twice. The problem is that I can’t really have a coupler in the output from the extruder because it’s too close to the one in the top of the hotend. I will have to modify the adapter plate some more so the extruder sits higher and allows me to not only install a coupler in the extruder, but also makes it possible to have Bowden tubing all the way up into the output of the extruder. Hopefully, that will prevent any spaghetti action, and also help ensure I can use more flexible filaments, such as TPU and Ninjaflex. While I’m at it, I’ll change the extruder mounting holes in the adapter plate to horizontal slots, so I can slide the extruder left and right to ensure it’s directly over the hotend.
2. I’ve printed and installed an extender to raise the stock spool holder higher above the printer, so it won’t be hit by the X carriage when it ‘homes’;

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3. I’ve discovered that the extruder stepper motor gets much hotter than the X, Y, & Z motors. I don’t know why this is, but it’s led to an issue with the adapter plate (which is, after all, printed using PLA). If you look closely, you can see that the heat from the stepper motor has caused the PLA adapter to sag backwards.

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I have several ideas of how to deal with this, including: printing in a more temperature tolerant filament; modifying the plate so it has more lateral reinforcement, so it withstands the temperatures better; adding a 40mm cooling fan to the side or the motor to cool it. This would be another mod to the adapter plate that would be where the fan would mount.
4. I don’t have a lot of metric nuts & bolts around. This led to me having to improvise. I did have the two M5 bolts and T-nuts that held the spool holder to the vertical rail of the printer. I used them to hold the extension down to the rail on the side that experiences the most load:

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  1. On the less stressed side of the spool holder extender, I used a couple of M5 PLA bolts I created in Fusion 360
    From the photo it’s obvious the threads aren’t perfect, but they worked surprisingly well, as seen here:
  2. To secure the stock spool holder to the extender, I drilled out and tapped (M6x0.6, I think) the 2 blind holes that are part of the design. I then used the 2 extra M6 bolts kindly provided by Creality to faster the holder to the extender:
  3. Finally, at the recommendation included with the extender files, I printed and am using an extra spool roller that the author says reduces the rolling friction of the spool as it unwinds:

BTW, if anyone isn’t aware, you can click on the pictures to see larger versions.

The 3mm,4mm,5mm,etc would just be the screw size as the t-nut should be the same to be able to fit in the 2020 channel…?? Again I am guessing as I never ordered any but a 2020 t-nut should work in ANY 2020 rail…

Hopefully so but, of course, you do have to pay attention to which nuts to use because the hole/thread sizes change with the bolt size (M4, M5, M6, etc.)

Some more news. I gave up on the Thingiverse adapter. This happened after I found some old aluminum plate that I had stored in my garage since the 70s. It was from some shelves out of an old communications equipment cabinet. Anyway, it’s good, strong stuff, but still quite light.

Here’s a shot of the new plate mounted. I made it a little on the large side, in case I want to add a cooling fan. Looks like that may not be necessary: the new plate seems to keep the extruder’s stepper motor much cooler than before. Nice.
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A shot from the side:

A closeup of the cutout I had to make to accommodate the X axis drive belt on the left side of the plate. I don’t have a band saw, so I had to make do with a jigsaw – not fun.
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A closeup of the new mounting point for the right-hand guide wheel. I was unhappy with the original location because it was located too much behind the hotend. The new hole is 20mm further right than the original, so I moved the X axis endstop switch 20mm further right.

I still need to drill a couple of small holes to attach a cable guide/strain relief. Also, I’m finding that the location of the filament reel on top of the printer isn’t ideal. The filament, expecially PETG, keeps jumping over the sides of he spool. I’m thinking of using the original mounting bracket to place the spool at the back of the printer. I will need to design and print a guide bracket that will keep the filament from hitting the Y axis axle, and will guide the filament up and above the extruder.

Overall, I happy with the mods. I haven’t seen any degradation in print quality, so the extra mass doesn’t seem to be hindering movement of the X axis. I hope it will make printing flexible filaments easier down the road.

If I was to remake my adapter, or decide to modify it, I would make 2 changes: [LIST=1]

  • I would make the holes for the stepper motor into vertical slots, wide enough that the extruder can be slid left and right, so it lines up with the hotend perfectly, but also long enough so that I could move the extruder up & down, to get it as close to the hotend as possible. I suspect this might help with flimsy filaments;
  • I would turn the hole for the stepper motor into a vertical slot as well, to accomodate the changes made for the extruder. [/LIST] I've decided to leave it alone for now. I haven't yet printed any really flimsy filaments, but I will make alterations if they prove to be troublesome. Also, moving the right-hand guide wheel to the right was a good decision...recommended.

    BTW, flimsy filaments should be the name of a band. “Ladies and gentleman, I’m very proud to present the hottest new group, the Flimsy Filaments!”. :smiley:

  • Well, it’s certainly been a while since this thread was updated, but I have something new to add.

    After seeing the Micro Swiss combo direct drive extruder + all metal hotend in Irv Shapiro's video about print speeds of Ender 3 vs Ender 5 printers, I checked the price of the unit. It was surprisingly lower priced that I imagined, so I ordered 1. It arrived yesterday.

    One of the things that most surprised me about the Micro Swiss unit is how similar it is to the home made direct drive mod I made last year. The biggest difference I see is that the Micro Swiss extruder is dual geared. Of course, the Micro Swiss hotend being all metal is a plus. To convert my design to dual gear would be a major project, and I would still have to buy an all metal hotend, so I went the Micro Swiss route. I also bought a MIcro Swiss hardened steel 0.4mm nozzle, since I’m printing more PETG Carbon Fibre these days.

    The photo on the left is the new Micro Swiss. On the right is my original mod.


    I did need to make a few adjustments: [LIST=1]

  • The bed was already trammed (leveled) but I did need to adjust the Z Offset a bit. I did that by printing my usual 20mmX20mm 1-layer squares;
  • I used the printer's menu system to:[LIST=1]
  • run a PID;
  • change the extruder E-steps to 130 (as per Micro Swiss' recommendation); [/LIST]
  • In Cura I:[LIST=1]
  • changed the retraction to 1.5mm @30mm/sec;
  • upped the temperature by 5C: [/LIST] [/LIST] Then I decided to go for it and print the stringing towers model. I was amazed at how it turned out.

    I mean, look at that. Hard to believe it was my 1st print since installing the Micro Swiss.

    Next I plan to print a knob to mount on the end of the stepper motor shaft.

    Those are most of the pros. There are a few cons: [LIST=1]

  • the spring tensioner on the extruder is a 'pull' type, rather than a 'push' or 'squeeze' type. This can be a little awkward to operate when you're trying to feed filament into the extruder. With a squeeze type tensioner you can use your thumb and forefinger to relieve the tension while still holding the whole thing in place. The pull type tensioner tends to pull the whole hotend to the side. Hopefully, the knob I'm planning to attach to the stepper shaft will help;
  • Micro Swiss provides a very complete kit, one that includes an extension cable to increase the reach of the stepper motor's original cable. Micro Swiss says it's a "custom extension cable". They, however, do not mention exactly what [I]custom[/I] means. Well, I found out. I didn't use the supplied extension cable because I had already lengthened the original cable in order to make my home made direct drive conversion. When I went to do a test square to check the Z Offset no filament came out. Looking closely at the extruder I realized it was going [I]backwards[/I]. What?? I ended up having to reverse the wiring of the connector that plugs into the stepper motor (swap blue with black and red with green) to make it work. I attribute this to the fact Micro Swiss decided to put the extruder to the left of the filament. Why not to the right? It seems crazy. They had to provide an extension cable that reverses the wiring so things run correctly. I'm not really upset that they put the extruder to the left. I'm more upset that they didn't come clean and tell me the extension cable isn't just for length; it's also to correct the wiring.
  • As you can see from the newer photo, my Ender 5 now has a BL Touch sensor. When I went to reinstall the fan shroud and BL Touch I ran into an issue with the left-hand belt ferrule and the rear bolt that holds the BL Touch: the ferrule ran into the rear bolt head before the belt was centered in the 2020 V Slot. I ended up dismounting the BL Touch, using a 3/8" drill bit to create a countersink in the BL Touch's rear bolt hole, then remounting the BL Touch with an M3 countersunk bolt. That worked to center the belt. [/LIST] Overall, it looks to be a great upgrade.
  • The knob for the stepper motor is done and mounted. I cannot express just how much easier this makes loading and unloading filament.

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    @Ender5r Enjoy your new extruder. I am really loving my Ender 5 with its 32-bit control board, Marlin 2.0, and the Micro Swiss Direct Drive extruder. It is close to my ideal 3d printer. My next step may be to work on replacing the thermisters and heater cartridge so I can print at higher temperatures. I would like to get up to 300c like my Prusa which I will then put in storage.

    I am finding the extruder close to perfect and as you noted adding a knob is a significant low-cost upgrade.

    I found it fascinating to see the pictures of your homemade extruder. Well done.

    I still find it interesting/odd that Micro Swiss opted to mount the extruder drive gear to the left of the filament, requiring the connector wires to be reversed. Why would they do that? As you can see from the photo, my mod retained the drive gear to the right, requiring no rewiring. Anyway, it’s fixed.

    I think my ideal printer might be the HevORT, especially if it’s updated to IDEX. It uses 3030 extrusion, Duet WiFi, has 3 independent Z axis steppers (to achieve true dynamic bed tramming/leveling), is CoreXY, uses an all metal, high temp hotend, has a large print volume, and is really fast. It will cost more than the hobby printers we’re all used to, somewhere around $1500, but it’s not that much more than a Prusa.

    While I enjoy your journey, some of your challenges might have different solutions:

    Spool on swivel - Ender 5 Swivel Spool (608zz bearing) by klackygears on Thingiverse: Ender 5 Swivel Spool (608zz bearing) by klackygears - Thingiverse

    Spool clamp - Ender Series Spool Clamp / Clamps (Creality, Ender5, Ender3) by PheonixUK on Thingiverse: Ender Series Spool Clamp / Clamps (Creality, Ender5, Ender3) by PheonixUK - Thingiverse

    Stock direct drive - Direct drive extruder mount for Ender 5 Plus by paydayxray on Thingiverse: Direct drive extruder mount for Ender 5 Plus by paydayxray - Thingiverse

    Any 3D printing is a journey on its own with every path taken leading to more experiences good and bad. Still much fun and satisfaction to be had!

    Thanks for the feedback/info @AgroDuck.

    The swiveling spool idea is interesting – never thought about having the spool swivel back and forth.

    I haven’t had any trouble with the spools coming off the holder, so I’m not sure what advantage the clamps provide.

    And, of course, since upgrading to the Micro Swiss Direct Drive extruder I have no need for a 3D printed direct drive mount.

    Hi Ender5,

    The swivel spool works great for when the x-axis is close to the y-axis and keeping the strain on the filament same throughout the print no matter where the head is. Fitted a piece of bowden tube to fasilitate this even better.

    The spool clamp just helps the spool run even. Before my swivel upgrade, I sometimes had the spool running around a lot to the point of almost coming of the holder. Having a buch of ‘meerkat home engineers’ in my house probably did not help in this area…:p:p
    The smallest clamp fits perfectly for most 1kg rolls.

    The beauty of this hobby is all the sollutions for problems that you can think up AND bring to physical existence. Absolutely wonderful!

    Absolutely. 3D printing allows me to design and print practical things that cannot be bought anywhere, because they’re not made.