Best Extruder Upgrades for Creality 3D Printers [2020]

After buying my 6th Creality 3D Printer last month, I was a disappointed to find that they’re still using cheap plastic extruders. It might have been excusable at one point in time, but these have an average life expectancy of 2-3 months at best. The lever arm breaks, the brass gear wears out or filament eats through the plastic. As such, I decided to revisit the best extruder upgrades for Creality 3D Printers in 2020.

The aftermarket extruder industry has exploded in the last few years, and there are plenty of great options available. Whether we’re doing a complete Ender 3 Direct Drive conversion, or just looking for something more reliable than stock, there are a lot of possibilities.

To pick the best extruder upgrades for our needs, there are a few points we must consider. Is the price within our budget, do we need single drive or dual drive gears, and does it work for the filaments we want to use?

Single Gear vs Dual Drive Gear Extruders

When it comes to extruders, there are two types, Single Gear and Dual Drive (not to be mistaken for Direct Drive). Both serve the same purpose and function more or less the same, but the difference is how the filament is fed through to the hotend.

Single Gear

On a Single Geared extruder, a toothed gear is mounted on the motor shaft. A free spinning idler wheel presses against the gear, which places tension on the filament and helps it feed through. Single gear extruders are the most common.

Dual Drive

A Dual Drive extruder replaces the idler wheel with a second “hobbed” drive gear, gripping the filament from both sides for greater control. This reduces slippage and missed steps while increasing precision and accuracy.

For most, a well made single drive extruder is more than sufficient. Dual drive gears are superior, and a core feature of the “next generation” extrusion systems, but aren’t necessarily a must have for everyone.

Bowden vs Direct Drive Extruders

Most Creality 3D Printers use a Bowden extruder system. However, with a renewed community interest in Direct Drive, we’re seeing a resurgence in demand for such systems. Conversion kits are available from Micro Swiss, Printer Mods, etc. Creality even took notice and switched their latest CR-10 V3 to Direct Drive.

Bowden Extruder

Bowden extruders are mounted remotely on the 3D Printer’s frame, pushing filament to the hotend through a “bowden” tube. This significantly reduces excess weight on the hotend, allowing for faster and more accurate prints.

Direct Drive Extruder

Direct drive extruders sit directly above the hotend, feeding filament straight down into the melting chamber. It eliminates print defects like blobs and zits common with bowden extruders, at the expense of slower speeds and vastly increased weight.

More often than not, aftermarket extruders work as both bowden and...