Ender 3 dual extruder upgrade: DIY (Complete Beginner’s Guide)

Creality’s Ender lineup comes with some pretty amazing 3D printers for small-scale projects, arguably the best the world has ever seen. But even with an array of great features, Ender 3 can only do so much as the performance gets limited by hardware. So, what can you do here to maximize the printer’s efficiency and make use of its full potential? Ender 3 dual extruder sounds like a great answer to this question.

That’s why today I’ll discuss whether and how you can upgrade your Ender 3 to a dual extruder with available options on the market.

This process has some benefits and drawbacks, and I’ll also cover those here. So, without wasting any more time, let’s dive into this amazing DIY project that can unlock new doors for you in 3D printing.

Is it possible to mount an additional extruder to Ender 3?

You can probably assume what the answer will be. Yes, it’s definitely possible to mount an additional extruder. But you have to invest some effort and time in this project to make it happen. Normally a dual extruder is pretty common in high-end 3d printer models. The one used for high-scale projects or industrial purposes has a dual extruder by default.

However, because of the smaller scale of Ender 3, it doesn’t come with a dual extruder setup. So to upgrade the Ender 3 to a dual extruder, you’ll require a mainboard first. Stock Ender 3 doesn’t have the necessary space, so the extra mainboard accommodates the secondary extruder that will be installed.

I’ll discuss different methods of upgrading to a dual extruder with Ender 3, but one particular method is exceptional. If you use a 3D Chameleon extruder, you won’t need to install the extra mainboard. Instead, you can get away with just a switch to your current Ender 3 setup.

Lastly, there are some words of warning I have here. Using a 3D printer is already challenging enough for beginners. Now, if you decide to upgrade to a dual extruder setup, make sure you have prior knowledge regarding this project. Jumping right to a dual extruder won’t be a good idea for beginners in 3D printing.

Additionally, before you make the upgrade, you have to accept the fact that there will be some hardware limitations as Ender 3 is supposed to be a single extruder 3D printer. Till now, there is no official dual extruder kit available from Creality.

All the methods I’ll discuss below, or you might have seen previously online, are either done by DIYers or into the R&D phase. So, before you decide, consider these factors carefully and then make the upgrade decision.

How does Ender 3 dual extruder help?

Let me start by saying that the answer is also applicable to other Ender models too like Pro and V2. Assuming you don’t know how a dual extruder can help, I’ll explain it in short. Simply put, having a dual extruder allows you to print with two filaments at a time, which is not possible with stock Ender printers.

Now, with two usable filaments, you have two different materials for printing here. So, how does having two different materials help? One key benefit is a time-efficient model cleanup. After you 3D print a model, it needs to be cleaned and smoothened out before you can use it. Though doing that isn’t very tough, it definitely takes time.

In that regard, you can use a soluble support material with the primary one to make the model polishing quicker. It’s just one aspect of benefits from the dual extruder.

On a different note, dual extruders also provide added durability to your 3D model. While the primary nozzle prints most of the model, the additional extruder can print the remaining parts with a carbon fibre filament. The end result will be that you’ll get a much more durable printing result.

Ender 3 dual extruder upgrade methods

By purchasing any Creality 3D printers, you are welcomed into a massive community of 3D print enthusiasts and hobbyists. There are people who work with upgrades to open up more creative and efficient ways of 3D printing. That being said, those same people came up with several methods of upgrading Ender 3 to a dual extruder setup.

Maybe in the future, we’ll see official kits coming out from Creality. But for now, these methods are your only hope of upgrading to the dual extruder. Though unofficial, their methods are highly effective and capable of producing excellent results if mounted correctly. All you have to do now is choose the method that suits your budget and skillset and move forward from there.  

Method 1: Project Chimera DIY Dual Extruder Upgrade

The first method on my list comes from our fellow printing enthusiast Jonathan Holman aka krestoverson on Thingiverse. There are not many methods out there that are as effective and true as this one for upgrading to a dual extruder. Though initially it’s recommended for an Ender 4, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work on an Ender 3.

As this method use a Chimera hot head, the name of this method comes from there. Alongside the hothead, you’ll need to print some stuff on your own to complete the upgrade. The list of parts you have to print and purchase can be found on the Thingiverse page. Additionally, the step-by-step guide alongside the purchase link is provided there. All you need to do is follow those steps and make them into reality.

Method 2: Multi-material Y Joiner

This is another great method put together by YouTuber Martin Zeman, aka Zemistr on Thingiverse. You can check the whole thing on YouTube, and Zemistr has done a commendable job o trying to explain the entire thing in English. At first, he tried different methods online, and when those didn’t work out, he decided to take the matter into his own hand. Seeing the whole video, I have to say it turned out to be pretty good.

Alongside some printer parts, you’ll need to purchase some parts online to complete this process. Everything from the parts list, purchase link, and printer setting can be found in the video description and Thingiverse page.

This method involves combining two Bowden tubes and retracting any unused filament. The videos will show you a basic outline of the plan, but you’ll also have plenty of room to work with your own customizations too.

Method 3: Project Cyclops DIY Dual Extruder Upgrade

You might already assume what the method will be like from the name. Like the first method I talked about, Project Chimera, Cyclops works based on the same principle. Invented by Shaun Forgacs, aka zrxmopar on Thingiverse, this is another clean true dual extruder setup you can try at home.

As the name suggests, you’ll require a Cyclops hot end to execute this upgrade successfully. You can also try a Chimera dual-nozzle hot end as both hot ends have the exact same dimension. However, using Chimera won’t make it the same as the Chimera method previously mentioned. Other parts you’ll need to print and purchase are still somewhat different. You’ll find the list of these items on Thingiverse.

Method 4: Three Color Extruder Mod

If you want to take your upgrade to the next level, you might want to check this method out. Instead of two, now we have three different colours to work with, thanks to Shotsy for coming up with this super innovative mod.

The basic is no different than other Extruder mods I mentioned before, but what makes it different is the ability to use three different colours. Again, you’ll have to purchase a custom mount and cooling system alongside some printed parts before installing the mod.  As usual, the list of parts can be found on Thingiverse.

While the use of three different colours makes this method a little more complex, it also brings versatility to the table.

Related: Creality CR-6 SE vs. Ender 3 v2

Method 5: 3D Chameleon Extruder Kit

As I mentioned previously,3D Chameleon is the only dedicated extrude kit upgrade you can find out there. So for people who don’t have the necessary time and expertise required for a DIY upgrade, this extruder kit is a perfect choice.

3D Chameleon was formed back in2018, and since then, they have been famous for their inexpensive kits of extruder upgrades. Currently, they are selling two upgrade kits, one with two colour changer kit and another with four colour exchanger kit. Both of these kits are compatible with any open-source fused deposit 3D printer, including all Ender 3 models. However, considering the price gap, buying the Palette 3 pro will be a better decision.

The key benefit of 3D Chameleon is the easy installation process without requiring a new mainboard. In addition to the sheer convenience, the dual colour kit also costs only a hundred bucks, less than some DIY methods’ cost. Furthermore, you get a one-year warranty with any kit you buy from Chameleon. Finally, even if the installation seems hard to you, 3D Chameleon also offers free assembly for everyone.

Method 6: Mosaic Palette

This is another convenient method if you want to achieve true multicolour printing with Ender 3. To be honest, Mosaic Palette will seem like an overkill for some as the upgrade costs more than the printer itself. However, if you are looking for a premium multicolour solution and have the budget, you should definitely check this out.

Currently, Mosaic has two pallets in their lineup, one is the Palette 3, and the other is Palette 3 pro. Palette 3 is capable of working with four different filaments at the same time, while the Pro variant can handle eight. This palette cuts different filaments according to the print requirement and then fuses them together to continue printing.

Like the Chameleon 3D, the Mosaic palette too has an easy plug and play system, and you don’t have to mount a thing on the printer itself.

Related: CoreXY vs. HBot

Method 7: Manual Changing the Filaments

If you don’t have the expertise or the money to try out the methods mentioned above, this one is for you. Without any fancy kit or DIY technique, all you need to do is change Cura settings. Instead of hardware customization, this method focuses on software changes to achieve multicolour capability.

By creating a new Cura setting, you basically program the Ender 3 to pause at a certain point and height during printing. Then you change the filament according to your need to print the remaining layer. All you need is one file for the printer. The pauses will be automatic, and the printer will wait for you to change the filaments manually.  

Starting from Cura setting to manually changing the filaments, everything is shown in this step-by-step video guide by YouTuber CHEP.

Final Thoughts

Here we are at the end of this article. I hope my article was helpful enough to understand the dual extruder method available for Ender 3. As you can see, dual extruder upgrade is not a dream anymore as you can easily do it with various methods from these super-talented people in the 3D printing community. For allowing us this opportunity, they deserve a huge round of applause.

In total, I have talked about 7 different methods in total. The first four are purely DIY methods done by a hobbyist with hardware customization. Then comes 3D Chameleon and Mosaic Palette, which are plug-and-play solutions for beginners who don’t have the necessary expertise for any customization. Finally, the last method is mostly related to software customization as it’s done with calibrating the Cura setting and manually changing filaments.

There you have a quick sum-up of methods for Ender 3 dual extruder. Now, all that’s left to do is find the most suitable method for you according to your budget, expertise, time, and commit to finally achieving the dual extruder upgrade you were dreaming about with Ender 3..


Leave a Comment