Review: FlashForge Creator 3 upgrade – carbon fiber 3D printing for the workshop

3D Printing Industry reviews the FlashForge Creator 3 upgrade kit.

Desktop 3D printer manufacturer FlashForge has released an upgraded high-performance version of its Creator 3 FFF system, which we reviewed towards the end of 2019.

The newer version of the professional-grade machine comes complete with a new set of carbon fiber-ready IDEX extruders, a magnetic build plate, and a set of anti-oozing plates for nozzle cleaning purposes. For those that have already purchased the older discontinued model, FlashForge has very kindly made the hardware upgrades available in a retrofittable kit, which we’ll run through in this review.

The FlashForge Creator 3. Photo via FlashForge.
The FlashForge Creator 3. Photo via FlashForge.

Revamped IDEX extruders

The showstopper here is undoubtedly the new IDEX extruder design being offered with the Creator 3. While the nozzle still features a maximum temperature of 300°C, it is now made out of hardened steel rather than brass. The strength and durability of steel will ensure a much longer service life and now enables Creator 3 users to 3D print with carbon fiber-reinforced filaments.

FlashForge has designed these extruders such that they do not need a dedicated fan to cool the heatsink, meaning they are small and light. The 4010 fan cooling the space under the nozzle is also noticeably quiet, making for a more pleasant printing experience.

The extruder bundle, which can be found at select retailers for around $400, contains two new printheads (a left and a right variant), improved panels, and two new extruder boards to boot. Assembly and installation took us around 45 minutes.

The new V2 IDEX extruders. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.
The new IDEX extruders. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

Removable magnetic build plate

The other major upgrade is the new magnetic build plate. The build surface of the original Creator 3 was locked in place, meaning users had to tediously scrape off prints while they were still in the build chamber. If sharp tools were used, this often resulted in scrapes and scratches, permanently damaging the build surface.

The new version of the Creator 3 has a whole new aluminum build plate, which has been ground down to achieve the flattest possible surface. The plate houses 16 different magnets and is attached to a thin sheet of steel covered by a matte polymer layer – the upper build surface. This sheet can be detached as and when needed and is flexible to allow for easier print removal.

The new V2 build plate. Photos by 3D Printing Industry.
The new build plate. Photos by 3D Printing Industry.

Anti-oozing plates

Finally, we come to the new anti-oozing plates. While these are probably the least essential upgrade, they are still very much a welcome one. The plates are designed to replace the metallic brushes that clean the nozzles on the original model and are quite simply a more durable alternative. There are two of them, one for each nozzle, and they are housed on either end of the X-axis rail. They prevent oozing and purge spaghetti, ensuring that the inactive nozzle in a dual-material print is ready to go every time it is called into action. Installation is as simple as holding it in place and tightening a few screws.

The new V2 anti-oozing plates. Photos by 3D Printing Industry.
The new anti-oozing plates. Photos by 3D Printing Industry.

Putting the Creator 3 upgrades to the test

After piecing it all together, we put our new Creator 3 to the test. First up, we printed a bi-color PLA cube to determine how well-aligned the two extruders were. Much to our delight, the cube came out in perfect condition. The grey and green sections are distinct and well defined, with clean-cut interface zones and virtually no bleeding – a great success.

The bi-color PLA test print. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.
The bi-color PLA test print. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

Naturally, we also had to test out the printer’s new carbon fiber capabilities, and for this, we used FlashForge’s own polyamide carbon fiber filament (PA-CF). The material required us to crank the nozzle temperature up to 280°C, which is almost the machine’s limit. Again, the Creator 3 handled this without breaking a sweat: our test model was fabricated with no stringing, no warping, and not a single defect in sight. As an aside, the flexible build sheet worked like a charm here, allowing us to pop the part off with minimal force.

The PA-CF test print. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.
The PA-CF test print. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

The verdict

When a 3D printer manufacturer redesigns and beefs up one of its systems, it is usually marketed as a ‘pro version’ or quite simply a whole new machine. FlashForge has taken a different route with the Creator 3 and given its customers a plethora of upgrades at no added cost. With the same price tag of $3,499, the new version gives you more bang for your buck than ever and is an ideal choice for design firms, educational institutions, and engineering professionals alike.

The carbon fiber-capable extruders work as advertised, the magnetic print bed makes part removal a breeze, and the added option of anti-oozing plates is the cherry on top. Of course, if you already own the original, we advise you to consider your needs carefully before committing to the upgrade kit, as not everyone necessarily needs to be able to 3D print carbon fiber parts. For those looking for a whole new workshop-suitable IDEX system, however, there has never been a better time to purchase the Creator 3.

Check out our original review of the FlashForge Creator 3 here.

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Featured image shows the FlashForge Creator 3. Photo via FlashForge.