Gradient Vera
1039 words
5 minutes
A postmortem on my Neptune 3 Pro

A year ago, I decided to buy the Neptune 3 Pro.
I had never owned a 3D printer before, but I had always been interested in the world of 3D printing. Now that I had a job and thus a stable source of income, I thought that perhaps I could pick up 3D printing as a hobby… But I was wrong, I never did quite pick 3D printing up as a hobby. Instead, I picked 3D printers up as a hobby.

These two hobbies may sound similar, but they really aren’t the same at all. One involves using 3D printers to well, print things, and the other involves the 3D printers themselves, and how to improve them. When I originally got my Neptune 3 Pro, I was quite interested in making it better. I had heard that people upgrade their 3D printers with parts that they printed themselves, and I was in love with that idea. “A sort of self-replicating machine”, I thought.

My first 3D print ever was a benchy, since it seemed like what most people did first with their shiny new 3D printers. My second and third prints ever were upgrades for my printer, an additional spool holder and a little tool holder that attached to a side of the printer. From then onwards I printed a mix of random knick-knacks and upgrades.

Eventually, I hooked up a spare Raspberry Pi to the printer, and ran Octoprint on it. I was quite satisfied with being able to control the 3D printer remotely, and not have to upload something to the 3D printer’s SD card every time I wanted to print something new. Eventually I moved onto flashing the Klipper firmware on my printer… This was probably one of the best things I could have done to it, at the time. Klipper opened up a new world of possibilities! I bought a KUSBA and set up input shaping, which allowed me to increase printing speed significantly, for example.

And then I moved onto bigger upgrades. I replaced the default extruder fans with 5015 fans, using a custom mount someone made. Funny enough, to install the 5015 fans, I had to remove the little cap that came with the circuit contacts, as I didn’t really have the knowledge to solder an adapter or anything like that. To this day, most of the caps on that Neptune 3 Pro’s extruder circuit are gone, as most of the original parts have been replaced by better ones. At some point a failed print ruined the hotend, so I had to change it for a third-party replacement which promised all-metal parts.

But for a while, I stopped using the 3D printer entirely. I’m not quite sure what it was, maybe I lost interest momentarily, or maybe I had to replace a couple things and I couldn’t be bothered for a long time, but for a few months I just stopped using the printer entirely. The couple filament spools I had started collecting dust and humidity, all of my 3D printed “projects” got paused indefinitely… For a while, I forgot the joy of leaving a 3D print running overnight and waking up to it having finished successfully.

Until one day, when my mother asked me to 3D print something for her. Restarting that printer, calibrating it all over again, and printing a couple things reminded me of why I loved it so much. It’s the joy of “do-it-yourself”, of tearing apart a complex machine, making it better and then assembling it again, with a better understanding of how it works. The joy of getting “a new toy to play with”, once prints finish, and striving to get the best results out of what you have.

So I started using it again, and making it even better this time. A better all-metal hotend setup, Squash ball feet to reduce vibrations, a 5015 fan for the cold end to prevent heat creep, a clone CHT nozzle for higher flow rates, a better tool tray, bed leveling knobs with silicone spacers, a centered filament sensor mount, diagonal braces, a z-belt tensioner, using an unused Steam Deck LCD instead of a Raspberry Pi 4, etc…

I upgraded my Neptune 3 Pro so much, and at the same time, I built up a rack of new DIY tools. An electric screwdriver/drill, screw remover bits, a couple screwdriver sets, a hot glue gun, a pinecil v2 soldering iron, calipers, a meter, etc. It got to the point where I ran out of space to store them, so I ended up buying a few IKEA SKÅDIS boards so I could put them somewhere. And I started using the 3D printer for other, more sizeable projects… Such as my project to add a second tube for air intake to my portable air conditioner unit. I began learning how to use tinkercad, and made my own upgrades and models, usually by remixing existing ones.

In the end, there’s only so much you can do to make a mediocre bedslinger 3D printer better, sadly. I loved my Neptune 3 Pro, but I could see its limitations… Oh, the many times I had to recalibrate it, fix it, or clean up failed prints. So recently I bought a Voron 2.4 kit from Formbot, 3D printed parts included and all. I have promised my cousin I will give him my old Neptune 3 Pro once I get my new Voron up and running.

I don’t have enough space for two 3D printers here, after all. All those upgrades made my Neptune 3 Pro much better, much more reliable and fast, but it was never going to be enough. The Voron 2.4 is perfect for me, a massive “DIY” project I can spend a few weeks working on. After all, 3D printers are my hobby. 3D printing, well, not as much… But maybe that will change once I build my Voron, and I’ll stop chasing the rabbit of “the ultimate 3D printer upgrade”. We’ll just have to see.

A highly modified Neptune 3 Pro, printing what seems to be an infinite Skadis part. The author was stupid and forgot to enable supports on the parts that go into each toher other and the printer made a mess there, ugh.

A postmortem on my Neptune 3 Pro
Gradient Vera
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