Desktop 3D printersReviews

Is Creality’s Ender-5 S1 worth the $599 price tag?

An accessible and practical review of Creality’s latest desktop FFF printer

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Over the past few weeks, we have been printing with, and reviewing, Creality’s latest desktop printer – the Ender-5 S1. With advertised features such as ‘an upgraded motion system for 2000mm/s² acceleration and up to 250mm/s printing speed’, and a price tag of $559, we were curious to see if the printer was actually worth it.

The printer itself stands at 425mm x 460mm x 570mm, and has a total build volume of 220mm x 220mm x 280mm (only 30mm more, on the z-axis, than the Ender-3 V2 Neo, which currently retails for $299).

The pre-sliced and loaded models seemed like the best place to start, but this proved to not be as simple as we had hoped. The initial false start (a bunch of plastic spaghetti) was a result of what we believe to be a leveling problem seemingly inherent within the design of the machine – something we will touch on in a bit.

Physical set up

Physically setting up the printer could not have been easier – it was straightforward and uncomplicated. The instructions were easy to follow, and there were no challenges at this stage. Once set up, the machine is light, but strong, with sturdy pillars. While taking it easy, the entire setup took us approximately 90 minutes from unboxing to printing.

Print settings

When it came to actually printing our own designs, the almost overwhelming number of Ender-5S print settings, available through the Creality slicer application, was slightly daunting. However, we finally got the hang of it.

After our first few test prints, the value in having access to so many print settings was clear – all of which are understandable after a bit of Googling. There are a lot of these printers out there, and a lot of people within the home 3D printing community that publish solutions and guidance related to using certain settings for specific applications.

Ultimately, the defaults can remain untouched for 90% of the time.

Materials

Out of the materials we tested (CR-PLA Matte, CR-silk, CR-Wood, and the starter Ender PLA) the PLA that comes with each new printer proved to be strong, smooth, and aesthetically pleasing. The CR-PLA Matte silk and CR-silk filaments were really easy to use, and yielded great results. The final parts were strong, and printing with these two materials was seamless.

The other material that we were quite looking forward to testing was Creality’s CR-Wood filament – a reportedly more environmentally-friendly filament, with PLA as the main ingredient. We decided to test this material by printing a birdhouse in the shape of a security camera – a seemingly fitting application for such an ‘organic’ filament.

We both liked and disliked this filament. It requires increased calibration so our printed birdhouse came out quite stringy, and required a lot of post-processing (more than the other filaments), but it looked really good, and certainly a lot more natural than the other filaments. We also found that when using this wood filament to print single-walled parts, the parts were not particularly strong, and were prone to breaking.

Speed vs quality

When the Ender-5S was first launched, Creality boasted about the printer’s ability to print at 250mm/s (the printer’s typical printing speed is around 120mm/s), and the ability to print a 3DBenchy in 54 minutes (the company took this down to 35 minutes in a later statement). The claimed ability to print at this speed is true, but from our experience, it did come with a noticeable compromise in part quality.

Although the quality of the print decreased as the speed increased, this feature is still a valuable tool. Being able to materialize forms that are not required to be used as end parts, or to be particularly strong, in a fraction of the time usually required to print the same part, using the default speed, is certainly appreciated.

Electricity cut feature

Considering the unreliable electricity supply in South Africa – a country with up to 8 hours a day of electricity cuts, and where we conducted our review – Creality’s ‘start-stop’ feature was invaluable.

The feature enables the printer to resume printing the part, with almost 100% accuracy, when the power supply is cut during the print. We were initially hesitant to conduct the review in a country facing such challenges, but this feature did prove to be reliable, and absolutely necessary.

Although it was still noticeable that there was a loss of power during the print (after restarting, there is a ridge left on the part – as shown in the photo below), the feature was accurate enough to ensure the part’s functionality. In this case, the part was used as a reference for a stone worker to use to create a sculpture – where the smoothness of the surface of the print was not of particular importance.

Bed leveling

The most frustrating part of the whole experience was the bed leveling. Creality was aware that the problem with the auto bed leveling was caused by a firmware issue, and sent us the firmware update that was intended to fix it. However, it did not seem to make much of a difference, and the bed leveling remained something we needed to do manually, and when we did this – there were no problems. So, we saw this as a minor inconvenience rather than an unforgivable problem.

Once the printer was set up correctly, and the bed was leveled, we had multiple successful prints in a row – without any necessary tweaking.

Creality recommends first manually leveling the bed, and then using the auto leveling feature, but we suggest skipping the auto leveling as this tends to counteract the manual leveling.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Creality’s Ender-5 S1 is a great printer to start out with, considering its ability to print functional parts, with relative ease, and its low starting price point and operating costs. The printer is not perfect, but it is a really good option for those looking to enter the world of home 3D printing, or those needing a reliable printer for their small businesses/projects.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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