Can You Print ASA with Stock Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1)?

While ASA filament brings a considerable number of benefits to the table for outdoor projects where heat, impact, and ultraviolet resistance are vital, it’s also a type of filament that’s more demanding to print than the more widely-used options such as PLA, PETG, and ABS when it comes to hardware requirements.

In this guide, we will explain whether it would be possible to print ASA filament with a stock Ender 3 and take you through the hardware upgrades that will make your Ender 3 fully compatible with ASA filament, allowing you to print ASA on your Ender 3 without issues in a consistent manner.

Can You Print ASA with Stock Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1)?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to print ASA filament with any of the stock Ender 3 models except for the Ender 3 S1 Pro (which ships with an all-metal hotend by default to make it possible to print filaments that require higher temperature values), as safely reaching the hotend temperatures that ASA requires with an Ender 3 requires hardware modifications that improve upon the stock components.

While the exact temperature requirements will show slight differences on a brand-by-brand basis, printing ASA, on average, requires the usage of hotend temperatures that fall between the 230 to 260 degrees Celsius range, which we can consider to be considerably higher compared to the more entry-level filaments, such as PLA, that a stock Ender 3 can easily handle with an average printing temperature range of 190 to 220 degrees Celsius required for a successful print.

The component responsible for the temperature limitation of your Ender 3 that prevents you from printing ASA, in this case, is a part known as the heatbreak, which resides between the cold zone and the hot zone of the hotend and fulfills the crucial task of separating these two zones to keep the heat generated by the heating block in the hot zone and prevent the heat from traveling up to the cold zone (which is known as heat creep), which can possibly lead to the filament melting too far up in the hotend assembly and creating a clog.

heatbreak example


When it comes to the Ender 3 in particular, the heatbreak is lined with a material called PTFE (the same material that the Bowden tube responsible for connecting the extruder to the hotend is made of), which, under high temperatures, is known to both degrade, which would eventually lead to the heat break becoming unable to fulfill its purpose anymore, and also create a phenomenon known as off-gassing, which can become a health hazard, especially for small animals in the room.

heatbreak diagram
Source: stib @ Stack Exchange (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

While the exact safe temperature limit depends on the quality of the PTFE tubing, with high-quality PTFE tubes, such as Capricorn tubing, making it possible to make use of higher hotend temperatures than what the stock tubing of your Ender 3 can handle, staying below 240 degrees Celsius with the stock tubing is a widely accepted rule of thumb to ensure safety, which practically makes it a necessity to make an adjustment to the heatbreak to make it possible to print ASA.

How to Upgrade Your Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1) to Make It Compatible with ASA?

As the sole factor that prevents any of the Ender 3 models (except for S1 Pro) from safely reaching the hotend temperature that ASA requires is the PTFE lining in the hotend, an all-metal or bi-metal heatbreak is technically the only mandatory upgrade that you will need to print ASA on your Ender 3 without issues.

Unlike a PTFE-lined hotend that isn’t suitable for the usage of temperatures that printing ASA requires due to PTFE, as a material, not being able to withstand such temperatures, an all-metal or bi-metal heatbreak, as the names suggest, consists purely of metals such as titanium, stainless steel, and copper, which makes the usage of high temperatures perfectly safe with no risk of degradation or harmful effects.

While not a necessity for printing ASA, it’s worth mentioning that replacing the entire hotend assembly (which will come with an all-metal or bi-metal heatbreak of its own) is also an option at this point, and while this is a more expensive (and complicated) upgrade, it will allow your Ender 3 to reach temperatures (300 degrees Celsius and over depending on the hotend you install) that are much higher than what replacing the heat break alone would make possible (~300 degrees Celsius), which is something to keep in mind if you plan to work with high-temperature filaments in the future.


Alternatively, even though replacing the heat break would be our first choice, it’s also worth mentioning that replacing the PTFE lining in the stock heat break with a higher quality one, such as Capricorn tubing, is another solution that will allow you to print ASA with your Ender 3 by pushing the temperature limit up to the range of 250-260 degrees Celsius, which can be something to consider if you would prefer to keep the benefits that a PTFE-lined heat break offers over an all-metal or bi-metal one, such as reduced risk for heat creep to occur.


Even though completing the necessary adjustments to the hotend will allow your Ender 3 to reach the temperature levels required to print ASA safely, another upgrade we highly recommend making to your setup for a successful print is the addition of an enclosure, especially if you plan on printing ASA regularly, as ASA, just like ABS, is quite prone to warping, which can easily lead to your 3D printed parts losing their dimensional accuracy in cases where there’s a lot of air circulation in the room.

As the enclosure will both protect your print from drafts that can throw the temperature balance off and also keep the ambient temperature stable as the printing process is underway, you won’t have to worry about any external factors creating issues for the quality of your ASA prints with an enclosure installed on your Ender 3.

Last but not least, we highly recommend ensuring that the build surface you’re using is suitable for printing ASA and applying the necessary modifications to improve bed adhesion as much as possible to prevent your prints from coming off the build plate, whether it’s coating the surface with Kapton tape or PET tape as a more reusable solution, or applying ABS/ASA slurry to the surface as a temporary way to get your ASA prints to adhere correctly.

Conclusion

While you won’t be able to print ASA with your Ender 3 out of the box unless you’re the lucky owner of an Ender 3 S1 Pro, an all-metal heatbreak upgrade alone will make any Ender 3 compatible with ASA filament by allowing it to reach the high temperatures that ASA requires to melt safely.

That being said, while an all-metal heatbreak is technically the only mandatory upgrade, we definitely recommend adding an enclosure and an ASA-friendly build surface to go with it, such as smooth PEI, as these upgrades will ensure that you don’t face any issues regarding bed adhesion, which are especially likely to occur due to ventilation being a necessity for printing ASA.