3D printing is a fast-growing industry. Everyone from large manufacturing companies to casual weekend hobbyists is attracted by the possibilities presented by 3D printers.
For manufacturers, 3D printing lowers the cost and increases the speed at which you can prototype items. For hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts, 3D printers allow you to create high-quality items comparable to anything produced in a factory right from the comfort of your home.
For all its benefits, 3D printing can be complex when you are new to it. A 3D print can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours and trying to figure out which materials to use or what equipment you need can be overwhelming for a beginner.
In this guide we look at a common question asked about equipment, specifically printing enclosures. A 3D printing enclosure can improve workflow and reduce the chances of print failure. With that said, print enclosures are additional equipment, and they are not strictly necessary.
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This printer is an upgraded version of the popular Ender 3 model, with a range of new features and improvements that make it even easier and more convenient to use.
You can produce perfect prints without a print enclosure. But we want to look at some of the reasons why you would want to at least consider getting a 3D print enclosure and what effect it could have on your printing projects.
Is It OK To Enclose A 3D Printer?
Enclosing a 3D printer comes with several advantages. The most important advantage is that it reduces exposure to harmful toxins that are released during 3D printing. It also maintains the working temperature and improves print quality by providing a stable environment in which materials will be printed.
3D printers work by either melting filament in FDM printing or curing it with light in resin printing. Both these processes emit toxic fumes that are harmful when inhaled. These toxins can cause respiratory illness and can increase the risk of cancer by up to six times.
Print enclosures trap most of the toxins produced by a printer and reduce your exposure, thereby creating a much safer environment to print in. In a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), researchers found that using a 3D print enclosure reduced exposure to toxic fumes by up to 90%. Source
Reduces Temperature Effects
Temperature is an important setting in FDM (fused deposition modeling) printing. Materials have different melting points and require different bed temperatures. ABS, for example, melts at between 190 to 250°C and requires a bed temperature of between 100 to 110°C.
Using the proper melting temperature ensures better extrusion and adhesion of the model to the print bed. Temperature isn’t important for just extrusion and adhesion, however. Source
A print enclosure helps maintain a consistent working temperature by keeping warm air inside and the cool air outside. This reduces the chances of warping in your print. Warping is especially problematic when printing with ABS.
Heat loss from a print bed can also cause warping due to rapid cooling. A print enclosure can help reduce heat loss by maintaining a stable temperature.
Does PLA Benefit From An Enclosure?
PLA is the least demanding material to print with. This is mainly because it has a low extrusion temperature compared to other materials like ABS or PETG. It is the only material that does not need a heated bed as it does not warp as readily as ABS for example.
Using a print enclosure for PLA is not necessary. It does have two general benefits that make it worth considering, however. Firstly it reduces exposure to humidity. Secondly, it reduces the noise produced by a 3D printer.
How Humidity Can Affect Your 3D Prints
Some 3D prints can stretch for days. In that period, your prints are likely to be exposed to humidity especially if you are pausing your prints overnight or longer. Filaments absorb water and when they do, this can create holes or gaps in your prints.
You definitely would not want to spend 36 or more hours on a print just for it to turn out with holes in it. The sealed environment of a print enclosure keeps humidity levels low and reduces the chances of this happening. This is particularly important if you live in a humid climate.
3D Printers Are Noisy
A 3D printer can produce between 45 to 55 decibels. That is the noise level of a regular conversation. The greater the echoes in the room, the higher the noise levels.
It also depends on the type of printer, and what condition it’s in. A well-maintained printer will have fewer squeaky wheels and gears raising the decibels. A print enclosure can help reduce the noise levels produced.
Will A 3D Printer Overheat In An Enclosure?
There are several types of 3D printer enclosures. While they all help regulate the air temperature around a 3D print, they can also cause the 3D printer to overheat. Over time this can reduce the lifespan of internal components like electronics and stepper motors. Overheating can also lead to over-extrusion if the print head temperature is too high. The recommended maximum temperature for a print enclosure is 50°C.
There are a few workarounds you can implement to reduce overheating. The simplest is venting your 3D printer. This could be done by raising one or more flaps if you have a tent-style enclosure. This allows for natural airflow to cool your printer down.
A more active method for cooling a 3D printer inside an enclosure is to use fans. The advantage of having cooling fans is it reduces internal temperatures without exposing you to fumes like raising a flap in a tent-style enclosure does. The downside of a box-style enclosure is that they are more expensive.
Are Enclosed 3D Printers Safe To Use Indoors?
3D Printers produce toxic fumes. These fumes are more concentrated in a room with poor ventilation. A print enclosure will trap up to 90% of the fumes produced by a 3D printer. This improves the safety of using a printer indoors.
Using a printer indoors is relatively safe if you follow these basic guidelines.
- Make sure the room is well-ventilated.
- Print close to a window where possible.
- Do not print in living areas like bedrooms or living rooms.