3D Printering: Why Aren’t Enclosures Easier?

For 3D printers that aren’t already enclosed, why is easily adding a cheap and effective enclosure still not a completely solved problem? The reason is simple: unless one’s needs are very basic, enclosures are more than just boxes.

Different people need different features, printers come in different shapes and sizes, and creating something that can be both manufactured and shipped cheaply is a challenge in itself. In this article I’ll explain how those things make boxing up your printer a tougher nut to crack then may seem at first glance.

Enclosures Have Different Jobs

People have different expectations of what an enclosure’s job should be, and that determines which features are important to them and which are not. Here is a list of meaningful features for 3D printer enclosures; not everything on this list is important to everyone, but everything on this list is important to someone.

Improving Print Quality

An enclosure can provide a better printing environment by protecting against drafts and partially retaining heat, creating an environment with a temperature that is more stable than the room it occupies. While retaining too much heat can lead to its own issues, a stable and draft-free environment is a plus.

Reduction of Noise

Some printers are noisier than others, and not every printer has the luxury of chattering happily away on a workbench without disturbing anyone. Though it’s rarely the sole factor in noise control, an enclosure can help reduce noise in environments where it is an issue.

Protecting Moving Parts

In some environments, loose objects or curious fingers (or paws) are more common than others. An enclosure helps keep the moving parts of a printer safely away from anything that might interfere with, or damage, them.

Staying Clean

Enclosures help keep dust away, but can also perform functions like air filtering and can help with humidity control.

Device Mounting and Cable Management

Mounting and wiring for devices like a webcam, LED lighting, or a Raspberry Pi running OctoPrint becomes much easier and tidier with an appropriate enclosure.

Improved Storage

An enclosure that allows the machine to be more easily moved, or even stacked, can have a lot of value in a workshop where bench space is limited, or printing is only done occasionally. I’ve personally always aimed to have my printers enclosed, at a comfortable working height, and on wheeled bases so that they can be moved as needed.

It is impractical to have an enclosure attempt to do everything, which means that features need to be chosen carefully to match needs. This is especially true if costs are to be kept to a minimum. However, a number of factors complicate this.

Complications Abound

Anyone can make a great enclosure if money and materials aren’t a factor. But if the goal is to implement a design both cheaply and effectively, the issues below make that more of a challenge.

  • Fire resistance will rule out some materials, increasing costs. For example, if fire resistance is a priority then designs built around wood or cardboard cease to be an option.
  • Durability usually comes with expense, either because durable materials cost more, or because durable materials are simply more difficult to work with. Both increase production costs.
  • Costs rapidly add up for common materials like aluminum extrusions and acrylic sheets, when used in quantities necessary to enclose a printer. The size and weight of these components also makes them more expensive to ship.
  • Enclosures need windows and doors of some kind so one can see what’s going on, as well as have easy access for print removal, filament loading and unloading, and maintenance. Adding windows and doors always complicates a design.
  • One size absolutely does not fit all. Printer size and shape — as well as related issues like filament feed location and direction — are not standardized, but have a big impact on enclosure design.

Doing Everything Isn’t Practical

Creality’s soft-shell enclosure hits an attractive price point, but only serves some needs.

Accommodating every need while still being both economical and effective is impractical, and also probably impossible. Therefore, enclosure designs need to pick and choose their features, with the result being that not everything works for everyone. This goes a long way toward explaining the seemingly endless variety of design solutions that greet people who look online for printer enclosures.

Aside from DIY solutions, there have been efforts to create enclosures that can be offered as products. Here are a few of the very different approaches organizations have taken to try to make enclosures easier:

  • Prusa Research has a DIY option with a few variations. In this blog post discussing their first version, Prusa revealed that they had designed an enclosure, but couldn’t get the price low enough after considering cost of materials, shipping, and packing. They instead opted to release a DIY design that relies on people using locally-sourced materials, based mainly around the IKEA LACK table, acrylic panels, and 3D-printed parts.
  • Creality is offering a “soft” enclosure option that is sized for specific printer models. They look similar to grow tents for plants, providing some useful features at a sub-$100 price point.
  • OpenBuilds offers a modular enclosure system which is solid, durable, and configurable. It comes at a price, however, and panels are not included.

Even DIY Enclosures Can Get Expensive Easily

The Prusa Printer Enclosure V2 uses readily-available materials.

I want to share a quick word on costs. I discovered first hand how quickly and easily enclosures can get expensive when I built my own Prusa Printer Enclosure V2.

I used locally-sourced materials whenever possible, but it was surprisingly expensive by the time I was finished. I needed two LACK tables, three spools of PETG filament (for over 2 kg worth of printed parts), an acrylic sheet from a local supplier (which they cut into the panels needed at a reasonable price), plus the cost of other hardware like magnets and screws.

According to my spreadsheet, I easily spent over $200 USD on materials alone, and that amount doesn’t even include additional parts I added like fire alarm, caster wheels, and LED lighting. It would have been even more expensive if had I needed to pay shipping on parts instead of picking them up locally.

Designs Must Pick and Choose

A collapsible photo tent can cheaply meet some basic needs. (Photo: Prusa Research)

Unless using a pop-up photo tent as an enclosure will satisfy all of one’s needs, an effective solution that can be manufactured and shipped cheaply remains a considerable challenge. Enclosures aren’t just boxes, and different people have different needs.

Until someone comes up with something very clever, a cheap and effective drop-in solution will remain something plenty of people search for, but few find a satisfying solution to. Still, hackers being hackers, there is no lack of solving one’s own problems when it comes to printer enclosures.

Do you have a favorite solution, or clever idea that would make enclosures easier? We’re sure you do, so let us hear all about it in the comments.

100 thoughts on “3D Printering: Why Aren’t Enclosures Easier?

  1. It seems the general consensus is that PLA is not harmful, but I feel like trash if I sit by my printer for an extended period of time while it’s printing PLA which makes me think the consensus is wrong. I keep hoping someone will find evidence explaining it (a bias I can’t shake I guess).

    It’s hard to justify a fire-safe enclosure when everyone says it’s fine. Wish there was an easy way to filter the air coming off the nozzle to avoid the scale issue of an enclosure.

    1. PLA is harmless IF your room is well ventilated. We’ve had issues with rooms with 30+ printers in them printing PLA 24/7 and not having enough ventilation. People working in that room noticed some health effects and the situation was corrected.
      Another thing that could be happening, is that while it’s harmless, your body could still be reacting to particles in the air. Just like some people are allergic to peanuts.

      As for fire safety, there is a risk. But most 3D printer fires have been electrical in nature, not the plastic itself. The plastic is just extra fuel then, but so can a lot of other things, including electrical wiring. PLA for example gets very luquid before it wants to auto-combust. So it generally will flow away before it can combust, even if you have a run-away temperature of 500C.

      Source: Worked at Ultimaker for 7 years (you might see my name attached to Cura still at certain points)

        1. I only read the third one, but in the data they presented, a PLA printer would have no notable effect on nanoparticle concentration in any real world condition. The ABS filaments, which emitted 1000x more, if placed in it’s own room, was roughly estimated to put off 10x the nanoparticles than in a typical well ventilated space, but as equivalent to a normal household air quality. That, combined with the styrene issues (that we all smell) is a good argument against use of ABS, but PLA comes off as pretty safe.

      1. Since working from home and therefore using my printer a lot for work, I noticed I kept developing a mild sore throat, which after a while I realised correlated with long prints (the printer is unavoidably close to my bedroom). Consequently I’m in the process of building an enclosure with air filtering. I’m primarily printing PLA. I definitely think a precautionary approach should be taken to 3d printing safety.

        1. Interesting, I have been noticing the same sort of issues even though I am only printing with PLA. Thanks for the input. Now, my suspect is validated. Definitely putting my printers in enclosures asap.

  2. If you look at most printers, you’ll see they are not designed to be enclosed. Bed flingers need a large box to cover the larger footprint taken by moving the bed. Most have inverted T shaped frames that limit places to attach enclosure panels. Machines that move the bed in Z are potentially better because the frames tend to be cubic, so attaching panels should be easy, but many use the frame rails as linear guides, or mount the XY mechanism on top of the frame without regard to enclosure. In both cases you essentially have to build a big box that the printer can fit inside.

    Then there’s the electronics. Most printer designs hang the electronics off the frame somewhere, again without regard for enclosure.

    Enclosing a printer is easiest if you design it to be enclosed from the start. Electronics (and maybe motors) should be placed outside the enclosed area, depending on how warm the enclosure will be.

    If you want to get things warm (with a heater) inside the enclosure, it’s a good idea to use enclosure panels that are thermal insulators. PIR foam is cheap and readily/widely available and does not burn if your printer catches fire. Unfortunately, you can’t see through it, and it won’t contribute to frame rigidity. If you want see-through, polycarbonate is your best bet- it will help stiffen the printer’s frame and won’t crack under screw pressure like acrylic. It’s probably pretty nasty stuff if your printer catches fire.

    If you want to print ABS reliably, you need a heated bed and a heated enclosure. I find 50C enclosure temperature allows reliable ABS printing without warping or delamination.

    I wrote a blog post on designing a printer for printing ABS here: https://drmrehorst.blogspot.com/2018/01/building-or-upgrading-for-reliable-abs.html It covers enclosure, heaters, etc.

    1. what’s your humidity? I can’t get my Mandalorian helmets to not split in my Voron v2.4 with 58C on the chamber thermistor – printing with no cooling fan – living in Vegas. and I was wondering if humidity plays a role, as others on the discord don’t have this problem as badly at the same temps.

      1. No idea- whatever the ambient humidity is…
        Are you blowing the air around inside the chamber? You really don’t want to do that unless the temperature is much higher- like the glass transition temp of ABS.

      1. that’s why the industrial printers that NEED an enclosure for whatever reason are mechanically designed so the motors/servos/steppers and electronics are on the outside! tolerance to heat is really relative a lot of steppers are fine even at temperatures between 60-90° C whilst drivers on “hobby” printer start to misbehave way before they fail. cooler electronics is usually better but most printer i have come across tend to have longer cables anyway making the move easy. motors on the other hand…….

          1. Stepper temperature isn’t the problem, even cheap steppers are rated for up to 90°C and even above.
            Problem is electronics, which need to be mounted outside, and as somebody else mentionned here, printers are not designed for enclosures, since enclosures would easily double or triple the price of cheap printers.
            Also I don’t know what is the state of the stratasys patent on enclosed printer, they had supposedly patented the idea of putting the motors outside the enclosure, not sure about that.

          2. Many people have added water cooling to stepper motors using parts made for cooling computers. I am skeptical about the result. Motors are steel and not very good thermal conductors, so you may cool one end of the motor but the other end is still going to be hot. I’ve never seen thermal images of motors with heatsinks or water coolers attached to confirm the performance.

            Fortunately, motors are pretty tolerant of heat.

            I would avoid water cooling a 3D printer (or a computer) because of concerns about possible leaks. I don’t think it’s a matter of if, but when…

        1. Ducting the make-up (fresh) airflow directly onto the heat sensitive components could work, would have the secondary benefit of preheating the make-up air before it gets to your print.

  3. I always wonder if smaller models would be okay in a power vented kitty litter box (The enclosed ones with a powered fan) these typically have activated carbon and zeolite filters in which should cut down the VOCs a bit. Sure the sides are opaque, but you could hole one for a cameral, or make windows. I think you’d have to try catching them when they’re on sale locally though.

  4. Struggling with an FT5 enclosure. Want to mount the panels to the 2020 but not over constrain the aluminum as it expands due to cte. Then there is the issue of easy installation and sealing.
    Thought about magnetic latches to attach the panels but that would be $80 in decent magnets.
    Then there is the ventilation, temp and fire verification, etc….
    Yes enclosures are hard

    1. I 3d printed some corner brackets and epoxied in some little rare earth magnets for the removable panels on my printer enclosure. Seems to work fine and nothing has shifted appreciably despite getting temperature cycled from -5C upto about 40C. I printed the corners in 2 thin L shaped sections which clamp into opposite sides of the aluminium T-slot when the magnets align.
      I will try and post the design if I can find where I stashed the files.

  5. I would love a metal enclosure which is thick enough that if my printer caught fire that fire would be contained within. But I don’t know where to get metal that I can work with cheap enough that I want to spend that much on an enclosure.

    I see a lot of people recommending venting their enclosures to the outside for health reasons. That would certainly be the easiest way to ensure you aren’t breathing all those nano particles. But if you suck air out of you are also sucking air into your enclosure to take it’s place. The air is coming in through the door or through any cracks it might have. There goes your print quality! I want to keep the hot air IN the box so that my parts don’t curl.

    It seems to me that a filter inside the box is the way to go. But a filter that gets those nano particles is expensive! Affordable, healthy, good prints.. choose two.

    An old friend used to tell me that “permanent is 6 months, temporary is 12 years”. I’m on about a year now of using a “temporary” enclosure. It has a wooden bottom, back and frame (flammable) acrylic windows (taped on w/ painters tape) and an activated charcoal filter that does pretty good for eliminating the odor but probably isn’t sufficient for nano particles. But it’s better than when my printer just sat in the open!

    Before this enclosure I took my printer out to the garage to print a bunch of ABS. There was too much air movement, my prints warped badly. I placed a large cardboard box over it and a few towels over that for insulation. That worked! Don’t think you need to spend a ton of money or a big project to solve a problem print! Of course cardboard is even more flammable than wood but I checked on it a lot plus I had the printer sitting on a metal welding table over a cement floor with little nearby that could burn.

    And don’t think that you HAVE to have see through enclosure walls. Octoprint is awesome and a Pi camera plus a light cost a lot less than the four double-walls of acrylic that my dream enclosure would require!

    One other thought, if you do use acrylic, glass, transparent aluminum or whatever to make your enclosure see through you probably won’t be looking through the back as it will likely be against a wall. Instead prop up a mirror along the back wall. Now you have a good view of your print from behind!

    1. I would say a 3d printer fire is really really unlikely – unless its a really terrible design with high power electrical shorting potential there really isn’t much in a 3d printer capable of causing a big fire. The hot end can only really create a horrible smell and melt/charred plastic mess (unless you actually trying to set something easy to ignite on fire with it). Without a serious electrical design flaw its not really more dangerous on the fire front than a laptop – if anything its safer, not being full of very combustible batteries should something serious go wrong… That said if you want to box it up for that extra insurance even thin sheet steel or Aluminium should be fine – it takes significant heat to get either to burn, and with such large surface areas and their good conduction of heat if the box is even remotely close to sealed and you are not pumping in nice fresh air/pure oxygen to keep the fire burning its going to self extinguish pretty quickly – though that depends on just how big the build volume is. Nothing is immune to burning if the situation is correct, but I wouldn’t worry too much about a 3d printer, even the cheapest ones I’ve seen are about as safe as any high powered electronics unless you try to make them fail.

      You don’t have to loose print quality if you vent outside, you have made a deliberate change in pressure, and that pulls in fresh air, but if the internal air of the box is heated (even passively by the hot bed) and circulating it is just a small input of colder air, rapidly dispersed and mixed with the warm air, its just going to make your chamber heating work a little harder. But being in a constrained box its easy to keep the ambient temperature pretty uniform for good printing.

      1. Just so you know, I have actually tested this, and a runaway temperature on an Ultimaker 2 can cause auto-ingnition on PLA. It is not easy, but not impossible. So your statement that is just causes chared material is wrong.
        Burning PLA has no issue in setting more PLA on fire. So once it goes it goes good.

        Modern fireware protects decent against this, but if your printer switches the low side of the heater, and there is a short with the grounded metal bits of the printer. Then no firmware will save you.

        It all requires very specific events, but impossible it is not. I have only seen 2 printers with fire damage, and both where minor (printer was repairable, preventive measures where put in place). But the risk is there.

        1. Also, for those of us with line-powered bed heaters it’s good to keep in mind that SSRs usually fail closed. I would suggest placing a thermal fuse in series with it but just in case a fireproof container wouldn’t hurt!

          I have a typical 12V PCB heater now but I don’t like it. It takes too long to heat and tops out way cooler than the recommended temperature for ABS. I have all the parts to upgrade to a 120V silicone heater. Maybe I’ll do it this weekend.

        2. Aye, nothing is risk free if you want to look at it like that though.. Oh no I shouldn’t breath the air outside in the middle of nowhere, its still got pollen and other dust objects in it and I might get hit by a space debris! I’d hope a 3d printer fire considering the relatively good quality of even the cheapest printers I’ve seen would be barely any higher than the risks of those, certainly cross a road aught to be more dangerous…

          It is good to know of your experiences, out of how many printers where these two failures?

          I don’t do PLA so didn’t care to look into that one, the others I’ve looked at no hot end I’m aware of could go hot enough to get to that ignition temp without failure, and even if they could the plastic would be so free flowing by then its not in the hot-end any more but pooling everywhere, so rather hard to get it to stay put so it can ignite… Its going to take a really really powerful hot-end and very odd situation to make it go.

      2. “I would say a 3d printer fire is really really unlikely – unless its a really terrible design with high power electrical shorting potential there really isn’t much in a 3d printer capable of causing a big fire.”

        Don’t most end up replacing a lot of stuff anyway? There’s a reason a lot is cheap.

      3. It shouldn’t happen but it does. 3d printer fires have been discussed right here on HaD many times. I think I remember reading about a hackerspace burning down because of one but I couldn’t find that in as many pages as I was willing to scroll through just for this reply.

        https://hackaday.com/?s=3d+printer+fire

        Thin metal enclosures might survive a fire but it they also conduct heat which could ignite something outside the case.

      4. TL;DR: If you have wires moving around, you have potential fire risk from fatigued wires starting to arc.

        I feel you’ve not considered a common failure mode in your “fire is really really unlikely”. Any time you are moving cables around, such as the cables in a 3D printer which are following moving parts (such as the gantry moving up and down, direct drive print heads, etc.), then metal fatigue is a real risk. This is compounded if build quality isn’t great (one badly crimped connector, or a solder connector where it should be crimped, or something that’s not stain-relieved well, cables zip-tied too tightly, etc.) and metal fatigue from repeated mechanical movement is accelerated. Once the metal fatigue reaches the point of intermittently interrupting power flow it’s possible arcing will occur, this arcing can generate enough heat to start melting plastic, starting a fire, causing other parts to short, causing more fire risk.

        This doesn’t need to be a “really terrible design with high power”, this can occur on a simple 5v cooling fan.

        I had an “OH SHIT” moment with a Creality CR10S4, I consider myself to be incredibly lucky that I was in the room when it caught fire. There were a number of build quality issues with this printer, like the hot end cooling fan being jammed by part of the bent printer head cover… so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised… One of the wires to the hot end fan appears to have been damaged and started arcing, which melted the wire’s plastic sheathing, causing the fan positive and negative wires to short and quickly heat up, causing other wires in the bundle to start melting and shorting. I smelt something bad and looked to see flames traveling along the cable bundle from the hot end towards the controller at around 10cm per second, it looked rather like a pyrotechnic fuse burning a way in a movie… The cables where melted and shorted all a long the burnt section.

        I’ve had to replace cables to due to fatigue on almost all the brands I’ve used, cheap and main brands (Creality, Prusa, Lulzbot, etc).

        1. Yes a lower power wire can still arc, and it will smell awful, perhaps melt some cable sleeves even set itself on fire. But fire risk beyond the printer itself a mostly metal structure, its pretty minimal – that cable is in the middle of a 3d printer with bugger all fuel, its not hot enough to make the metal burn, probably won’t even ignite a plywood framed printer either, char it certainly but actually igniting solid wood isn’t that easy. So unless you have lined you 3d printer with tinder, doused it some volatile chemical etc its not going to matter much beyond an awful smell almost all the time.

          Heck most of us have mains voltage lamps with various flexible elements, power splitters and extenders etc which get moved around have flexing components – a much fatter spark with greater chance to cause a real fire.

          If you want to be worried about it everything is a fire hazard, as under the right conditions everything burns. Which is why I’d hope we all have fire alarms, and hopefully some means of doing something about a small a fire…

          Which if its electrical is not likely to be a 3d printer – with how many of them are out there now, especially the cheap crappier ones in the hands of kids and artists, who not being engineers (yet at least) are more likely to be cavalier with the risks (like sitting the printer on volatile paint thinner tins – I’ve seen it, though they might have been well vented and empty I don’t know) we should be hearing about a fire caused by one damn nearly every other day… Rather than basically never…

          Yes take Fire safety seriously, its important. But lets be realistic as well lots of things can cause fires, including 3d printers… But a serious house fire is more likely to be cooking or smoking related than from your 3d printer.

          1. Ok, the low voltage wires getting hot was one I wasn’t really thinking about.

            Lamp cords being flexible isn’t really comparable since constant movement isn’t part of their regular use the same way the carriage and bed constantly go back and forth on a printer. Not even a treble light in a busy garage compares.

            If a software or MOSFET failure keeps the hotend on nonstop even a cheap $5 fleabay cartridge can get white hot, more than hot enough to ignite wood, plastic or perhaps even aluminum.

            Then there is the fact I already mentioned, that SSRs tend to fail closed.

            And no, printer frames aren’t always metal, neither are enclosures which we were talking about. Wood frames are pretty common for homemade printers AND enclosures. Then there are the “true” repraps where even the frame is 3d printed plastic.

            And the biggest difference between a 3d printer and any other appliance in your house that gets hot… A semi-large 3d print can take over 24 hours to finish! Not even the Thanksgiving turkey takes that long. It just isn’t practical to sit there and babysit the whole time.

            Finally, we can argue all day about whether or not 3d printers catching fire is a valid concern but that’s pointless. Just use the search bar. This very site, HaD has several articles on the subject including examples where people’s printers DID catch fire.

          2. Ok, happy to see you’ve gone from “3d printer fire is really really unlikely” to “lets be realistic as well lots of things can cause fires, including 3d printers”. I appreciate that change, my main concern about your posts is that they are playing down a serious risk.

            Your making a lots of assumptions about 3D printer setups that you’ve never seen w.r.t. to your fuel: What is on the printer bed (metal? glass? blue tape? foam build pad?), does it have an enclosure, what is the enclosure made of, is there a large print (AKA fuel) on the bed, what is above the print (a shelf? cardboard boxes? IPA? Acetone?), what is next to the printer (another large pile of cardboard boxes?), what is on the wall behind the print (papers, posters, random flammable art that nobody previous realized was flammable), what else is around (fluff? old oily rag? tissue papers?)

            Another consideration is that most of the things in my house (kettle, toaster, monitors, vacuum cleaner, laser printer, wifi router) are a lot more common than 3D printers, they also have undergone more testing and likely have more certification processes than 3D printers, and have a more rigorous assembly process (and larger penalties for making mistake). In contrast to my Bosch Oven with 30Amp 240v power running to it, my Creality CR10S4 is a janky amateur looking thing.

            Also cooking and smoking are human activities, in the majority of cooking related fires it’s not the Bosch Oven (or whatever) that caused the fire by malfunctioning, it’s the human that used it poorly, or forgot about something in the oven/whatever. Comparing something almost everybody has (a kitchen) to something very few people have (a 3D printer) will not provide meaningful data on how safe 3D printers are.

            If you compare only malfunctioning device caused fires, and scale it by percentage of population owning the device, then you may have some more relevant comparisons.

          3. Yeah lamp cords are not comparable at all because nobody runs their office chair over the lead, or pushes the file cabinet into the wall, drags a welder over them – all of which kink the cables rather beyond what they should take. The stresses on AC flex cables can be rather more signifiant than a 3d printer, as properly designed a 3d printer won’t stress the wires at all, bending at the right sort of radius and degree with the right support such that they just won’t wear at all (in the real world nothing is that perfect but a very long life can be expected if done right)

            Yeah a 3d printer made of wood could catch fire more easily than a metal frame – But look at how hard it is to actually ignite solid wood. You drop your red hot fresh off the forge blank on wood it will smoke and char every time, if there’s enough thermal mass in the metal it might manage to put enough energy into the wood to make it really ignite, but its not like just touching anything a bit hot makes solid wood burst into real flames… And even if it does ignite the vast solid flat surface with a little spot on fire isn’t ideal from the fire spreading point of view – there’s a reason you don’t light a 3″ log with your lighter, but get lots and lots of little tinder and twig sized bits going first…

            Even a superb quality heater isn’t going to keep functioning anywhere near the heat needed to melt aluminium, the power wires are pretty much certain to fail long before that and create a nice big air gap (if it can even get that hot).. Sure you can deliberately melt aluminium by resistance heating, if you have a massively insulated box, very large power supply and a fair bit of time… but a single resistor in a massive block of AL exposed to the air just won’t get that hot – the AL conducts heat to well and the air will convect and carry it away – if its even possible to dump enough heat into a hot end sized block from so small an element powered direct from the wall I’d be surprised – probably blow a fuse before you could put that much energy in (at least in air, with gravity, take away the convection currents and its a whole other story) and not being driven straight from the wall but via a few hundred watt maximum psu…

            Now if you dump a runaway hot end right onto something like the print it was working on it might well burn that print as it would seem PLA does ignite at relatively low temps (which I’d never bothered to look at before – so thanks previous poster), but there isn’t much fuel there, and its going to try and melt away from the heat over ignite… So actually causing harm to anything but the printer itself is going to be rare in the extreme – definitely can happen but its not this big common we must all build our 3d printers into bombproof 3″ thick wall ‘fireproof’ safes to keep us alive – you don’t put your fridge/freezer/computer etc in there do? But many people have those on all the time without watching them and it can have the bad part and try to burn just as easily as anything else, heck most folks heat their house with a combustible gas on purpose, the heater and all the gas lines are not in bomb proof boxes either…

            It’s why you should have fire alarms etc – I’m not trying to say a 3d printer can never under any circumstances catch fire – infact I’ve said anything can catch fire under the right environment, just that its not playing with a live grenade dangerous, there is no need to be super paranoid about it. Treat a 3d printer with the same level of care you should any electrical appliance and it should be around as safe as any other electrical appliance…

            Just be sure to have a fire alarm, hopefully extinguisher/blanket – really should have those anyway even if you are not a maker! Heck being a maker have an automaticity triggered extinguisher pointed at the printer if it makes you feel better, its complete overkill, but a fun project that actually could do you some good…

          4. Foldi-One – You seem to have made up your mind so I should probably just let this go. I’ve gotta say though. Your logic sounds good. When you don’t have direct information to answer a question with applying logic to what you do know to make an educated guess is the next best thing.

            But you seem to be completely ignoring the fact that we do have real data to work with.

            There’s no point going over the engineering details of a thing to determine if it can catch fire when we already know that it has happened to others. 3d printer fires are a real thing. They have already happened. Some have even spread to their surroundings. Like I said, just do a simple search.

            You can argue with an engineering drawing but you can’t argue with a pile of ashes.

          5. stupid comment system decided to start a new thread with this.. here it is in the ‘right’ place…

            And PC’s and Electric heaters and just about every other device under the sun has at some point been blamed for a fire. Anything dealing with the angry electric pixies has the potential to start a fire, more so if you are a moron with it.

            But if 3d printers were anywhere near the level of ‘aaaah shiit its not in in a 3″ steel box with argon/nitrogen atmosphere we are all going to burn’ with the thousands of stupidly cheap, rather shoddy but functional ones bought by everyone over recent years we would see a great many more fires. Heck every city in the developed world would probably have had a burned down house by now..

            Its like all technologies it can go wrong, you should take the appropriate care – you don’t surround your oven in tinder, and douse it with flammable stuff on purpose, why would you do so with your 3d printer etc. But lets not go overboard the threat isn’t that high, its just mentioned when one of these catches fire because its all ‘new’ and risky – same way everyone’s all panicled over covid (with some cause) but never thinks about the common flu’s death toll at all, and causing a fuss over moving hydrogen around for hydrogen powered cars, or the lithium in EV batteries, but doesn’t think twice about petrol, diesel, acetaline etc that we ship around in vast quantities with few issues – yes its a problem, but its not a terrible horrible new problem its basically the same dang thing we have be dealing with for decades.

          6. “you don’t surround your oven in tinder, and douse it with flammable stuff on purpose,”

            But any modern oven is two layers of metal box with a nice air gap in between. Going back to my original statement, that’s exactly what I would like to have for a printer enclosure!

          7. And as I said at the very start any old AL or steel sheet will do -there’s a reason lockboxes can be sold as “fireproof” when they are only made of around 1mm thick steel – because its pretty much true, it is proof against almost all fires you can expect to see outside of a lab setting… And unlike an oven which has that air gap as insulation (it can even be stuffed with insulation in some ovens) to give it some hope of functioning efficiently a printer doesn’t really care – overly insulated would actually harm the print quality and perhaps printer itself getting ever hotter in the box… The point being the double layer is not for any fire safety concerns. If fire safety was the concern all those hob/stoves that are an open gas flame, or ceramic heating element you put your pans on would have to be illegal… Or come with some sort of fume hood style containment system… Kind of like a 3d printer really all those exposed hot bits, nobody worries about those, yet many recipes call for leaving a pot simmering for hours (and nobody watches it all that time).

            Enclosures for printer are a great idea to let you print in other materials, or get better quality prints, can’t hurt the air quality either keeping all the fumes and particles contained (though again not always needed). So if you are going to wrap your printer up in something it better not be flash paper, but from a fire safety standpoint it shouldn’t be needed, they just are not that dangerous.

            If you are going to be that concerned you better put all your electronic devices, and the cables in your walls in double walled steel boxes with that air gap, make using your mobile a touch difficult… You don’t have the race car style fire extinguisher systems in your car do you? lots of other daft examples but I think you see the point, its overkill, and its the same thing getting that worried about 3d printers, just have the right basic fire safety stuff everyone should have in the house anyway and treat the device with the right respect and its safe as all the other fire hazards in the home… Which is to say absolutely it can go wrong, but its really not likely to, and the fire alarm lets you do something about it.

    2. Being that I seem to be able by the powers that be; to be able to 3D print unhinged…, I just got back from picking up the first steel shelf I could find locally for surprisingly $20 since I’m wanting to print with PET and stronger material like Nylon maybe next after. Thinking I’m going to save the rest of my PLA for lost PLA casting projects.

      The $20 shelf has solid metal shelves too and the unit isn’t that flimsy since looks like is an old made in the USA one. So appears bonus rescue made in the US mission too and not a super size 2ft deep are larger pallet warehouse style.

      It’s a 34″ x 18″ x 6’er. Next to see what steel or all metal materials I have around to make a little wider shelve where the printer sits and then remove one of the shelves that will be above that shelve.

      Thinking then can use some masonary board or fiber board backer against the wall that will be screwed into in between maybe with an air gap also spacing, along with having I think the same material surrounding too for fire protection and dampening. Probably a concrete deck pad for underneath. Wondering about running some dampener feet down to the floor also if when screwed in isn’t rock solid.

      Also, thinking I can use the other shelves for sprouts and plants to freshen the air up too if I strategically install over the window or maybe slider… even though will be filtered I’m thinking if not piped outside when using filaments other than PEG. Will have to design that airflow circuit I’m thinking so I have two options… with thoughts about if venting outside with a wide range of temperatures to not have the heat exchange adversely impact the work area. I guess and ERV air recirculator would be ideal.

      Thanks for all the ideas… the shelving thoughts never came to mind until reading the article and comments more-so.

      Really can’t justify using one of my server racks either… though can to make a delta design printer if needed and am thinking probably not required for now.

      So, in $150 for this 3D printing system thus far. Nice!

    1. Yeah I wanted to mention this, I heard that even though the FDM patents had expired a long time ago, the patents on an *enclosed* (and heated) FDM printer had not. Pretty sure 3D systems owned them. But looks like they have now as well.

    2. I was gonna say that, I was wondering about when they’d expire, although not sure we’ll see more enclosed printers on the entry market, as it would easily double the price of low end printers like Ender, or Prusa.

  6. You can get Ikea sektion base cabinets in parts, 30″ wide, 30″ high, 24 deep. Double doors and another door as the top.

    https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/sektion-base-cabinet-frame-white-30265386/

    https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/haeggeby-door-white-50267172/

    https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/haeggeby-door-white-30267187/

    https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/utrusta-hinge-w-b-in-damper-for-kitchen-40401784/

    Or maybe build the whole thing from doors? They are finished very nicely and the hinge is soft close, good quality.

    Not the cheapest, but good value for the quality. And it just works.

    I actually have my Ender 3 in the top of a Home Depot garage cabinet. https://www.homedepot.com/p/ClosetMaid-71-75-in-H-x-48-in-W-x-20-5-in-D-Multi-Purpose-Wardrobe-Freestanding-Cabinet-in-White-12336/100580672

    1. Interesting that the Australian IKEA site (ikea.com.au) does not return a product page for SEKTION, but it does show a kitchen photo where it is mentioned, and that’s all – just one hit. I browsed the catalog in case it had a different name, but didn’t spot it.
      I suppose it shows that some countries get a full IKEA range, others don’t.

  7. Just in case my comment got munched, Ikea sektion base cabinet, can get the parts seperately, just click on product details, and packaging, then google the part numberand you can add them to a cart.

  8. Things are even worse if you have a *big* printer like a EnderExtender 400XL, gMax 2, a large delta, or any of the massive 3D Platform printers. Knobby bits bulging out on all sides, motors that are hard to isolate from the build chamber, electronics that are already meters long that need extending… though motors can be replaced with watercooled variants, and you can always build your box bigger, at some point you’re just building a room for your 3D printer.

  9. Old commercial milk refrigerator that was being thrown away + hair dryer + inkbird PID controller + fabricated steel door (glass door was broke) + remoted electronics = nice balmy 45C cabinet temp to print ASA without warping. I don’t think there was more than $150 in the enclosure on wheels. But I was fortunate to have the frig available.

  10. When I wanted to print ABS in my Ender3 I went to the nearest LargeBox and bought a 4×10 sheet of rigid pink home insulation which I whacked into rectangular slabs using my leatherrman and stuck it together with duct tape. I put the whole front on (duct tape) hinges for use as a door and punched a hole and mounted a piece of scrap acrylic as a window. There was a hole in the top to control the temp via venting and a tiny hole in the side for a kitchen thermometer. Total time 2 hours. Total cost about $50. It works great, breaks down easily for storage and I never had a problem with motors or electronics overheating. And of course the foam is flame retardant and makes the printer unhearable. Just saying.

    1. Pink foam is polystyrene, when it burns it produces toxic fumes, flame retardant or no.

      What you really want is PIR foam. It won’t burn or chemically decompose if your printer does catch fire. PIR foam is right next to the pink, blue, and yellow trash at your local home improvement store and costs about $15 for a 4’x8’x1″ sheet.

    2. I built mine out of aluminized insulation board for saunas, aluminum foil tape, concrete paver base on foam feet (cuts 90% of noise), and 100W bulb in a ceramic light-socket for pre-heating the air to around 75’C when closed.

      Keep in mind the prusa style hardware kit we customized was 100% metal, used steel washers and thread-lock blue. The ATX power supply, electronics, and spool holders are all externally mounted.

      on year 5, and only the hot-end/belts needed maintenance..
      oiled before every use… and never needed to replace the bearings with spares…
      There is also a recent smoke alarm and $30 powder fire extinguisher in the shop…
      safety first…. ;-)

      Best of luck.

        1. ah no…. oiled just wear areas like linear bearings, rods, threads and the steppers. Constantly dripping oil like it was made in the 1930s, but also tends to clean particulates off the wear surfaces. It was an arbitrary judgment call, as lithium grease probably would have been less maintenance… but the oil-can already visits most stuff around here anyway… so we kept with what was done here already.

          Also just using GT2 glass filled belts, as the metal-core ones seem to wear in a nasty way on smaller diameter sprockets. I was still surprised those aluminum pulleys lasted as long as they do.

          Eventually GT2 glass filled belts also break up inside, and behave more like an elastic-band after about 2 years. ;-) If you need to regularly adjust the tension all of a sudden, it is probably due to be replaced. Most oils tend to weaken or rot the rubber used for belts and hoses fairly quickly, unless the manufacturer explicitly lists the rubber has resistance to petroleum products like modern automotive parts.
          =)

          1. Steel core belts need very large pulleys or the steel wires will break and the belt will start to stretch. I’ve had glass core belts running for about 6 years in one printer at the makerspace without any issues.

            I think grease is better for the life of the linear guides because it stays in the contact points between the balls and the races and actually lubricates. Oil will get pushed out of the contacts so they will wear.

  11. You guys are WAAAY overcomplicating it. And it’s bonkers that the only options are fabric tents that are $100 and pennies in materials or piecemeal hacks made out of ikea and acrylic. Go to military surplus and buy a Hardigg container in an acceptable size, in aluminum or HDPE, and put a webcam in it. These are airtight so just add whatever holes you need for power, ventilation etc.

    1. I find that cheap/free server racks are the perfect enclosure. The one i grabbed for $150 recently has fans, doors and power boards already built in plus it’s made of steel and can fit multiple printers in it. Not to mention the modular nature of them making it easy to incorporate things like webcams, lights, and somewhere to dispense filament. Hell, if you have the money or the parts, you can even turn the server rack into a 3d printer!

  12. Bear in mind, if you live in a free (part of a) country, you might be able to find somewhat commoditized setups for the people who want to indoor grow certain plants, that will have a tent, and may have filtered ventilation and temperature monitoring and control options. Not saying they’re ideal for everyone, just you might want to look at those options and see if it suits you.

    1. Exactly what I use my Dad’s old inline grow room fan for… mainly for electronics, some plastic and silicone work when I need ventilation. I just routed a dryer hose directly through the room wall to go above the workbench in the workshop. Bummer not having homegrown fresh juice greens and fiber anymore… though best not to living next to the still ranking most violent city in the State.

      Awesome article and feedback.

      Get’s me thinking just 2×2’s for legs and a cost effective source for table tops is all that’s needed with a box fan and HEPA filter… maybe lined with a carbon filter for the VOC’s?

      Maybe even using a used steel shelf with a volume quarantined off. Will have to consider for the MPSM V2 with thoughts and visions of a modified “Colossal Mini V2” extension remix using more aluminum.

      Seems something more pop-up tent style would be the way to go with something like the LowRider2 style larger designs that I’ve been considering for the more fold away on and along the wall capabilities.

      Never thought about moving all the electronics outside the enclosure.

  13. 3D printers have become a common product and i think it is about time they start looking like nice boxes instead of an ugly mess of mecanics, cables and plastic.
    Maybe if the big guys (say Prusa) get in on it we’ll have nicer products.

    Yes, it’s easy and cheap to build an ikea lack based one, but it is huge and ugly. I tore it down and still keep the printer naked.

  14. And PC’s and Electric heaters and just about every other device under the sun has at some point been blamed for a fire. Anything dealing with the angry electric pixies has the potential to start a fire, more so if you are a moron with it.

    But if 3d printers were anywhere near the level of ‘aaaah shiit its not in in a 3″ steel box with argon/nitrogen atmosphere we are all going to burn’ with the thousands of stupidly cheap, rather shoddy but functional ones bought by everyone over recent years we would see a great many more fires. Heck every city in the developed world would probably have had a burned down house by now..

    Its like all technologies it can go wrong, you should take the appropriate care – you don’t surround your oven in tinder, and douse it with flammable stuff on purpose, why would you do so with your 3d printer etc. But lets not go overboard the threat isn’t that high, its just mentioned when one of these catches fire because its all ‘new’ and risky – same way everyone’s all panicled over covid (with some cause) but never thinks about the common flu’s death toll at all, and causing a fuss over moving hydrogen around for hydrogen powered cars, or the lithium in EV batteries, but doesn’t think twice about petrol, diesel, acetaline etc that we ship around in vast quantities with few issues – yes its a problem, but its not a terrible horrible new problem its basically the same dang thing we have be dealing with for decades.

  15. I just built a frame out of pvc and zip tied pre-cut hardboard panels (1x 2×2, 4x 2×4) to it. I keep a 150w heat lamp on a dimmer for more precise temperature control but for the most part it’s off and just the elevated temp from the printer itself is enough to keep nylon dry during long prints.

  16. I faced this issue last year with my Ender 5. My initial concern was not so much fire safety and fumes, but rather temperature control – the fan and/or air conditioner in the room was causing some problems with print quality. But once I began planning an enclosure, I quickly became aware of the fire safety issues and wasn’t happy with any of the solutions I could find. I ended up making my own out of aluminum extrusions and tempered glass. As Donald says above, it wasn’t cheap. Mine came in at about $230, if we ignore a few mistakes here and there. I’m happy with the results, although it’s heavy — 26 kg according to my spreadsheet, the bulk of that weight being the glass panels.

    I posted my drawings on Hackaday.io if you want to see the details:

    https://hackaday.io/project/174476-another-3d-printer-enclosure

  17. I recommend using Dibond (aluminum skinned poly, IIRC) for the enclosure panels and is about 1/4 the cost of acrylic. It works really well and looks good. I had mine cut on a waterjet but it caused some issues with the jet bubbling the aluminum skin off the back side of the sheet…so I would advise a router table unless someone else has a suggestion.

    And like many others have already said. Most of the reprap community based vendors were fearful of a lawsuit from Stratasys so many stayed far away from enclosures. It clearly was not an issue to build them…and everyone knew they helped. It was just a big liability. We discussed it back in the Trinitylabs days…as well as dual extruders which toggled…but the company was too new to be embroiled in a lawsuit and the company never got around to it before it went under.

    From what I have found just the bed heater tends to get the inside of the enclosure hot enough to work really well. Make sure you have no PLA parts inside…may need to move motors and such or add some sort of cooling to them. Many have used fans with metal body power resistors mounted to them as chamber heaters…but if you do so be sure you are controlling everything tightly. Electronics a lot of the times start having issues past 85c too…ambient cooling doesn’t work as well so you will need to be sure none of that is inside.

    Sidenote: Triffid Hunter used to just wrap his printer in a towel when printing ABS :) obviously…that needs to have someone watching it.

  18. My friends and I spent over a year looking for a good enclosure and then going the DIY route. We finally found an awesome enclosure company, makergadgets. They have cool stuff that handles temperature control and air purification, as well as have internal power outlets. I recommend anyone take a look at their enclosures and DIY kits. http://www.makergadgets.org

  19. I just thought using an (second hand) fish tank. With some luck you get one for little money. There are new ones in 50x50x100cm available where my Ender 3 would fit in completely.
    If the glass is drillable and you put the filament outside, you can stack 2 printers in one tank.

    There is no cheap tank available around my place, so I will just cut glass (you get it for free) and silicone the edges together, maybe with an aluminium angle.
    Cutting an drilling glass is not that complicated, so I could build a fireproof case for little money.

  20. I ended up just using a fleece blanket with some C channel screwed to the top of the CR-10. It helps with Noise, print quality and protects my printer. Then with the added IKEA Lack side table under the printer I have all the space I need :-).

  21. No where near $200, more like $40 or $50 at most! Tables are $10 each, you do not need 3 rolls of filament, maybe 1/3 of a single roll so maybe $10, screws show be under $10. Skip the $10 thermometer, and $16 LEDs and it is $40.

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