Silencing A 3D Printer With Acoustic Foam Isn’t That Easy

3D printers are supremely useful tools, but their incessant whining and droning can be distracting and tiresome. [Handy Bear] decided to try some simple ways to quieten down their printer using acoustic foam, with mixed results.

The video starts by exploring two different acoustic foams; one black, one white. The latter was found to hold a flame when ignited, making it a poor choice for a 3D printer with many hot components. The black foam, advertised for use in automotive installations, was reluctant to burn at all, and so made a safer choice.

The UP Mini 3 printer is then disassembled to receive its soundproofing treatment. The printer’s various panels all got a healthy lashing of thick sticky insulating foam. This took some work, thanks to the need to cut around various ribs and screw bosses on the panels. Cut appropriately, though, the printed was able to be reassembled neatly with its foam hidden inside.

Unfortunately, the work didn’t have a great effect on the printer’s sound output. That’s perhaps unsurprising, given it still has uninsulated panels like the front window which are still free to radiate sound. The foam did help cut down on fan noise and high-pitch sounds from the printer, but the annoying medium and low pitched noises from the printer’s motors were still very audible.

Using an enclosure or a quieter stepper driver are probably more effective DIY methods to quiet a noisy printer; share your own ideas in the comments. Video after the break.

23 thoughts on “Silencing A 3D Printer With Acoustic Foam Isn’t That Easy

  1. Make it quieter by placing it on top of a piece of those excersize mats you can get cheaply…the extra noise usually comes from the vibration translating into a solid object like a desktop, then gets amplified by it’s harmonic resonance

  2. Some things that can help:

    1. Better stepper drivers, as mentioned at the end of the article. Smooths out the vibrations before they happen.

    2. Panel damping. The video used acoustic foam. That won’t help. Need heavy panel damping material.

    3. Decouple the noisy motors from the printer frame. You can get stepper motor isolation mounts that help. E.g.

    4. Decouple the printer from the desk. A common trick is to put the printer on a heavy garden paver, and put that on a layer of foam: printer > paver > foam > desk.

    The best thing I did to quieter my printer down was to swap it for a prusa mini. They are pretty quiet.

  3. Tom above hit the high points. Acoustic foam is near-useless in this application.

    My printer is in a heavy fire resistant box with walls of 12 mm cement board + 11 mm plywood. The door is thick heat-resistant glass, with silicone gaskets. Venting is through ducts to outdoors. Can’t hear it running over the whisper of the airflow in the exhaust duct.

  4. Given that the printer operates in a container, I wonder about the feasibility of a system consisting of an inward-pointed speaker, and external electret mike to measure the escaping noise, and a DSP engine to generate anti-noise…think Bose noise-cancelling headphones turned inside out.

  5. I lost 10 dB by putting my printer on a 15kg stone tile (4 EUR), itself on a 10mm recycled rubber mat (about 10 EUR) typically used for washing machines. I lost 10 more dB by building a plywood enclosure, with cork panels inside (75 EUR). You barely hear a thing, and no molten plastic smell.

  6. First deaden the source then add an acoustic hood ..
    Acoustic foam is a bit of a joke, studio sound absorbing panels are made from high density glass fibre, not even loft insulation will work.

    1. Noise is extremely model specific. The loudest part of my old printer was the stepper motors. The drivers used a PWM frequency in the range of human hearing, so any time the steppers were on you’d hear a fairly loud hum. The fans were loud too, so I swapped them with Noctuas. I never got rid of the swish-swish sound of the linear bearings on the rails or rods or the thunk-thunk of the whole printer resonating with movement changes. Those don’t bother me as much as the whine of the motors did.

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