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. Continue reading “3D Printering: Why Aren’t Enclosures Easier?”

Prusa Mini Gets Custom Heavy Duty Enclosure

Still waiting on your Prusa Mini to arrive? Join the club. Between the incredible amount of interest in the inexpensive 3D printer and the COVID-19 pandemic, it can take months for the machine to arrive at your doorstep. But patient makers are finally taking delivery of their new printers, and as such the hacks and modifications are starting to trickle their way in.

First up is this gloriously over-engineered enclosure from [Build Comics]. While PLA and PETG usually print fine with nothing more exotic than a heated bed, trickier materials like ABS work best when the printer is enclosed as it helps maintain a consistent temperature. Plus it keeps any curious hands and paws a safe distance from the hot moving bits, and if things go really pear-shaped, can help contain smoke and flames.

The enclosure is made from welded steel square tube, wood, and fire-retardant fiber board. A hinged polycarbonate cover, taking the form of a four-sided cube, is lowered over the printer with some heavy-duty hinges that look like they were intended for a fence. To keep the cover from slamming back down, [Build Comics] came up with a simple locking mechanism that can easily be operated from the front or side of the enclosure. With the addition of a small temperature and humidity display, the conditions inside the chamber can easily be monitored.

But [Build Comics] didn’t stop there. He also rigged up a relay box that will cut power to the printer should the smoke detector mounted above it trip. While there’s no reason to think the Prusa Mini would suffer the same fate of earlier budget desktop 3D printers, but there’s certainly no harm in taking precautions.

Will you need to build a similar enclosure whenever your Prusa Mini shows up? Maybe not. But if you felt so inclined, at least now you’ve got plenty of images and details that can help you spin up your own solution.

Scratch Built 3D Printer Goes Big

There was a time, not so very long ago, that buying a reliable 3D printer was a fairly expensive proposition. Many chose to build their own printer instead, and for a few years, we were flooded with very impressive custom designs. But as you might expect, with the prices on decent 3D printers now having hit rock bottom, the custom builds have largely dried up.

Arguably, the only reason you’d build rather than buy in 2020 is if you want something very specific. Which is precisely how [Joshendy] ended up building the Big F… Printer or BFP. No doubt the F stands for Fun, or Friendly. Either way, it’s certainly something special. With a 300 mm³ build volume and heavy-duty Z axis, this fully enclosed CoreXY machine is ready to handle whatever he throws at it.

It did take [Joshendy] a few attempts to get everything the way he wanted though. In fact, the prototype for the machine wasn’t even CoreXY, it started as an H-Bot. In his write-up he goes over the elements of the BFP did that didn’t quite live up to his expectations, and what he replaced them with. So when wobbly leadscrews and a knock-off V6 hotend both left something to be desired, they ended up getting replaced with ball screws and an authentic E3D Hemera, respectively.

To control this monster, [Joshendy] is using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi and a BigTreeTech SKR Pro running Klipper. OctoPrint gives him the ability to control and monitor the printer remotely, complete with a camera mounted inside the enclosure to keep an eye on things, while the Klipper firmware on the SKR board pushes all the computationally expensive aspects of 3D printing onto the vastly more powerful ARM chip in the Pi. The end result is faster and more accurate control of the steppers through the TMC2130 drivers than would be possible otherwise.

If you don’t mind tinkering, a cheap entry-level desktop 3D printer is good enough for most of hackers and makers. If you need something more capable or more reliable, there’s always higher-end options from the likes of Prusa and Ultimaker. Very few people need to build something as serious as the BFP, but when the do, we’re glad they send them our way.

Continue reading “Scratch Built 3D Printer Goes Big”

Stackable Open Source 3D Printer Enclosure

One of the unfortunate realities of desktop FDM 3D printing is that environmental factors such as ambient temperature and humidity can have a big impact on your results. Even with the exact same settings, a part that printed beautifully in the summer can warp right off the bed during the winter months. The solution is a temperature-controlled enclosure, but that can be a daunting project without some guidance. Luckily, [Jay Doscher] has spent the last few months designing a very impressive enclosure that he’s released to the community as open source.

While we’ve seen no shortage of DIY printer enclosures over the years, they tend to be fairly lightweight. But that’s not the case here. Obviously not wanting to leave anything to chance, [Jay] designed this enclosure with 2020 extrusion and aluminum side panels. You could probably sit on the thing with no ill-effects, which is good, since he also designed the enclosure to be stackable should your print farm need to expand vertically.

Of course, there’s more to this enclosure than just an aluminum box. It’s packed with features like an integrated Raspberry Pi for running Octoprint, internal and external environmental monitoring with the Adafruit SHT31-D, and a Logitech Brio 4K video camera to watch the action. While not currently implemented, [Jay] says he’s also working on an internal fire suppression system and a fan controller system which will circulate air inside the enclosure should things get a little too toasty.

The enclosure has been designed around the ever-popular Prusa i3 MK3/S, even going so far as to relocate the printer’s display to the outside so you don’t have to open the door to fiddle with the settings. But adapting it to whatever rig you happen to be running shouldn’t be a problem. Though admittedly, perhaps not as easy as adjusting an enclosure made out of metal shelving.

Continue reading “Stackable Open Source 3D Printer Enclosure”

Temperature Controlled Fan Keeps Printer Cool

There are many annoying issues associated with desktop 3D printers, but perhaps none are trickier than keeping the machine at the proper temperature. Too cold, and printed parts can warp or fail to adhere to the bed. Too hot, and the filament can get soft and jam, or the motors will start clanking and missing steps. High-end industrial 3D printers have temperature-controlled enclosures for precisely this reason, but the best you can hope for with a printer that’s little more than some aluminum extrusion and an Arduino is a heated bed that helps but is no substitute for the real thing.

Like many 3D printer owners chasing perfect prints, [Stephen Thone] ended up putting his machine into a DIY enclosure to help keep it warm. Unfortunately, there gets to be a point when things get a little too hot inside the insulating cube. To address this issue, he put together a simple but very elegant temperature controlled fan to vent the enclosure when the internal conditions go above the optimal temperature.

[Stephen] picked up the digital temperature controller on Amazon for about $4 USD, and found a 60mm fan in the parts bin. He then came up with a clever two-part printed enclosure that slides together to make the fan and controller one unit which he can place in a hole he cut in the enclosure.

A lot of attention was paid to the front panel of the device, including mid-print filament swaps to create highlighted text and separate buttons printed in different colors. The end result is a very professional looking interface that involved relatively little manual labor; often a problem when trying to come up with nice looking panels.

Whether it’s to keep from breathing ABS fumes, or to quiet the thing down enough so you can get some sleep, it looks like an enclosure of some type is becoming the latest must-have 3D printer accessory.

This 3D Printer Enclosure Takes Ventilation Seriously

A lot of work has gone into hacking common items (like IKEA Lack tables) into useful and effective 3D printer enclosures, but [Stefan.Lu] has taken a harder look at the whole business. He decided to start with some specific goals that were unmet by current solutions. In particular, he wanted to allow for proper ventilation and exhaust. Not only do some filaments smell bad, but there is ongoing research around UFP (ultra-fine particles) emitted from the 3D printing process. Just in case UFPs turn out to be this generation’s asbestos or something equally terrible, [Stefan.Lu] felt that a bit more work and expense up front would be worth it to meet his goals of a ventilation-friendly enclosure.

In addition to ventilation and exhaust, [Stefan.Lu] wanted to locate the printer at a comfortable working height, and preferred not to build things entirely from scratch. He did it for well under $200 by using a common storage rack shelf as the foundation and acrylic panels for the sides, and a few thoughtful uses of basic hardware. The angled metal supports made for easy attachment points and customization, and a combination of solid shelf plus anchoring to the wall put an end to vibrations. The side panels are secured by magnets, and [Stefan.Lu] points out that if you don’t have access to a laser cutter, cast acrylic withstands drilling and cutting better than extruded acrylic.

The final touch was a fire alarm, which is an excellent precaution. 3D printers are heating elements with multiple moving parts and they often work unattended. It makes sense to have a fire alarm around, or at least not enclose the device in highly flammable material in the first place.