Enclosures for 3D printers are not exactly a new concept and for good reason, there are many advantages you get from having an enclosed build area. These advantages come in two overlapping categories; improved print quality and improved conditions for people.

Enclosures improve print quality

When a material cools it contracts, for example 30 cm of ABS at the printing temperature (~240ºC) shrinks by ~5 mm when cooled to room temperature. This is why many 3D printers have heated print beds in order to help the printed parts stay adhered to the print bed. Heated print beds help minimise the shrinking of the first layers but as the print gains height the effect is lost.

Imagine the hot ABS deposited onto a cooled layer below which has already shrunk, these layers will fuse together and then the hot plastic will contract, squeezing the layer below. As this process is repeated over and over again, the force builds up, causing the part to warp. Sometimes this force builds up to be stronger than the bonding between layers, and the print splits.

Reducing the temperature difference between the molten extruded plastic, and the solidified printed layer below it, helps reduces these stresses, resulting in less warping and cracks.

Enclosures keep humans happier

There are also a few reasons why enclosing the printer is a good idea for the people nearby. Firstly, 3D printers can be noisy and while this isn’t much of a problem in the day time, at night the noise can be a nuisance and keep people in nearby rooms awake.

As well as the noise problem, 3D printers filaments release gasses when they are heated. The levels of these gasses for different 3D printers, and filament types has been studied by Parham Azimi et al. and can be found in this paper (open access). Not only do these fumes lead to bad smells, but they can also be quite harmful to your health.

For these reasons, we have decided to build an enclosure, and detail the design, construction and any subsequent modifications/improvements we make along the way. Stay tuned!