What Is a 3D Printer Enclosure & Can You Build Your Own?
File settings, printer parts, and an array of other factors impact the quality of every 3D print that you produce. An enclosure can be an excellent tool for those who want to improve the quality of their 3D printing projects, but what exactly does a 3D printer enclosure do?
Let’s take a look at the key features of a 3D printer enclosure, along with some ideas that can help you to build your own.
Enclosed vs. Open 3D Printers
When most people think about 3D printers, they will imagine a bony-looking frame-type design like the one in the image above. For hobbyists, common printers like the Creality Ender 5 and the Original Prusa i3 are very popular choices, but most of the printers in this price range don’t come with enclosures.
The Strateo3D IDEX420 3D (pictured above) is a fully enclosed 3D printer featuring plastic paneling that is wrapped around a heavy-duty steel frame. As you can see, this type of machine looks quite different from the types of 3D printers that most hobbyists choose to buy.
Fully enclosed 3D printers aren’t the only option. Many of today’s 3D printer manufacturers offer enclosures to fit specific printers, and you can even find generic enclosures that can do a good job. It’s important to keep in mind that some “enclosed” 3D printers actually have open tops, making them far more similar to open 3D printers.
The Key Benefits of an Enclosed 3D Printer
Keeping your 3D printer enclosed can seem a little over-the-top, especially when you’re used to very forgiving materials like PLA. There are plenty of excellent reasons to choose a 3D printer with an enclosure, though, and this goes beyond simply making your machine look cool.
More 3D Printing Materials
Warping, poor adhesion, and other 3D printing problems can often be caused by the environment around a printer. Warping, for example, is usually caused by a temperature differential between the top and bottom of the object that is being printed. With materials like PLA and PETG, a heated bed can be enough to solve this issue.
Materials like ABS and nylon are near-impossible to print effectively without an enclosure. You need to be able to control the temperature surrounding your prints, stop airflow from cooling the material early, and minimize dust and other debris while printing. An enclosure can help you to achieve all of these goals, making it possible to print with a wider range of materials.
Improving 3D Printing Quality
Improving 3D printing quality takes time, effort, and knowledge, at least in most cases. Using an enclosure can be an easy way to skip the hard steps, giving you higher-quality prints thanks to the greater control we mentioned in the last section. Most 3D printing hobbyists are very happy to be able to achieve this goal by simply covering their printer.
Health & Safety
There are a lot of questions around the web surrounding 3D printing and safety. PLA is widely considered to be safe to print with adults, children, and pets in the room, but materials like ABS can be more dangerous.
As an example, ABS releases a carcinogenic substance called styrene gas when it is heated up. Using an enclosure can help you to trap this gas, venting it out of the building using fans and ducting, to make your print space safer.
Having an enclosure on your printer also provides a line of defense between the machine and your children/pets. Young people and animals won’t always understand the danger of a working 3D printer, but you can keep them safe without having to stop your project.
It’s no secret that 3D printers can be very noisy. Fans, stepper motors, and even PCBs can make a racket when you are using your printer, but an enclosure can help to dampen these sounds and make the printer easier to live with. This is great for 3D printing hobbyists who have to share their space with other people who may not be quite as enthusiastic about 3D printers.
Buying a 3D Printer Enclosure
Getting your hands on a pre-made 3D printer enclosure can be achieved in a couple of different ways. Budget will often be the most significant constraint that people will face when choosing an enclosure, so we have organized this from most expensive to cheapest.
3D Printers With Enclosures
Buying a 3D printer that already has an enclosure is arguably the most expensive route to go down. This is only because you are also buying a new printer at the same time, though, so it may not be such a bad option for those already in the market for a machine.
The Creality CR-200B represents the most affordable end of this market, but this printer comes with a small build volume: just 200mm x 200mm x 200mm. The FlashForge Creator 3 is considerably more expensive but features dual extruders and a much larger build volume, and you can find other fully enclosed printers from different companies.
An Enclosure for Your 3D Printer
As 3D printing retailers stock an increasingly wide variety of printing materials, enclosed printers are becoming more popular. This has prompted companies like Creality to sell their own 3D printer enclosures that are “designed” for the printers they sell. In reality, these enclosures are very similar to indoor plant growing tents, though this doesn’t mean that they don’t perform.
Generic 3D printer enclosures can also be found on the market. Buying the right product can be trickier when you go down this route, as you will have to measure your own printer to make sure that you buy the right size.
Building a DIY 3D Printer Enclosure
Finally, it’s time to discuss the most popular way to get your own 3D printer enclosure: building it yourself. DIY 3D printer enclosure projects can be found across the web, making it nice and easy to get started. You even have one of the key tools you’re going to need: a 3D printer.
DIY 3D Printer Enclosure and Standing Desk
This DIY 3D Printer Enclosure and Standing Desk by Morley Kert is a large option for printers that have significant build volumes, but it can be scaled down to fit your machine. You will need woodworking skills (and some power tools), a range of materials, and, of course, a 3D printer to complete this project.
Once completed, this tall 3D printer enclosure can act as a standing desk with an additional cabinet for your 3D printing tools and accessories.
DIY 3D Printer Enclosure for Under $50
While you may not be able to get exactly the same materials as used in the project video, this low-cost DIY 3D printer enclosure by Just Barran demonstrates creativity and ingenuity. Very few projects of this nature can be achieved so affordably, especially when the end result looks so good.
The enclosure itself can be upgraded with fans to give you the ability to ventilate the enclosure with ducting or simply into the space around you.
IKEA 3D Printer Enclosure
If you’ve been interested in 3D printing for some time, it’s likely that you’ve seen ideas like this IKEA 3D printer enclosure by BaldGuyDIY before. You will need to 3D print some brackets, get your hands on some acrylic, and put together some IKEA furniture, but this option is easy, tidy, and fits many of the most popular printers on the market. Adding some lighting, fans, and even cameras can be excellent upgrades for this enclosure.
Using a 3D Printer Enclosure
3D printer enclosures are great tools for hobbyists and professionals alike. Improving your print quality, the range of available printing materials, and the safety of your 3D printing, even DIY enclosures are a great choice. That said, you could always choose a 3D printer that already comes with an enclosure.
Want to buy a 3D printer but don’t quite understand the basics? Follow our beginners guide to learn how to 3D print today.
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