Maybe you have already seen some of those fancy enclosures people build for their printers. How do they work? And do they work? Today, we will shed some light on this matter! Plus, we are going to dive into patent wars and explain why not all printers come with an enclosure. To top things off, we will even give you a full guide with information on how to build an enclosure for your own printer. But first, let’s start with the fundamental question: what is it good for?
- Stable printing environment – Drafts can negatively impact your print. An enclosure will keep the temperature stable and high. Big differences in ambient and printing temperatures can lead to warping and shrinking of the printed object, especially when printing with ABS. Layer adhesion may also improve with higher ambient temps.
- Reduce and contain smell – Some filaments (looking at you, ABS!) can release unpleasant fumes during printing. An enclosure will contain these fumes, and you can quickly vent them outside through an open window when the print finishes.
- Noise reduction – As if you needed the MK3 to be any quieter 🙂 But another level of sound isolation can’t hurt, especially if you place the enclosure next to your work desk or in a living room.
- Dust collection – The bearings and smooth rods will appreciate the reduced amount of dust that settles on your printer.
- It’s fun to build 🙂
However, if you’re not printing with ABS or other high-temperature filaments that suffer from warping, you won’t see much of a difference. You might actually want to keep the enclosure open with, for example, PLA to ensure there’s enough cool air around the printer for the part cooling fan.
Why aren’t all the printers on the market enclosed by default?
There are two factors here – price and patents. There is no doubt that the rise of consumer 3D printers was delayed by patents. Companies like Stratasys, Zcorp or 3D Systems have patented nearly every 3D printing technology you can think of. It’s pretty crazy when you look at the sketches from 1980s-1990s and realize just how much some of the current 3D printers are similar to them.
It was only after these key patents expired in 2009 (20 years after application) that the RepRap movement started. And cheap, easy-to-build 3D printers quickly started to be developed. Even though most of these basic patents have already expired, some of them (most importantly the ones owned by Stratasys) are either still active, or have just recently expired. For example, Stratasys’s (still active) patent describes an apparatus “That builds up three-dimensional objects in a heated build chamber” (…) “The motion control components of the apparatus are external to and thermally isolated from the build chamber.” That means if you put the stepper motors outside of an enclosure, you can’t sell the product, as it would violate the patent.
Another obstacle is the price. We have considered and even developed a Prusa enclosure quite a while ago. It was made mostly of Plexiglass. Our target was $90 price tag and considering the packing, shipping and material cost, we just couldn’t make it work. It makes much more sense to build the enclosure yourself from locally sourced materials.
How hot should the enclosure be and can the PSU stay inside?
Let’s get something straight, we are not targeting really high temperatures inside the enclosure. You don’t need an extra heater. The printer itself produces a lot of heat and all you have to do is to not let it escape. The goal is to achieve stable temperatures without any sudden changes from wind or draught. Even just 35°C inside the enclosure will make a massive difference, increase layer adhesion and may prevent ABS from warping.
The PSU is not made to work in extremely hot environments. By keeping the PSU in temperatures above 40-50°C can significantly shorten its lifespan. Ideally, you’d place the PSU outside the enclosure. You can even place the LCD outside to be able to control the printer without letting the hot air out.
2 simple enclosures
Photo studio tent – no work required at all
An enclosure can often be created from an object originally made for a completely different purpose. This photo tent can be bought on eBay or Aliexpress for about $15. And all you have to do is place the printer inside the tent. It’s made of textile material, which means it’s porous. A textile enclosure won’t let you reach crazy high temperatures, so you can even keep the PSU inside. We reached temperatures around 38°C after 10 minutes of printing inside a room with the ambient temp. of 26°C – that’s a significant improvement. And as a bonus, you have a photo tent for your prints 🙂
Ikea Lack – when you care about looks as well
Using Ikea Lack as an enclosure is the most popular choice among the 3D printing community. If you search online, you’ll find dozens of Ikea Lack enclosure designs. The table can be bought for under $10 and has almost the perfect size for Prusa printers. You can stack the tables on top of each other to create bays for multiple printers, or use one as filament and tools storage. Even though some of the existing enclosure designs are pretty good, we wanted to give it our own spin.
Advantages of our enclosure
- PSU placed outside in a clip-on holder, but easily placed back if you need to move the printer
- LED lighting connected to the printer’s PSU
- Hinges built into corner extensions
- Double-door opening
- Individual tables can be lifted at any time
What you’ll need
- 2x or 3x Ikea LACK table
- 4x Neodymium magnets 20mm x 6mm x 2mm
- 3x Plexi 440 x 440 mm, 3mm thick (if you’re in the US, try Queen City Polymers)
- 2x Plexi 220 x 440 mm, 3mm thick
- Fire/smoke detector
- Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer
- LED stripe 24V, 30 cm
- 24V for MK3, 12V for MK2/S
- If you want to use a 12V LED strip with the MK3, use a separate power supply.
- Twin cable, 100 cm
- 2x WAGO 221 or similar compact lever connector
- 12x 6×20 mm (12 x 3/4″)
- 4x 6×50 mm (12 x 2″)
- Upper table (enclosure box)
- Lower table (support table)
- Spool holders
- Philips screwdriver
- Allen keys
- Super Glue
- Drill + 3 mm wood drill + 10 mm wood drill
- Measuring tape
Enclosure (upper table) assembly
Upper corner standoffs installation
Attaching the legs
For about $12, you can buy an LED strip with a power supply, like this one. However, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous and have some experience with wiring up electronics, you can power the LEDs directly from the printers power supply. Remember, that the MK3 runs on 24V, whereas MK2/S runs on 12V, so make sure you buy the correct LEDs.
Smoke detector installation
Bottom corner standoffs installation
Before you start screwing the bottom standoffs, make sure you place the Plexiglass in first. As soon as you tighten the standoffs, the Plexiglass will be fixed in place, and you won’t be able to remove it. This means you can easily lift this section of the enclosure without worrying that the glass would fall out. Note, that one of the four standoffs has a hole for cable pass-through. Make sure you place this standoff on the left side so that the cables can be routed directly to the EINSY board.
Support table (lower table) assembly
Electronics do not thrive in higher temperatures inside the enclosure. To preserve PSU in good condition, it’s better to place it out of the box. It is even safer!
- Unplug the printer from the power socket. Remove zip ties on the frame to release PSU cables. (Tighten the rest of the cables with new zip ties.)
- Disconnect the cables from the EINSY board. Do not forget to unplug the Power panic sensor as well.
- Unscrew the PSU form the frame.
- Hold the PSU next to the rear left leg (the one with the cable pass-through). Tighten the PSU holder printed part with two screws and then install PSU catcher printed part.
- PSU is now fixed, but it is possible to slide it out when you need it.
- You can replace the PSU on the frame with this printed part to ensure the rigidity of the frame.
Frame brace and right-angle cable cover
After removing the power supply from the frame, it’s possible to replace it with a printed part and ensure frame stiffness. The heatbed cables may hit the plexiglass in the back of the enclosure. To prevent this from happening, print an alternative 60 degree heatbed cable cover. (EDIT: Users reported several problems with the right angle one shown in the video and on the pictures below, so we switched the suggestion to the 60 degree one).
Plugs fixing and magnetic handles
Fix the four bottom plugs. One of them has a hole for cable pass-through. Place it in the rear left corner of the enclosure. Glue two magnets to the door stopper and screw it to the front of the table. Leave enough space for the plexiglass and the handles (1 cm).
Now just stack the two tables on top of each other and the enclosure is complete. Optionally, you can add another Ikea Lack table to the bottom to raise the printer to a more comfortable height.