3D Printing requires specific conditions to be successful, and some printers have an enclosure to improve printing conditions. While these enclosures can be helpful when printing with potentially toxic and warp-prone filaments, an enclosure can make your 3D printing experience better across the line, even if you’re just printing with PLA.
PLA prints better with an enclosure, but you do not necessarily need an enclosure to print with PLA. 3D Printing with an enclosure keeps heat, PLA fumes, and noise in while keeping drafts out and the temperature under control. Still, PLA should print well without one.
In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits of using an enclosure, whether you print with PLA or any other filament. I’ll also tell you more about the temperature control and ventilation options when using an enclosure so you can weigh the pros and cons of using one.
Why an Enclosure Is Unnecessary for PLA Printing
Though enclosures do wonders for the quality of a 3D print, they’re not entirely necessary for filaments like PLA.
Here’s why you won’t need a 3D printer enclosure when printing PLA:
- 3D printers have excellent temperature regulation. The machine constantly monitors its temperature and allows users to change it depending on the print material and quality. You can change these settings anytime to suit the material and print time.
- Adequate ventilation. While many 3D printing filaments release toxic fumes, PLA is relatively safe.
- PLA isn’t prone to warping. When any hot material cools, it shrinks. During 3D printing, this shrinkage can result in warping and layer delamination, ruining your prints. However, PLA prints at a low enough temperature that it does not often warp much, so you do not need the extra insulation of a 3D printer enclosure.
Benefits of an Enclosure for PLA Printing
While you won’t need an enclosure to print PLA, using one can be beneficial when printing with any material. Including an enclosure in your 3D printing setup can enhance the safety and quality of your prints and protect you in the process.
Here are the benefits of using one:
- Better temperature control. 3D Printers have advanced temperature-control technology, but including an enclosure creates less heat loss and lessens temperature fluctuations that could cause warping or layer delamination.
- Shields against dust. Dust and grime can be highly detrimental to prints and printers alike. If dust builds up inside the hotend, it could clog it and affect the print quality. Enclosures block out dust, dander, hair, and other particles that might stick inside your printer or filament.
- Protects against moisture. If the filament gets humid, the machine won’t be able to extrude it. It’ll clog the nozzle, or the prints will be stringy, bubbly, and weak if it does extrude. An enclosure can block out humid air, protecting your filament from moisture.
- Protects the user. 3D Printers can reach temperatures over 500°F (260°C). If anyone accidentally touches the printer while operating, it could cause serious injury. An enclosure removes the risk of accidental harm.
- Decreases noise. 3D Printers are mechanical and don’t work silently. Using an enclosure to deafen some noise will make it less distracting and more bearable to work with for extended periods.
3D Printing Enclosures and VOCs
Daily exposure to the heat and fumes generated by various kinds of filament will negatively affect your health. Enclosure or not, it’s crucial to have a great understanding of ventilation if you’re working with 3D printers.
PLA releases lactide, a volatile organic compound (VOC), when melted. Lactide is a reasonably harmless chemical, and PLA is probably the safest filament to use.
However, there’s little known about what prolonged exposure to this chemical will do to the user. So, having an enclosure to contain PLA fumes is an excellent method for added safety.
The benefits of using an enclosure for your safety are particularly pertinent in areas with poor ventilation. If your printing room or any place you keep and operate the printer has inadequate ventilation, you might suffer respiratory symptoms or other side effects from prolonged exposure.
Exposing yourself to heat and chemicals for hours at a time will take a toll, but having an enclosure lessens these effects significantly.
You can read more about the different filaments and their toxicity levels at CleverCreations.
How To Properly Ventilate a 3D Printer
You may need to add some extra features to an enclosed 3D printer to prevent overheating. However, these are relatively simple fixes and don’t negate the benefits of an enclosure.
So, here are some safety measures that can help you stay healthy and keep your prints in the best shape possible:
- Use windows and fans. Usually, just opening a window will help to ventilate a space. Fans effectively ventilate a room quickly and consistently if this isn’t an option. You can also use an exhaust fan like this Nalle Extractor Exhaust Ventilation Fan (available on Amazon.com) to reduce emissions. This one is an energy-efficient, high-power solution for ventilation.
- Install an air purifier. Even if a room has decent airflow, trace amounts of toxins and contaminants remain. To combat this, install an air purifier next to the 3D printer. This extra safety measure allows you to stay in the room longer without adverse effects.
Some printers have built-in filtration systems, but they are rare and cost significantly more than regular 3D printers. So, if you want to save on this added cost, installing other filtration systems will be cheaper.
For example, getting an air purifier like this LEVOIT Air Purifier (available on Amazon.com) is an easy way to reduce harmful emissions from your prints. This HEPA purifier eradicates irritants and contaminants for a pleasant, easy-breathing experience. It’s whisper-quiet and has a variety of filter options for maximum convenience.
There’s always the DIY route if you don’t want to spend too much money. The video below illustrates some excellent advice for correctly building a 3D printing enclosure.
Though not necessary, an enclosure can take your 3D printing game to the next level by isolating your printer from humidity, drafts, and debris. An enclosure can also protect you from any potentially harmful emissions during 3D printing, keeping you safe no matter what filament you use.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.