Does ABS Need An Enclosure for 3D Printing?


3D printing with ABS is known to be a bit of a challenge to get it to print successful which many people can agree with, especially compared to PLA. Many people start to wonder whether ABS needs an enclosure for 3D printing.

You don’t need an enclosure for 3D printing ABS, but it helps increase the success rate due to keeping a constant temperature throughout the print, leading to reduced warping. Using bed insulation and reducing drafts or air flows will help out dramatically.

That’s the basic answer but there’s a lot more detail that you’ll want to know to be clued-up on this topic. Keep reading for more information, as well as other common questions answered.

Does ABS Need an Enclosure?

ABS can be printed just on a heated bed but when it comes to the overall success rate, you reduce it when printing without an enclosure usually.

Most other 3D printing filaments can work fine without an enclosure because they have different chemical and mechanical properties. The main problem people run into is when their prints warp, or curl around the corners due to rapid temperature changes.

When you 3D print materials, it has to be heated to a high enough temperature to properly extrude, but after that extrusion, that material begins cooling down.

That change in temperature causes a physical reaction which shrinks the material, which can be known as the shrinkage rate.

Basically, when you 3D print an object, you  should expect the model to be slightly smaller in dimensions, so people would have to scale the model up by a percentage or 2 to compensate.

When you don’t have an enclosure when 3D printing ABS, the presence of the rapid temperature changes increases, since that constant temperature environment the enclosure provides is no longer present.

Materials like PLA are known to warp when you have a pretty cold room, or you have drafts that cool down the outer section of the models, so PLA can also benefit from having an enclosure.

Since PLA requires a lower temperature to 3D print, it has less room temperature-wise to rapidly cool down compared to ABS. Other high temperature thermoplastics experience this same warping.

On average, ABS requires a nozzle temperature around 300C more than PLA and up to 500C hotter print bed temperature to print efficiently.

An enclosure can bring amazing benefits to ABS. The industry’s latest and advanced 3D printers have heated chambers that allow printing ABS with much better results.

If your printer doesn’t have a heated chamber then using an enclosure is recommended at minimum because it can keep the temperature constant throughout the printing process.

Another major advantage of using an enclosure is that the nasty and dirty fumes that emit from ABS will be trapped inside the chamber and will not affect you or the outer atmosphere.

Once the printing process is completed, you can work with the post-processing as you do before without any hassle. As a general practice, it is recommended to always 3D print in a well-ventilated area while working with ABS filament.

How Can I 3D Print ABS Without an Enclosure or Warping?

It’s possible to 3D print ABS without an enclosure, but you may have to make some improvements to your 3D printer.

Although you can fine-tune your 3D printer and upgrade some aspects, there may still be limitations to 3D printing ABS without an enclosure, but as discussed above, it’s definitely possible.

Using the right temperatures is essential for successful 3D printing with ABS, as well as a properly heated print bed.

Printing large models with ABS usually requires the use of an enclosure as it works well with a higher temperature to adhere properly, but you may be able to print miniatures without any hassle.

When you are looking to print smaller objects, you’ll have a much easier time printing with ABS.

If you want to print ABS without an enclosure, the cooling fan should be minimally used, if at all, during the printing process as it can result in that rapid cooling that causes warping.

One user fine-tuned their printing process for ABS filaments, and they get amazing 3D prints.

Here is how they do it:

  • Clean the print bed thoroughly to ensure there is no layer of dust and residues from the previous prints as it can cause adhesion problems.
  • Calibrated their printing temperature settings with a temperature tower to acquire the best results. This also includes testing your bed temperatures being somewhere between 90-110°C
  • Use some sort of adhesives that can help in better adhering of the print to the print bed. Most common adhesives include ABS Juice, ABS Slurry, Glue Stick, Hairspray, or a better bed surface
  • Implement a raft or brim to help secure the 3D print to the bed.

You should also work in a well-ventilated area because ABS produces a lot more fumes as compared to other filaments such as PLA. It’s usually advised to have a proper enclosure, so you can control the resulting fumes.

Does ABS Stick to a Glass Printer Bed?

Although you can cause the ABS to stick to a glass print bed, there can come a lot of complications and difficulties. You may lead to warping, splits, or may end up with a failed print.

A glass printer bed is just a glass sheet that can be attached to a 3D printer’s existing bed, and it can be 3-4 cm thick.

Ensure that the glass sheet is of borosilicate glass as it has a much better and smooth surface for ABS prints.

If you are still facing difficulties, below are some of the best solutions that can help you to get your ABS model to stick to the glass printer bed properly.

  • Using ABS Slurry

This is simply a mixture ABS and acetone, where you simply cut a piece of ABS filament and dissolve it in some acetone. When the mixture becomes a thick enough consistency, you can apply it to your print bed.

Plenty of users spray some hairspray down on their print bed to help models adhere better, since there is a sticky element within. The spray goes on nice and evenly, while drying quickly, allowing your ABS prints to stick to cool glass with ease.

You’re getting plenty of volume in the large can, so it should last you plenty of time!

  • Apply a new bed surface to the glass bed like BuildTak

One user who was an avid user of ABS slurry and Kapton Tape reviewed the BuildTak build surface and mentioned just how well it worked compared to their previous method. Many people consider it one of the best build surfaces to print on.

The matte finish that it leaves due to the surface texture results in a different feel compared to the mirror finish from Kapton Tape, though that is down to preference.

  • These build surfaces will last you a long time
  • Prints stick very well
  • Doesn’t damage so easily as compared to tape
  • Requires a low amount of maintenance
  • Applying it can be a little difficult

Does ABS Need a Cooling Fan?

ABS doesn’t need a cooling fan, but when using an enclosure it can help with printing overhangs or with finer details in 3D models. One user found that cooling fans with ABS led to a reduction in print quality, along with warping. Many people have had success with the auto-cooling option with Sli3r. 

Rather than dropping the temperature of your ABS 3D prints, it’s usually better to print at a hot temperature with the fans on in comparison.

The main thing people are concerned about when printing with materials that shrink a lot, like ABS and Polycarbonate is the warping, but this can be controlled by using a good enclosure which regulates temperature.

We want the majority of your object to be at a consistent temperature. You can find your ABS prints start to warp and curl from the print bed when you have rapid changes in temperature from cooling.

That’s why it’s ideal to have the part cooling fan which is next to the hotend and nozzle turned off while printing with ABS.

Some people get great results with the cooling fan on, others get better results with it off, so I would definitely test out both options and see how it performs. In many cases, the part cooling fan turned fairly high has a negative effect on print quality.

Are ABS Plastic Fumes Harmful, Toxic or Dangerous? How to Deal With Them

ABS plastic fumes are known to be dangerous due to the emission of toxic volatile organic compounds and ultrafine particles such as lactide and styrene, which is considered to be toxic, mutagenic, and possibly carcinogenic. Styrene exposure has been linked to negative health effects in some studies. 

The best thing to do is either minimize your use of ABS by changing over to PETG or PLA+. If you need a heat-resistant material, PETG works really well, and you can spray a clear coat of UV protection if you want to have a functional outdoor use.

PETG is fairly UV-resistant by itself, so you could probably work with it without the need of any extra post-processing.

Many users who 3D print with ABS will make sure they have a heated enclosure which is sealed to an air tight level or very close.

Electronics deteriorate faster when constantly in a heated area, so they would ideally separate the electronics to a sealed secton of the enclosure which has some type of cooling.

When you finish an ABS 3D print, you’ll definitely encounter fumes when opening up the enclosure, but during the printing process, you shouldn’t be able to smell the fumes.

A better idea is to vent out the fumes direct from the enclosure and outside through a window or actual vent. This can lead to layer adhesion issues though, depending on what kind of setup you have and what environment you are in, namely colder climates.

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