There are 3D printers that are open and some that are closed with either an integrated enclosure or with an external enclosure. I was looking at my Ender 3 and thought to myself, should I enclose my 3D printer? This is a question I’m sure many people have so this article will aim to answer that.
You should enclose your 3D printer if you have the means to do so. There are benefits such as protecting you from airborne particles and harsh smells, provides safety for kids & pets, decreases noise and gives a barrier to drafts or temperature changes which increases the range of materials you can successfully print with.
These are great reasons, but only some reasons why you would want to enclose your 3D printer. There are more details that I’ve put together that will help you get a better understanding of this question, so let’s explore that now.
Should You Enclose Your 3D Printer?
As described in the main answer above, it’s a good idea to enclose your 3D printer but it isn’t necessary as you should already know. Many YouTube videos and pictures I’ve seen from fellow 3D printer hobbyists have gone years without using an enclosure on their Prusas or Ender 3s, so how useful can they really be?
I think the main distinction we have to make is, you won’t necessarily be in a bad place if you don’t have an enclosure for your 3D printer, but an enclosure will make life just that little bit easier, depending on your setup.
In some cases, you want ease of access or don’t have much space to include an extra large box around your already large 3D printer so going without an enclosure just makes sense.
On the other hand, if you have plenty of space, are bothered by the noises from your 3D printer and have a history of your prints warping, an enclosure might just be what you need to get successful printing in your 3D printing journey.
Let’s look into whether an enclosure is needed for a popular 3D printing material.
Is an Enclosure Necessary for ABS?
Although most people love their PLA filament, ABS is still widely used because of its durability. Unfortunately, when you print something with ABS you realize that it’s very prone to warping.
ABS requires a higher level of printing temperature and higher bed temperature as well. What goes against people is the active temperature around the extruded ABS material because the space above the printer bed won’t match the bed temperature itself.
An enclosure helps massively in this regard because it traps the hot air that your 3D printer is generating, allowing it to decrease the chances of your ABS prints warping.
Cooling also comes into play where temperatures are fluctuating so using an enclosure to maintain some sort of temperature comes in handy.
It’s not necessary for ABS, but you are most likely going to get much better prints and a higher chance that your prints finish in the first place.
Do Enclosures Protect You From Harmful Fumes?
The printing process of 3D printer yields harmful fumes, which may spread all over the printing area and the place where your 3D printer is.
An enclosure protects you from the direct effect of these fumes. As a result, you can avoid an unpleasant experience with some harsh materials out there. This is a perfect opportunity to use an air purifier to filter out these particle emissions and odors.
Check out my post on the 7 Best Air Purifiers for 3D Printers to help you out in this regard.
Does Using an Enclosure Increase Print Quality?
Most of the 3D printer you buy from the market, come without an enclosure. Just from that we know that filaments generally don’t need an enclosure, but the more important question is whether using an enclosure increase print quality.
I think we have already determined that it increases the print quality of ABS, but what about PLA?
When you 3D print with PLA in an open 3D printer, there’s still a possibility that your print will warp. This is more likely to happen if you have a draft strong enough to alter the temperature on a corner of your print.
I’ve definitely experienced PLA warping and it wasn’t a great feeling! It can be frustrating, especially for a print that needs to be precise or is a long print which you wanted to look nice.
Just for this reason, an enclosure is a great tool to increase print quality for a variety of 3D printing materials.
On the other hand, PLA does require a level of cooling to properly set, so having it within an enclosure might negatively affect your prints. This is less likely to happen if you have good quality fans or an air duct which properly directs air to your parts.
Enclosed Vs Open 3D Printers: What’s the Difference?
Enclosed 3D Printers
- Less noisy
- Better print results (for mid-temperature materials like ABS and PETG)
- Dust-free printing
- Great looks, looks like an appliance and not a tinkerer’s toy.
- Provides a sense of safety for applications involving children and pets
- Protects the progressing print
Open 3D Printers
- Easy to monitor print progress
- Easier to work with the prints
- Removing, doing minor cleanup and adding hardware in mid-print is easy
- Easier to keep clean
- More comfortable to work on the printer as changing the nozzle or performing upgrades
What are the Categories of Enclosures?
There are three main types of enclosures.
- Integrated with your 3D printer – These tend to be more expensive, professional machines.
- Professional, ready to be purchased enclosures
- Do it yourself (DIY) enclosures
I can safely assume most won’t have a 3D printer with an integrated enclosure if you’re on this article, so I’ll move on to the professional enclosures out there.
I recommend the official Creality 3D Printer Enclosure. It is temperature protective, fireproof, dust-proof and fits a wide range of Ender machines. One of the main things you want with an enclosure is a constant printing temperature and this achieves it with ease.
Noise is reduced pretty well and although it looks thin, it has a sturdy, stable structure.
If you’re serious about 3D printing and are ready to upgrade to a solid enclosure, the Makergadgets 3D Printer Enclosure is for you. It’s not only an enclosure, but also an air scrubber/purifier with active carbon & HEPA filtration, so it has amazing functionality.
It’s a relatively light, efficient solution for your 3D printing needs. This will have no problem fitting most 3D printers in there.
Once you receive this product, setup is very easy. You only need a screwdriver and a few minutes to get it up and running.
DIY enclosures are a little more complex because there are many options, some of them being pretty simple.
What Methods can be Used for DIY 3D Printer Enclosures?
The cardboard box of appropriate size can be used for the enclosure. All you need is a stable table, a box and some duct tape.
This is a very cheap enclosure you can make for our printer. It will cost almost nothing since these things are found in virtually every home.
Cardboard is flammable so it’s not the ideal option to use even though it works to keep heat in.
2. Studio Tent
These tents are very cheap, and they are made of flexible synthetic material. You can easily maintain the temperature of your printing is by placing your printer in these kinds of tiny tents.
3. Transparent Container
The transparent containers come in different sizes, and they don’t cost much. You can buy the container of your desired measurement, or you can also stick more than one container to get the required shape, design and size.
Something similar to this would work if you could get a big enough container for your 3D printer.
4. IKEA Lack Enclosure
This can be made from two tables stacked on each other. The bottom table pays the role of a stand, and the top table is the real enclosure along with acrylic glass sheets that can be bought online.
This is a widely-used solution and it works great. Check out the official Prusa article on instruction to build an IKEA Lack Enclosure.
This is a serious project so only do this if you are ready for a DIY journey!
So to bring it all together, you should buy a 3D printer enclosure if it suits your setup and desires. There are many benefits to having an enclosure so it’s a good idea to make use of one.
It’s not a requirement for 3D printing unless you are printing with certain materials, but most people are satisfied with printing with simple materials like PLA & PETG so an enclosure won’t make much of a difference.
They offer good protection from external influences, noise reduction and a whole host of benefits, so I’d recommend going for one, whether it’s a DIY enclosure or a professional one.