While there may be some 3D printers available with similar features, an enclosure for the 3D printer can be a distinguishing factor when comparing. Successful 3D objects can come from 3D printers that do not have an enclosure, but enclosures are designed with a specific purpose and provide functionality that can be extremely beneficial for a 3D printer user. From built-on to attach-on designs, enclosures change and improve many aspects of 3D printing.
The Purpose of an Enclosure
What exactly is the point of an enclosure? An enclosure is framing around a 3D printer that is intended to maintain a steady temperature while printing, act as a barrier between the outside environment, and can also be beneficial for safety reasons as well. Enclosures come in many different sizes and are usually either clear or have an opening to watch the print as the 3D printer creates an object.
Certain enclosures cannot only provide a barrier from the outside environment, but some also have a built-in filtration and ventilation system which helps remove the fumes and particles that are caused by 3D printing.
The Benefits of an Enclosure
- An enclosure helps keep the heat, inside of the area where the object is being printed, at a steady temperature. This helps minimize the chances that the printed object could warp because the print would be cooling at an even pace.
- Enclosures also serve as a wall between the outside environment and the inside of the 3D printer. It may not seem like a big deal, but even small changes such as different amounts of people being in the room with the 3D printer, the room temperature changing, or the humidity going up can all be factors that can lead to the demise of a 3D print. Enclosures help minimize these things and give the object the best chance to be successful.
- As mentioned before, certain enclosures, which include filtration and ventilation systems, can help remove the fumes and particles that are caused by 3D printing. This improves the safety of 3D printing and even increases the cleanliness of the area around a 3D printer.
- In terms of safety as well, enclosures create a barrier for unwanted paws or little hands. Overall, an enclosure put a wall between the hot extruder and anything on the outside.
Price Difference with an Enclosure
Many of the 3D printers with an enclosure may be more expensive than a 3D printer without an enclosure. An enclosure can definitely add some expense to the 3D printer, but chances are, it will be worth it. Additionally, depending on the materials and construction techniques that are in place, the cost increase could be a minimal amount.
Filaments That Need an Enclosure
Since an enclosure maintains the area around a 3D printed object at a constant temperature, it is beneficial for every filament to be printed on a 3D printer with an enclosure compared to one that does not have an enclosure. Even though every filament is benefited by an enclosure, each filament has main improvements due to the enclosure:
The properties allow for PLA to be printed successfully without an enclosure, however, an enclosure can always help stop the warping that can occur with PLA.
Not only does ABS need a heated print bed, but in order to minimize the chances of warping to the fullest, an enclosure can help provide more reliable prints. This happens because the object needs to be cooled at an even rate in order not to warp. The heated print bed allows for it cool at a fairly even pace, but since it is only being heated from one direction, the cooling is still slightly uneven. An enclosure can help stabilize the cooling from all directions.
While flexible filaments do not usually have a large amount of warping problems, some printers can struggle to produce a flexible filament object with strong layer adhesion. An enclosure can assist in the battle to improve layer adhesion because as the filament is extruding, the temperature around the print will be constant and heated.
Filaments such as nylon are extremely hygroscopic and can be tough to print without warping. Their mechanical properties are outstanding, so the journey to getting nylon to print with perfection is worth it. An enclosure can be essential, in some cases, for nylon because an environment that is open and susceptible to the open temperature can prove detrimental for nylon prints.
Nylon (and most materials) can be printed without an enclosure, but the enclosure will improve the chances of success and reliability.
Being one of the toughest filaments to print, pure polycarbonate filament thrives best when printed with an enclosure.
What Is an Enclosure “Add-On”?
An enclosure “Add-On” is basically an enclosure that is placed over the 3D printer (the 3D printer can also go inside the enclosure depending on the design) which allows for a normally open 3D printer to print with an enclosure keeping the temperature constant. Further, enclosures can create an environment for the 3D printer that is 100% enclosed and relies on the surrounding walls to keep in heat. These enclosures can come at a relatively low cost in comparison to a 3D printer, which makes it accessible to most 3D printer users who want to start improving print capabilities and move onto more advanced materials.
3D printers can operate, function, and perform well without an enclosure, though an enclosure is beneficial to have in some situations. Even if an enclosure is not on a printer as a default, add-on enclosures are available. Be sure to check the sizing of the enclosure and if the printer’s outer dimensions fit the inside dimensions of the enclosure, then the printer could be equipped with an enclosure whenever it is needed by the user. Additionally, most enclosures will have an option for external filament being fed in, allowing for combinations such as a filament dryer, add-on enclosure, and 3D printer to work and succeed in prints simultaneously.