3D Printer Enclosure

by schlem, published

3D Printer Enclosure by schlem Feb 27, 2013
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Not long after assembling my 3D Printer (the Schlabricator ), my wife, Beehive, AKA She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, banished my beloved, but slightly odorous, machine to the garage. Originally built for Model-T era vehicles, the garage is behind the house and unusable for its intended function, owing to a gnarled Russian Olive that obstructs the driveway. There is power to the building, but no heat, and therein lies the motivation for building an enclosure for my Printrbot plus. When the weather is coolish - in the 40's - it takes an inordinate amount of time for the heated bed to actually heat up. I have experimented with insulating the glass with a blanket of paper sheets, but it still takes far too long, and the temperature ceases to be maintained when the "blanket" is removed. The enclosure will also help keep the printer clean in the dusty chaos of my projects.


I won't go into great detail here, but here is a link to an Instructable that spells out what I did to create this enclosure: http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Printer-Enclosure-1/
Feel free to contact me with any questions: I made a bunch of mistakes in the process of this project, and maybe I can help you avoid those mistakes too.

Here's a few tips for starters:
I tried to drill holes and use conventional fasteners, but I experienced a disheartening failure rate whenever I put drill bit to acrylic. Curiously, the hole saws worked flawlessly every time, so the few hole I needed were thus created. Everything else is joined with 3D Printed brackets and some heinous plastic-melting epoxy.

These are the tools and materials I used:
5 - Acrylic (plexiglass) sheets 18" X 24" X 1/8 inch - $10.00 ea Home Depot
Rare Earth magnets (for "latch") various sizes / qty - $4.00 Home Depot
2 Inch hole saw
1 inch hole saw
Devcon Home Plastic Bonder (glues ABS to Acrylic - there are others, but choose wisely for best results. Disclaimer: Ventilation, hold your breath, ventilations, ventillatttionnn. bennalay...)
Straight edge, like framing square
Masking tape for preliminary fitting / assembly
Gizmacci 1-5 and a knob

Additionally, you will want some screws to hold the whole thing down and maybe some way to keep your 3D printer from banging off the walls of the box - I recommend the Vertical Board Anchor by CodeCreations http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:39778 Once screwed down, your floppish plastic box (assuming you built it square) will assume a surprising coffee table-like rigidity.

My dimensions:
18"W X 24"D X 18 1/8"H (all instructions assume 1/8" thick plexi)

Drilling Plexiglass:
Don't. See: break, separate, split up, fall apart, come apart, fail, go bad, give way, die, give out, conk out, divide, damage.

Cutting Plexiglass:
Again, don't. You will get better results if you repeatedly score the acrylic sheet with a sharp point along a straight edge (I used the tip of a reversed pocket knife blade, scratching, NOT cutting). For best results, score both sides. Clamp at score and sharply flex. I found it helpful to invest in an extra sheet of plexiglass for experimentation and practice.

Mix small batches of glue. Trying to get everything glued at once is a recipe for haste and waste and disgrace. Take your time, and glue no more than four things at a time. Did I mention VENTILATE your work space? You only get one brain.

Gizmacci One
These are brackets for gluing up a right proper and square box from acrylic sheets (AKA plexiglass).

Gizmacci Two
These are extra brackets (should you need/want them) for gluing up a right proper and square box from acrylic sheets (AKA plexiglass).

Gizmacci Three
This is an adjustable vent that sit atop the plexiglass enclosure to passively vent hot air and fumes through convection. This is designed to fit in 2 inch hole. I had very good success with a new hole saw at slow speed.

The pin the vent spins around is a section of 3.0 mm ABS filament that has the ends "peened" with a hot element, like a soldering iron. You can clean out the small hole with a 1/8" drill bit which is just a tiny bit bigger than 3.0mm.

Gizmacci Four
These are hinges for the door to the enclosure. The pin the hinge hangs from is a section of 3.0 mm ABS filament that has the end "peened" with a hot element, like a soldering iron. You can clean out the hinge holes with a 1/8" drill bit which is just a tiny bit bigger than 3.0mm.

These are designed for 1/8 inch-thick plexi sheets. There are two outside hinge elements that sandwich the middle hinge on the door. Mate the bottom element and the middle element such that their smooth (bottom) sides kiss. Your hinginess will be much smoother. The design of the faces that engage the plexi should suggest the area of glue application.

Gizmacci Five
This "tray" contains a swiveling pass-through and reinforcing rings for wiring/vent holes. All these parts are designed for a 1 inch hole. I had very good results with a new 1" hole saw at slow speed.

An annoying property of acrylic sheet is how edge defects from cutting or drilling can spawn heart-breaking cracks (ask me how I know this) I think reinforcing any hole through plexi is cheap insurance. The Pass-through will fit 1/4 inch sheet or 1/8 inch sheet (like I used) with a ring as a shim. The photos should demonstrate how the Swivel Pass-through works. Be careful not to accidentally glue your swivel ball in the rings - it should move freely and be loose.

Skull Knob
Since the two pieces are the same material, bonding them is easy, Use your favorite ABS glue or plain ol' acetone should work. This shrunken head was derived from "Cleaned Skull" by ssd. I added little round eyeballs in the orbits. Zoinks!

NOTE: there is a similar project on Thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:22119 The author suggests using a hot glue gun to glue it together - great idea and much kinder to the central nervous system.

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.093" thick is 3/32, not 1/8. If i bought 1/8" thick instead of 3/32", does the 3d printed pieces that fit through the plexi become affected?

Probably. You can easily cobble up a 3D printed shim.I don't think it's critical.

lol go to local dollar store buy 7 sheets of clear corrugated board for 3$ each lol make the same thing with some packing tape! 20$

And a cardboard box is free. However, it's not the same thing.

"There's nothing cute or funny or lovable about being cheap. It's a total turn-off."
Douglas Coupland

Hi, friend! I have same problem with printer and wife... It's a worldwide problem. Thanks for idea! I'm under way to make same case. But I intend to move the Y-axis engine to front of axis. It will allow me to make a little small box. I suppose, about 2 inch less..

Mar 7, 2015 - Modified Mar 7, 2015

3DPrintClean is developing an Odor and Ultrafine Particle filtration attachment for DIY enclosures. Would make a great addition. See http://3dprintclean.com/3dprintclean-scrubber.htm - Disclosure, I am the founder of 3DPrintClean.

This is Exactly what I was looking for! I am having trouble with warping abs on cool days, anyone tried heating the enclosure breifly to get it nice and toasty?

I have a 100W bulb in mine and a thermometer that hits 100F + even on the coldest days. I put a can around the light bulb as a heat/light shield and this works well. FWIW, the vent I designed seems to be worthless for this endeavor.

I've found drilling the holes through with the hole saws is easiest if you use a spool of filament's center as the backing and another spool to hold the other side of the sheet level. It cuts through effortlessly like this.

That's a great idea! I need to build a proper enclosure for my Lulzbot, but it's so much larger, I will need to adapt this design to keep the heated volume to a reasonable size.

Here's a tip:

I have found on very cold days (below freezing) that my control board cannot read the thermistors and throws an error code. This error state will not allow the controller to pre-heat the bed or extruder. I put a 100W incandescent lamp in a porcelain fixture and put a vented coffee can over the bulb. I stuck this "heater' inside the enclosure, in the corner. The can blocks the light in your eyes so you can watch your print. It also keeps radiant heat from impinging directly on the plexiglas and reradiates the heat. I find that my printer heats up much faster, and I can maintain a 100°F/40° C environment inside the box, on even the coldest day. Finding incandescent bulbs will be challenging, but halogen bulbs are still available, and - good for this purpose - run hotter than conventional bulbs.

it sames 5 acrylic sheets... but what about the 6th side? or was that a typo?

The surface that the printer rests upon is the sixth side. Fastening the corners of the box to the work surface makes the whole noodly thing very stable. No need to put plexi under the printer.

I have some tinkering / tuning projects in my future... and a cache of Sugru, I will endeavor to refasten my thermistor with some. Is it stable at 100 degrees C? I also have a fan to mount. One easy thing I did was to slip a square of aluminum foil under the heated bed- my bed floats on neoprene washers, and I think that the foil helps reflect radiated heat back up into the heated bed (and thermistor)

I had similar issues with the print bed not heating. I made a couple of changes that improved the situation significantly. 1.) I applied the thermistor to the bottom of the heat bed using heat-resitstant silicone adhesive (sugru) 2.) I noticed that the temperature of the head bed would dip (and typically not recover) when the extruder kicked on. I upgraded to a 500W ATX Power Supply and haven't had that problem since. 3.) I've added glass for printing ABS, and a frosted acrylic sheet for printing with PLA. Again, I think the thermal mass here helps with ABS. With PLA, I heat the bed minimally (35C) because my place gets pretty cold, but the PLA adheres strongly to the surface. Heating the acrylic sheet to the 110C or so required for ABS makes it warp, so I switch to glass for that. Someday I'll probably get a piece of sandblasted borosilicate, but since window glass is ~1/20th the cost, I'm just going with the painters tape on glass approach.

Between the more accurate measurement (the sugru provides a better contact and a little more thermal mass than the suggested method of attaching with Kapton) and sufficient power supply, I haven't had problems with the heat bed anymore.

I've also added the laser-cut bed-leveling kit and the fan, which both seem crucial to getting a decent print. The bed leveler is nice also in that if you crash Z , or sometimes if you're printing something that curls a little and the print head starts clipping it, you've got enough give that it will probably survive in decent shape, and will definitely not rip the print off the bed.

Awesome -- and a blast to read. :) Thanks for the shout-out.

You can drill acrylic sheet, but you just need to go very slowly with a sharp bit and apply very little pressure or it'll explode. skull knob ftw