3D Printer Enclosure: Finishing Touches

January 3, 2015 3D Printing

This is the final installment documenting my 3D printer enclosure build.  Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!

With the main structure of the enclosure finished, I still needed to do quite a bit of work to make it fully functional.

First, to make sure that the bed heater wire does not get in the way of the print head/bed, I attached an old badge lanyard I had lying around to the cable to keep some tension on it.  This way, as the bed translates in Y, the middle of the wire bundle is lifted upward and out of the way.  Something like this should do the trick.

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Next, I installed some lights so I didn’t have to use my cell phone flashlight to see what I was printing anymore.  I purchased this LED strip from Amazon, cut the correct lengths and spliced them together so that I would have plenty of light.  I wired in a switch for easy access, and neatly secured the wires to the walls using these Command Hooks.

  • Convenient switch location. I drilled a 3/4″ hole with a forstner bit, but the switch didn’t quite fit. I had to use a file to make the hole slightly larger, as well as shave off a few features on the switch housing to get it to fit. It ended up looking great, however.

Now that I could see what I was printing, I needed a spool holder.  Unfortunately, there is no standard filament spool size, as 3D printing blogger, RichRap, has pointed out in his lengthy post on the subject.  So my design goal for this spool was to create a universal design, that would allow me to use any size spool I might purchase in the future.

I decided to mount the spool horizontally on the top of the printer, to save desk space.  To account for any spool inner diameter, my design uses a 3/8″cap screw to attach a hub to the spool, which then sits in a cradle that is mounted directly to the top surface of the printer.  Hexagonal pockets are sized to retain the bolt cap and nut so that the user can spin the hub and tighten while centering to the axis of the spool.  With the hub in place, the weight of the spool keeps the spool in place atop the cradle.  Three ball bearings (from Amazon) provide low friction axial support, allowing the spool to spin fairly easily as the extruder pulls filament.  If in the future, I buy filament with a different spool width, I just need to go down to the local hardware store and buy the correct size!  Check out the design files on Thingiverse!

  • Universal spool holder with 3 printed parts and some standard hardware.

Next, I designed some simple handles to mount to the polycarbonate door to make it easier to take on and off.  I used flat head #6 screws and used a countersink  bit to make the heads seat flush against the inside surface.  I oriented the handles to be printed flat so I wouldn’t risk delaminating the layers when pulling on the handle, however this meant that attaching them with screws could potentially crack the laminations.  In order to minimize this, I drilled out the printed pilot holes to just under the diameter of the #6 ( to around 0.13″, slightly larger than an 1/8″ bit).

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Pretty quickly after printing my first fan mount for the Prusa i3, I realized that it wasn’t really doing the job well.  The fan was actually cooling the extruder too much, and I wasn’t able to get to the correct temperature.  My problem wasn’t that the extruder needed cooling, but that print itself needed cooling, so I designed a new fan mount that directed the air a the extruder tip.  It is designed to mount to the two original holes, and mounts to this 40mm fan.  This fan isn’t very powerful, and the reducer is probably doing a very inefficient job of directing the airflow, so there is room for improvement.  However, I can now run the fan, and keep the extruder at 185° C, and there seems to be less stringing than I used to see before the new mount.  Click here to download and print the model on Thingiverse!

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My last set of tasks was centered around the electronics of the Prusa i3.  After installing the printer, everything was just sitting haphazardly in back of the printer.

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First, I tackled mounting the display screen.  I designed a mount for the board itself, and then a faceplate to shroud the display.  For the face plate, I designed it to print vertically, as removing support material from the back of flat surfaces like the face plate is hard to do.  To get the square window for the LCD panel, I thinned out a bezel around the screen to the width of one filament (0.35mm in my case), so that I could cut it out later.  This was my longest print ever, at 16 hours, and it was really a boost of confidence that the printer is finally becoming a useful tool, instead of a time-wasting frustration generator.  You can find the design here on Thingiverse.

  • Display board mount.

The final task was to mount the RAMPS board itself and attach the power supply to the printer.  I designed a simple mount for the board, and a multi-piece bracket to hold the ATX power supply.  With everything in position, I bundled up the cables to make them nice and neat.  Take a look on Thingiverse to download and print them yourself!

  • RAMPS board mount

And here it is… the final product!

Final Thoughts

With the enclosure build complete, I have a few summarizing thoughts:

– Building an enclosure has made a huge difference in print quality.  The enclosed environment prevents temperature fluctuations from the cool air in my large drafty basement.  The heated bed heats the air in the chamber to provide a gentler temperature differential from extruder to part, so that I no longer have to worry about warping, or and over/under heated extruder.

– Hard mounting all of the wiring has reduced printer mishaps.  I have always been worried about having the printer catch fire due to a faulty connection.  With the power supply and controller wires loose, there was always the possibility that something would come loose and cause an issue during printing.  Now, with the power supply rigidly mounted, the wires do not get moved around, increasing reliability of the printer, and enabling longer prints.

– The printer is more pleasant to use.  Because of the temperature fluctuation, and potential disconnection worries, printing things used to be a hassle.  Now, I can get things printing quicker, and check on them without worrying about errors.

– Soundproofing is hard.  The original point of this project was to make the printer quiet enough to enable me to use the printer upstairs in my workspace.  Unfortunately, even with the dense 3/4″ MDF walls, the printer is still too loud to sit in the room adjacent to the bedroom.  For overnight prints, it would definitely disturb our sleep.  However, since the enclosure controls the printing environment, I was able to put the printer in my basement with no issue, which is still pretty convenient.

– One of the major design issues with this enclosure, is the closed back design.  The printer is only accessible through the front, making any kind of service very difficult.  If I were to make another enclosure, I would design something that allows access from all sides.

All in all, however, I am very pleased with the results.  For anyone who wants to improve their print quality, I would highly recommend building an enclosure!

This article has 13 comments

  1. Rob

    I’ve got one suggestion that may be of interest to you involving the LED strips. You can get RGB LED strips that can be set to any colour you can imagine. Using such strips you could have it light up a certain colour indicating the function of the printer. For example you could have it light up green when the printer has finished a print so at a quick glance you can tell when it’s done, also you could have it light up red if an error occurs or similar. You could also still retain your power switch and have it turn on all colours of the strip to create a white light for viewing purposes.

    I haven’t got a 3D printer myself but will be getting a Prusa i3 in the next couple of weeks and will be making an enclosure of some sort for it and yours has really given me some inspiration so well done and a great job too 🙂

  2. Jonathan

    Hi, I’m currently building a similar box for my prusa, yours as my main inspiration, but I’m reluctant putting the arduino outside of it, witch forbid to pull out the printer for fixing without unplugging everything, do you think it’s absoltely necessary or a fan on the arduino could help cooling it in the box ?

    Thanks

    Jonathan

    1. moczys@gmail.com

      Hi Jonathan! When I designed my enclosure, I didn’t really do any research into the temperature limitations on the RAMPS/Arduino boards. From looking at the spec sheets for the Arduino processor, as well as the stepper driver chips on the RAMPS board, it looks like they recommend an operating temperature range of -20 to +85 degrees C. I haven’t done any temperature measurements on the boards during operation, but I know that the stepper drivers require heat sinks to be applied to prevent overheating, so I’m guessing they get fairly hot after running for a few hours. I did measure the ambient temperature of the enclosure after running for a few hours, and it leveled out at about 27 deg C. I also found that my steppers, were running at around 70 deg C. By running the Arduino/Stepper boards in warmer than average ambient air, depending on how hot they get during normal operation themselves, I’d say you definitely risk overheating and damaging the boards. But without doing measurements, this is just a guess. Sorry, I know this doesn’t really answer your question. But if you try it out, it would be awesome if you could post your findings! Good luck!

      1. Jonathan

        Thanks for you answer, I think I’ll leave the boards on the printer, I cuted an 10cm hole in the back to put a big pc fan (and _hopefully if I find one_ a filter) to keep the temperature controled without opening the front door.

        wood work is done, still have to paint, order my polycarbonate door and work a spool holder 🙂

  3. Aaron

    Having done a lot of soundproofing for my studio… I have a suggestion — you might go ahead and line the inside with this (mineral wool):

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Roxul-Safe-n-Sound-3-in-x-15-1-4-in-x-47-in-Soundproofing-Stone-Wool-Insulation-12-Roll-RXSS31525/202531875

    and then put another glass piece on the inside behind the present glass using a floating mount (ie — springs (or rubber, or silicone) holding slight tension between it and the box — but with enough room to allow slight vibrations. You can also dampen the mount a bit with felt (I actually use all three methods when I create a floating mount)) Where the glass actually closes on the box, use camper shell tape as a seal. (Like a refrigerator. Kinda.) This will probably reduce the noise quite a bit, make the temperature more stable, and make the box more flame resistant. It also wouldn’t hurt to mount the whole enclosure on a few rubber feet to help dampen the vibrations that it is transferring to whatever you have it sitting on.

    The only thing I would worry about it that it may get too hot inside.

  4. James Clough

    Beautiful craftsmanship on the enclosure.

    I have spent a lot of time working to reduce the noise create by my MakerFarm printers, and have found that the vast majority of the sound is actually being transmitted mechanically into the surface that the printer is sitting on. In your case, this is the enclosure, and the surfaces of the box are likely just retransmitting the vibrations right into the air, without much reduction. In some cases, large flat surfaces can make it worse.

    The best solution I have found is to mount the printer on Sorbothane feet. I uploaded my foot design to Thingiverse here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:322915

    You can also reduce the clicking sounds from the extruder gears by switching to a belt drive extruder. I have one here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:389105

    I’m sure there are other designs, but I know these work because I’ve been printing several times a week with them for a little more than a year now.

    I also typically set the printer (with the feet) on an 18″ Travertine tile and put felt furniture feet on the bottom of that. With these changes, I can run two printers in a bedroom in my house, close the door, and I can’t tell if the printers are still running without going into the room to check.

    One other thing worth mentioning: MakerFarm printers of your vintage came with stepper motors that weren’t really ideal for 3D printers. The resistance and inductance were too high, and this led to a lot of noise, and as you have discovered, a lot of heat. The resistance of my motor coils was around 19 ohms. Swapping out the motors in mine for some with coil resistance around 2 ohms and inductance under 4mH made a huge difference. The printer now sings instead of buzzing. And the motors barely get warm to the touch.

  5. Anthony Dame

    Nice work man ! I’m just getting started to build more or less the same enclosure than yours . I’m at the solidwork state now, I will let you know how my works progress 😉

  6. Geoff

    Having just resurrected by Ord Hadron printer and sorted out many, many issues, I was looking for an enclosure design and found your website. Just what I needed!
    I’m drawing up plans now (Fusion 360) to cut on my X-Carve. Still deciding if I make removable sides as per your comments. With the electronics mounted on the printer, removing the whole printer from the enclosure won’t be a problem should it be necessary.
    Thanks a lot.
    Geoff

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