3D printing noise may not be much loud, but it’s definitely a problem, especially if you have it in your apartment. The issue becomes more significant when the machine has a big object to print to be on for hours.
A desktop FDM 3D printer is around 50 decibels that are as loud as a conversation. However, cheap, low-quality brands tend to be louder. They can produce noise around 70 decibels that is equal to a hairdryer’s sound. Using the right equipment and maintenance can reduce these values to 40, similar to moderate snoring. However, there is a way to eliminate the noise. Keep reading till you get it!
Here, we will know what causes the 3D printer noises, the most effective noise reduction methods, and crucial maintenances that affect the machine’s noise.
Most 3D printer noises come from moving parts. In each scenario, there are several ways to reduce the noise level. Stepper motor dampers, silence drivers, enclosures, and the right lubricants are the most effective equipment types to reduce noise.
Find The Noise’s Source
The most common noise sources in an FDM 3D printer are Stepper motors, cooling and power fans, resonating structure, and drivers. Since the FDM 3D printers have several stepper motors and cooling fans, they tend to be noisier, unlike SLA printers. Low-quality 3D printers and cheap parts are not designed to be silent. Most of the time, Replacing the loud parts can solve the problem.
As mentioned before, most 3D printers are as loud as a normal conversation. However, they aren’t too silent to be in the same room. While speaking about noise, it’s good to know how much is a decibel and the below picture is a big help.
As you see in the picture, the chart’s small changes can significantly impact the sound level. For example, the difference between an alarm clock and a normal conversation is just around ten decibels.
How To Reduce The 3D Printer Noise?
Following the bellow, solutions promise a significant level of sound reduction. However, It would be best to find the primary source of the loudest sound in your machine and then reduce it as low as possible. You can also use the most comfortable method and see if they are enough or do some extra work.
3D printer Stepper Motor Noise Reduction
When it comes to reducing the stepper motor’s noise, there are mainly four options to check. It may not be obvious, but the first and most effective way to reduce the noise is to upgrade the mainboard to a silent mode. Silent mainboards benefit from modern motor drivers that minimize the motor’s noise by controlling its input current. However, if you can only change the drivers without upgrading the whole board, that’s a great choice too.
On the other hand, Using silent drivers isn’t the only way to adjust the motor’s current. If you look at the 3D printer while working, you have noticed that the nozzle’s fast-speed travels can usually create louder sounds. Hence, if you lower the printing speed, the machine will automatically produce sounds. This way, it’s possible to print quieter without changing anything!
The third and most common way is to use vibration dampers. We know that vibration is the primary source of the sound. So, the whole 3D printer’s frame’s vibration will produce louder sounds compared to the motor alone. Using vibration dampers is a great way to absorb the vibration. You can find a lot more about these dampers and how to use them in the video below.
The last way to eliminate the extra noise is to adjust the stepper motor bolts. The amount of pressure on the bolts should be standard. Too tightened or loose bolts can cause additional vibrations and noises. So, It would be best to check them once in a while.
Isolation From Basement
Stepper motors are the primary source of vibration and sounds in a 3D printer. However, under the 3D printer, a glass table can quickly receive this vibration and act as a giant speaker! Thus, absorbing the waves in a midway is an excellent 3D printer noise reduction method.
We learned how to use stepper motor vibration dampers, and now we can add another one between the base table and the printer. In theory, every material is a damper, but some plastics and porous media are way better at doing so. For example, a piece of rubberized mat, foam, or carpet is a cheap option, to name a few.
The only factor you should know is that putting the 3D printer directly over a flexible material can affect its performance. It can cause misalignment or intensify vibrations. In this case, using a hard medium like sheet metal can solve many problems. The below video explains the overall process in great detail.
How To Reduce The Fan Noise?
Most FDM 3D printers have around four fans. There are two fans near the extruder. One of them is used to blow over the hot end, while the other is the part cooling fan, mostly controlled by the slicer settings. These two are most likely the loudest fans because of their open frames and extra power.
On the other hand, the 3D printer’s mainboard and power supply need some coolings too. So, depending on your 3D printer’s components, at least two extra fans are turned on as the machine is on.
There are two methods to reduce the fan’s noises. The first option is to change them with a silent mode and the second one is to use fan shrouds which can slightly reduce the noise.
Changing the cooling and hot-end fans is usually an easy task. However, using the right model is somewhat tricky. Because choosing a quiet fan sometimes raises the concern that the silent fans can’t push enough air to cool the heatsink.
Insufficient airflow can cause the filament to soften while it’s still in the Bowden tube. This phenomenon, named heat creep, creates nozzle clogging and irregular extrusion. Thus, it’s essential to upgrade the fans to a high-quality model that is silent and provides enough cooling.
Another parameter to check is the fan’s operating voltage. Several fans work with different voltages, but most 3D printer manufacturers use 12 or 24-volt fans on their products. Before changing a part, you check out its voltage and buy an alternative that works with the same voltage. However, you can use a buck and boost converter like LM2596 to convert the voltages.
Since each 3D printer’s fan’s general dimensions differ from others, we will only check out the best options for two of the most popular models.
Ender 3 uses four different types: hot-end, part cooling, power supply, and the main board fan. The hot-end fan is almost always on, and it produces most of the noise, so changing it with a quieter one is the best point to start.
While a few Ender 3 models use 12 voltage fans, most new models and iterations like v2 and pro have 24 voltage fans. The dimensions also should be 40×40×10 mm. With these in mind, it’s time to choose a fan that provides enough cooling and has the right dimensions and operating voltage. Some of the best options are:
- With only 6 dB acoustic noise, the NF-A4×10 fan series from Noctua is a popular fan upgrade for the hot-end. Great features like acoustic optimized frame and blades, integrated anti-vibration pads, and precise bearings are also unique properties that make it the product of choice. The fan works with 12 voltage, so using a converter may be necessary.
- The 24 volts THD fan has the right dimensions for Ender 3/V2/Pro, has a 24dB acoustic noise, and the company suggests it for 3D printer hot-end fans. Thus, this model worth checking.
The power supply and mainboard fans produce around 45 dB, and replacing them with quieter fans can help with the overall 3D printer noise problem. However, you should be aware that high voltages inside the power supply can be quite dangerous. Hence, if you don’t know what you’re doing, then don’t do it.
Ender 3 and the similar models from creality benefit from Meanwell power supplies that use 24-volt fans. However, it’s good to double-check your existing model. Like the hot-end fans, it’s necessary to check the dimensions and airflow to get the right model. You can check different brands like Anvision, Evercool, Noiseblocker, and Sunon to find your situation’s best one.
Using fan shrouds can decrease the 3D printer noise on some levels. This method isn’t as effective as upgrading the fans though it can also protect the fans from external objects. Here, you can find some Ender 3 fan shroud models.
Prusa i3 MK3
Prusa i3 MK3 is one of the popular 3D printers that usually works quieter than others. However, if you want to make it more silent and upgrade its fan, you have two main options. The first one is to upgrade your machine to MK3S so that it can work in stealth mode and benefit from Noctua fans. By doing so, you will also receive a new filament sensor, nozzle, heated bed, and some parts that you can print. (Prusa company send some filaments to print it yourself!) Another option is to buy the Noctua fans by yourself and replace the old fans.
Lubricate X, Y, And Z-Axis
Sometimes, the unwanted noise is similar to rubbing two objects together. It is probably the sound of parts wearing out while rubbing against each other without enough lubricants.
In a nutshell, all the moving components that contact other surfaces need some lubrication to eliminate friction-related wear. It especially becomes necessary for the Z-axis’s metal-to-metal contact. Still, the X and Y axis contacts may vary based on your 3D printer model. This way, the type of lubricant differs for each case.
It’s crucial to use the right type of lubricant for a 3D printer. For example, PTFE, graphite powder, and Tungsten DiSulphide lubricants are suitable options.
Enclosure and DIY enclosure
Adding an enclosure to a 3D printer is the most effective way to remove its noise. If you don’t know, It is a simple box that isolates the printing area from the ambient air. This way, it absorbs most of the sounds and provides way more benefits to your prints.
An enclosure can also solve common printing problems like warpage. It can keep the object warm by saving the generated heat in the chamber and avoid air drafts. Hence, using it can improve the overall quality by reducing base warpage. Enclosure even becomes a necessity for big objects with thick parts. Since we find benefits of this feature, it’s time to create or buy a good one!
Enclosure: DIY Or Buy
A 3D printer can be as simple as cardboard or a box, but you should consider some tips while creating one. Here, the primary purpose of an enclosure is to make it sealed and soundproof. Other factors like safety, accessibility, dust protection, aesthetics, cost, and reducing toxic fumes may become your secondary concerns.
Putting the whole components of the 3d printer into the chamber can cause excess heat to the mainboard and electronic components. Hence, it would be best to separate these parts if you can rewire them.
It’s necessary to know that high temperatures degrade PLA filament or the PLA printed part. Hence, it’s a good idea to make a vent or window for the enclosure and open it while using PLA. Unfortunately, the hot-end fan works the most while printing this material because it tends to soften in much lower temperatures than others.
FDM 3d printers use hot nozzles and heating elements. It can cause a fire if left in a room. An enclosure made of non-flammable materials like metal can eliminate this issue. In contrast, plastics and cartons can be the fuel of the fire. Now that you the essential factors, let’s create one!
The first and easiest option is to combine two or even three big plastic boxes to create the enclosure, as shown in the above picture. Using transparent containers also allows you to inspect the process. Even though these boxes may not be as cheap as cartons, they are safer. You can also add smoke/fire sensors to the design.
This one is a beautiful design from the Prusa 3d printing community. The main idea here is to stack up three IKEA LACK tables to create a foundation and use Plexiglasses as walls. The bottom table is the 3d printer’s stand, while the combination of the top table and Plexiglass sheets serves as a hood. You can use the lower spaces to put your pieces of stuff and place the filament spools on top. You can find a detailed tutorial on how to create this enclosure here.
A hole on the top table constrains the filament path to the extruder. This design for big prints may cause some issues because stiff filaments like PLA won’t easily bend. If you already have a 3d printer, this shouldn’t be a problem. All you need is to print something like the below picture to free the path of filament. Problem solved!
(You can download the printable model on Thingiverse)
The mentioned enclosures were two of the most popular DIY designs. Of course, you can use your boxes and even metal cabinets to create a better and safer one. On the other hand, there are various purpose-made ones available in the market.
Creality is a famous brand among Chinese 3d printer manufacturers. The simple pipe frame structure combined with fireproof insulation walls and side access panels promises a safe and comfortable product to use. It’s designed to contain 3d printers as big as the size of CR-10 and ender five (480mm×600mm×720mm) inside itself, so it’s also suitable for machines with similar dimensions. You can check out the price here.