One of the most common questions of 3D printer users who own an open-frame 3D printer is ‘can I print ABS without an enclosure?’. To answer this question, we need to analyze different aspects and judge based on various factors. So, let’s dive right into it!
Does ABS Need An Enclosure?
The main problem of printing ABS without enclosure is its high tendency to warpage and cracking. Especially for bigger objects, this issue can drastically decrease the printing quality. However, small items or vessels with thin walls will come out just fine. Some users also choose enclosures to reduce the number of exotic fumes releasing into the air.
Of course, there are more parameters to consider before answering this simple question. Using an enclosure for your 3D printing project has some pros and cons that make the decision more challenging. We should first know the idea behind using enclosures for printing materials like ABS.
Enclosure And ABS Prints
Imagine a 3D printer starting to print the first layer. In this stage, the hot and melted filament is first in contact with the hot end, then it spreads on the heated bed.
Because of the heated bed, The first layers will keep their temperature until the process finishes. However, this situation changes a little for the upper layers.
As the nozzle goes up, the upper layers will have more distance from the heated bed. As the print goes on, the middle layers become cooler because they are distanced with both the heated bed and the nozzle.
This situation can create temperature contours causing internal stress and tensions. Internal pressure is the number one cause of cracks and warps between layers.
Materials like ABS with higher printing temperatures have more tendency to induce internal stresses.
There are some ways to reduce the first-layer warpage. You can use strong adhesives to make them stick, Increase the heated bed temperatures, and avoid air blows over the print to eliminate warpage at some levels.
An enclosure can also reduce warpage. It can keep the object warm by saving the generated heat in the chamber and avoid air drafts. Hence, using it while printing ABS can improve the overall quality by reducing base warpage.
Enclosure becomes a necessity for big objects with thick parts.
Thermal stresses cause the layers to separate. This phenomenon, known as cracking, can be more severe because it doesn’t have many solutions.
Since enclosures can help with temperature differences, It’s the best and most effective solution to these problems.
However, cracking is rarely seen on small objects and thin walls such as vessels and hollow objects. As a rule of thumb, prints more diminutive than a Benchy can be printed out of ABS without an enclosure though the print quality won’t be the same.
Exotic fumes of printing ABS can be the second issue. As mentioned earlier, some users prefer to use an enclosure to avoid the fumes. We should keep in mind that inhaling fumes won’t affect print quality. However, it can cause feelings of fatigue in severe circumstances.
Using enclosures can solve the problem in some conditions. For example, you can use it to seal the printing area until the printing process finishes. Once the print cools down, it would be best to put the enclosure aside and open some windows and start the ventilation unit.
Keep in mind that removing the chamber right after printing while you’re in the room won’t change anything that much.
In general, 3D printing with ABS needs an enclosure, although it’s unnecessary for small prints.
In conclusion, it is recommended to use an enclosure, especially for beginners. You should also know that creating a simple enclosure is easy.
An enclosure can be as simple as a box, but you should consider using some tips while creating one.
The primary purpose of an enclosure is to make the temperature around the heated bed more homogeneous. Other factors like safety, accessibility, dust protection, aesthetics, cost, reducing toxic fumes, and noise reduction are of secondary importance.
Putting the whole components of the 3d printer may cause excess heat to the mainboard and electronic components. Hence, it would be best to separate these parts if you can rewire them.
Unlike ABS, high temperature can degrade PLA filament or the printed part, so it’s a good idea to make a vent or window for the enclosure. You can seal it while using ABS.
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 (for example, metal and glass) can eliminate this issue. In contrast, plastics and cartons can be the fuel of the fire.
Now that we know the essential factors involved let us see some of the better ideas so that we can make one ourselves.
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 tools and other useful 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 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 picture shown below to clear the filament’s path. Problem solved!
(You can download the printable model on Thingiverse)
(You can download the printable model on Thingiverse)
These 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 space for printing.
This product is designed to contain 3d printers as big as the CR-10 or Ender 5 (480mm×600mm×720mm) inside itself, so it’s also suitable for machines with similar or smaller dimensions.
You can check out the price here.
How to Successfully Print ABS Filament
3d printing ABS doesn’t require unique techniques or tools though it does need some calibration and experiments.
If you have used PLA in the past, you should know that a perfectly leveled bed can increase the print quality. However, a precisely leveled bed is a necessity for ABS prints.
Use a poor adhesive, a default or downloaded slicer profile, and ignore the heated bed; you’ll end up with a failed project.
However, with some practice and trial, everybody can use ABS. This material tends to warp and string, but practicing some helpful tips and not giving up will lead you to success.
The first thing to do before printing is to level the four corners of the bed. Then, you need to adjust the nozzle’s height with a piece of paper. You have probably done these tasks before, so we won’t go into details.
Printing ABS on a glass plate with adhesives much better. Kapton and blue painter’s tape are the old adhesive options. Nowadays, there are numerous adhesive brands and materials in the market, though. Some users prefer ABS juice, while others use hairsprays or glue sticks. It’s totally up to you.
Using ABS requires a heated bed of 90° C and an estimated nozzle temperature of 240° C. these numbers are a good starting point. You can start with small objects then adjust the nozzle temperature based on the results. It’s recommended to increase the temperature until you see prominent strings.
We discussed the necessity of having an enclosure for printing ABS and the benefits of using one; we also analyzed various situations. Using the enclosure will improve the print quality for sure. But, it’s not crucial for small objects and thin walls.