Introduction: How to Make 3D Printing in Homes and Offices Safer, by Building an Enclosure That Filters Gases and Particulate Matter
My goal with this project was to make 3D printing in small homes and offices located in an urban environment with no dedicated workshop safer, since 3D printing involves possible health risks. Therefore, this will be an instruction on how to build a DIY 3D printing enclosure that filters gases and particulate matter on a low budged.
Please have in mind, that 3D printing in a well-ventilated environment is the safest way!
My biggest problem with 3D printing is the smell of my 3D printer during printing. Furthermore, 3D printers emit a lot of gases and particulate matter during printing. Therefore, a well-ventilated environment is necessary. This Instructable will describe a way to reduce the effect of 3D printing on the ambient air.
First, I took a deep dive into the research of 3D printing health hazards and the process of melting PLA and ABS. I will not bother you with many details, since other people did the research and there are many great papers and experiment out there, which I would recommend you to read.
- A detailed paper on “Emissions of Ultrafine Particles and Volatile Organic Compounds from Commercially Available Desktop Three-Dimensional Printers with Multiple Filaments”, published by the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, IIT, Chicago can be found here.
- Even a detailed DIY experiment on the safety of 3D printing can be found on Instructable (here).
You do not have to understand these articles on every level. These articles line out, that the tested filaments emit organic gases and ultrafine particles. So in order to protect the ambient air from these gases and particulate matter we have to filter them. Because of this research, I chosen a filtration system, that combines a particle filter and an organic gas filter. (Some crazy filaments might emit other substances that are not covered by this system)
My take on this, is to build an enclosure for the 3D printer that filters the air, during the exchanging with the ambient air. So the printer can print in a well-ventilated environment and the impact on the ambient air is not huge. Since space for a dedicated 3D printer enclosure in small homes and offices is quiet limited, I decided to integrate the enclosure into some free space of my IKEA rack “BILLY”. Therefore, we only have to build a windowed door that fits the filtration system and seal the whole thing afterwards.
Since your 3D printer sizes may differed and the dimensions of your rack might too, I will try to use a general approach on this, so it is easy for you to modify this Instructable to your needs.
During the next steps, I will cover the following points.
- Tools and Hardware needed
- Prepare the rack
- Prepare the door
- Seal everything
- Place every component
- Advantages and Disadvantages of this build
Disclaimer: This project is purely “at your own risk”. As with any DIY project, unfamiliarity with the tools and process can be dangerous. Posts should be construed as theoretical advice only.
Step 1: Tools and Hardware Needed
For my build, I used a free space of 40 cm x 40 cm in my rack for the enclosure with a depth of ~ 28 cm. It was a quiet tight fit for my 3D printer (MakiBox) and one spool of filament, but it fits and that is everything that counts.
I cheated a little bit, since I fitted my power supply underneath the dedicated space, but this is an efficient way to save some space.
Find a space that fits your printer and at least on spool of filament. After you made sure that everything fits inside your dedicated space, take measurements of it, so you can calculate the amount of parts needed for your project.
For this project, you will need at least the following tools:
- A power drill with size 3 and 4 drilling heads and an additional big drilling head for the cable parse through.
- A fretsaw is adequate, but you can use a jigsaw as well, if you got on hand.
- A utility knife or another sharp object.
- A Screwdriver with different bits, which will fit the following screws and nuts.
- A pencil or marker in order to mark the wholes
And the following Hardware:
- A piece of transparent acrylic sheet with the width and height of your chosen space
- Some Silicone to seal the whole thing
- At least 2 meters of profile gasket
- 4 x 40 cm for each side of the window/door plus a bit extra
- At least 34 M3 x 10 screws with nuts and 13 wood screws (17 if you want to mount a raspberry pi)
- 3 x 6 M3 (left-, bottom-, right- side) – 3 screws should cover 20 cm
- 2 x 4 M3 to hold the filter mounts
- 2 x 2 M3 for the hinges on the top
- 1 x 4 M3 for the lock
- 2 x 2 wood screws to hold the hinges
- 1 x 2 wood screws to hold the frame of the lock
- 1 x 4 wood screws for the spool holder
- 1 x 1 wood screw for cable management
- 2 x 1 wood screw to hold the thread
- (2x 2 for the raspberry pi holder)
Feel free to adjust the amount to your needs
- 2 x 40 cm length (left-, right- side)
- 2 x 16 cm length for the bottom side (left and right of the lock)
- The A describes that it will filter organic substances and the number describes the strength of the filter (higher is better)
- The number describes the filter penetration limit (higher is better)
- If your power supply cannot power your fans, you will need an additional 12V ~2A power supply (depends on the power consumption of your fans). I used an old pc power supply (ATX) in order to power my whole build (3D Printer, Pi and fans). A fitting instruction can be found on reprap.org.
Step 2: Prepare the Rack
In order to prepare the rack for the build, we have to do a few things:
- Drill holes for the power supply and USB cable.
(I recommend using Octoprint on a raspberry pi, so you do not need to parse a USB cable from the outside)
- Mount he lock support underneath the shelve.
- Mount the spool holder inside the rack.
- Mount the Raspberry Pi holder inside the rack.
Please be careful with every tool that you use and read the safety guide of the tool.
1. Drill the holes for the power supply.
First, you have to choose a spot at which you want to parse through the cables from the outside.
Consider the following points:
- Can the cable reach their target with enough clearance?
- Dose the cable interfere with something on the inside?
- Is it possible to seal the hole afterwards?
I have chosen a spot at the back of the shelf.
The next step is to identify the size and shape of the hole, by finding the smallest shape that fits every plug that you have to parse through.
After you outlined the shape on the shelf, start drilling the hole.
Try to test fit your cabling, if it did not work, try to resize the hole.
2. Mount the lock support
Mark the middle of your shelf and mount a piece of wood underneath the shelf. Make shure that it will sit flush with the edge of the shelf. (Use 4 wood screws)
Afterwards mount the lock support just barely on the piece of wood. You will adjust it in the end of this instruction.
(If you do not know what I mean, take a look at the picture)
3. Mount the spool holder
Print the spool holder and assemble it. (My print failed, so I had to modify it a little bit. Therefore my spool stand looks different) (Thingiverse)
Position the spool holder at the desired position and mount it with the use of 4 wood screws on the shelf.
(4. Mount the Raspberry Pi holder inside the rack)
Print the Raspberry Pi Mount and find a good location for it inside the shelf. (Thingiverse)
Use 4 wood screws to attach the mount to the rack.
Have in mind, that the Raspberry Pi has some USB devices and cables attached, so it might need more space.
5. Stick the profile gasket along the outside
Since the door did not sit air tight against the rack, you will need to add some profile gasket around the outside of the enclosure. Profile gasket is normally used to insulate doors and windows and in this case will do the job.
Cut the role of profile gasket in four stripes with the right length and stick it to the outside of the rack (Similar to the picture).
Additionally I added one stripe of profile gasket at the end of the whole build on the bottom side of the door, since the board shelfs did not sit flush with the sides of the rack.
Step 3: Build the Door
The door should separate the air inside the enclosure from the ambient air. Furthermore, the DIY filtrations system will be mounted on the outside of the door. Therefore, the air that is sucked into the enclosure and the air that is pushed outside the enclosure will be filtered. As a result of this, no contaminated air should leave or enter the enclosure whether or not the fans are running.
The filtration system consist of four major components:
- Filter for organic gases
- Particulate Filter
- PC Fan to pull or push the air in/out side the enclosure
- 3D Printed mounting arms to hold the filters in place
In order to build the door, we have to cut a piece of acrylic glass to the exact size of the shelf (In my case 40x40 cm) and drill a few holes to mount every component.
1. Cut a piece of acrylic glass to size
Do not remove the plastic cover.
You can jump to the next step, if your acrylic glass has already the right size.
First, draw the outline of your desired shape on your sheet of acrylic glass. Furthermore, mark which side is up and left. In order to cut the sheet of acrylic glass to the right size perform the following description for each edge.
Take your utility knife or another sharp object to scratch a straight line along your marks on the acrylic glass on both sides. Then place the acrylic glass on a table and align the carved line with the edge of the table.
Hold the acrylic plate on the table and press the overhanging edge evenly and fast downwards, so the acrylic glass can break along the carved line.
Reaped this process until the sheet of acrylic has the right size.
2. Cut the angled aluminum to size
Since the acrylic glass has a lot of flex, we need to add some support to the acrylic glass, so it can press evenly on the profile gasket. This is necessary to seal the enclosure airtight, since any possibility gap should be prevented.
We will support the acrylic glass by adding angled aluminum to the side. Therefore we have to cut it to size. You will need 4 pieces of angled aluminum bars to cover the left, bottom and right side. The top side did not need, since it is pressed to the profile gasket by the hinges.
You will need to saw them to the following sizes (adjust them if needed):
- 2 x 40 cm, the height of your door.
- 2 x 16 cm, for the left and right side of the lock.
If you need to adjust the value, make sure, that the angled aluminum will not interfere with the sides of the rack.
After you sawed them to the right side, you will need to drill the holes for the screws, so the bars can be mounted to the acrylic glass. Drill one hole near to each end of the bars. Drill some additional holes, 3 holes each 20 cm with an equal distances between them. Each hole should have a corresponding M3 screw.
3. Drill the holes into the acrylic glass
You will need to drill holes for angled aluminum, the hinges, the lock, the fans and the 3D printed filter mounts.
In order to mount the pieces of angled aluminum to the acrylic glass, you need to drill one corresponding hole for each hole from the bars into the acrylic glass. Position each bar on the door, so they will extend towards the rack, along the outside of the rack. Mark each position at which you need to drill a hole on the acrylic glass and drill them at the marked position afterwards.
Now you will need to drill the holes for the hinges and the lock, therefore position them on the acrylic glass, mark the position of the holes and drill them too.
Take some M3 screw and try to mount the angled aluminum, the hinges and the lock on the door. If any component will not fit, correct the holes, so it will fit.
Remove them afterwards, so further steps can be taken.
4. Work on the filtration system
The mounting of the filtration system need some special care, since the position of the fans is essential to the airflow inside the enclosure and therefore, essential to the effectivity of the filtration system.
Here are some ideas where good location for the intake and outtake might be.
- The outtake should be located next to the printing area. Since every arising fumes should be filtered instantly.
- To find the location of the intake is a bit trickier, since it highly depends on the object inside the enclosure. The goal is to maximize the airflow inside, by placing the intake fan in a way, such that the ingoing air has a long but direct path through the enclosure.
An example of their location can be found in the pictures.
(Have in mind, that the fan on is on the inside and might collide with object inside the enclosure)
After you have find a suitable location, place only the gas and vapor cartridge onto their location and draw their outline on the acrylic glass. Draw a smaller version of the cartridge shape into the marked places, so you can saw along them and create a way for the air to parse through. In order to parse the saw through, you have to drill a hole into the newly marked area and insert the fretsaw or jigsaw to cut along the drawn line. Make sure that the cartridge can sit on the outside of the door with enough clearance on the sides.
Now, place the 3D printed mounts of the cartridges onto the door and mark the points at witch you have to drill holes. Make sure that the outline of the cartridges fits inside the mounts.
After you drilled the holes for the mounts, turn the door and place the fans on the inside of the door underneath the position of the filters. Mark the locations of the four holes per fan and drill them.
Take some M3 screw and try to mount the cartridge mounts and the fans on the door.
Attention: the fan got two arrows on the side that mark the direction of the airflow and rotation of the fan. Furthermore, think about the cabling, the cable should be pointed in the direction of the hinges.
If any component will not fit, correct the holes, so it will fit.
Remove them afterwards, so further steps can be taken.
5. Mount every component onto the acrylic glass
Now it is time to remove the cover of the acrylic glass on both sides and mount every component permanently on the the acrylic glass.
Enjoy peeling of the foil :)
Now mount every component, except the 3D printed mounts, on the door, as previously tested.Then place the Particulate Filter onto the location of the cartridge and the gas and vapor cartridge on top.
Lastly, you have to screw the cartridge mounts in place. One part of the mount has legs that can be slightly bend, so they can press the carriage onto the surface of the door. Furthermore, the mounts have holes through which some zip ties fit. Use these to create pressure, in order to hold the cartridges in place.
6. Mount the door to the shelf
Now take the door to the shelf and align it with the shelf perfectly. Then screw the hinges in place.
Lastly, mount the lock support onto the piece of wood with wood screws, so it will hold the closed lock.
7. Mount the door hanging mechanism
Since gravity will always win, we have to install some mechanism, that keeps the door open, when we want to work inside the enclosure. Therefore, we will use one wood screw per side to mount two equal sized cords to the rack. These cords can be pulled over the edges of the door, in order to keep them open.
Knot both ends of the cord to the screw to create a loop.
In order to determine the length of the cords, we will do some basic math (Pythagoras).
- Hight of your door := h
- Distance between the mounting point and the hinges := d
- Resulting length of the cord :=l
Adjust the length if you are not happy with it :)
Step 4: Seal Everything
This step is responsible for the air tightness of the enclosure. We will try to seal every possible leak with silicone. Therefore, you need to identify the positions, hat you need to seal. Here are some possible positions:
- The surroundings of the shelf board (bottom and top)
- Between the back panel and the sides of the rack.
- Drilled holes that go through
- Cable parse through (separate instruction at the end)
Seal every determined location with silicone. It will not hurt to use more silicone.
The cable parse through is a little bit trickier. Since it might be a little bit bigger, you cant seal it directly with silicone. The easiest way is to cut a piece of acrylic glass to size and try to cover the biggest portion of the hole.
Before you determine the size of the acrylic glass, make sure that you parsed every necessary cable through, since you have to redo the whole sealing process, if you want to change something.
Place the piece of acrylic glass on the spot and glue it in place. Use some silicone to seal everything afterwards.
Step 5: Place Every Component
Now you have to place every component inside the freshly build enclosure and connect every wire to their supposed device.
I routed the cables of the fans along the top shelf board. In order to get a clear rout to the top it would be good, to place a screw in the top. This screw can be used to fix some zip ties in place. Use this zip ties to fix the fan cables and other cables in place.
A good cable management will let your enclosure less messy and make it easier to service the whole build.
Congratulations, you finished this build.
I would recommend you to read the last step about advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, I invite you to join the discussion about this build in the comments. I want to hear your ideas about this project.
Step 6: Advantages and Disadvantages of This Build
This step contains a conclusion for this project.
Overall, I am happy with the outcome of this project, given that it reduced the observable effect of the 3D printer on the ambient air drastically, because I cannot smell the 3D printer while and after printing. Since I did not have any fancy equipment, I cannot underline my subjective perception with any scientific data.
Furthermore, I really like the fact, that my 3D printer is integrated into the rack and does not need a new dedicated space.
On the other hand, this enclosure got its downsides, since the access to the printer is limited and difficult. Beyond that, I needed to adapt to a new workflow, since it needs some time after the printing procedure ends to filter the remaining contamination out of the air. Therefore, I have to wait a certain amount of time before opening the enclosure. This time highly depends on the kind of fan you use and the airflow inside the case.
If you are interested into the way I powered my MakiBox with a ATX PSU (PC power supply) or how I build a 3D printing server with my raspberry pi in my local network, leave a comment below and I will try to write an article on Instructable as soon as possible.
As mentioned at the end of the last step, I want your Feedback. Not only because this is my first post, but more over because I want to improve this article.
- Are there points, where you got confused?
- Is something not clear?
- Do you think that my way of tackling this Problem is the wrong approach?
See you in the comments,
sincerely Langhalsdino :)
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.