Flat Pack 3D Printer Enclosure

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About: I'm a Product Design Engineer, currently living in the UK. I have been fortunate to have lived, studied and worked in Hong Kong, Norway and California. I believe physical models help people to communicate,...

Much has been written on the virtues of keeping parts warm while printing - and there are many solid 3D printer enclosures. However, I found that with a small workshop space, (and also running workshops), portability was often overlooked...

This enclosure uses piano hinges (which are surprisingly cheap) and 4mm Greenhouse PC Sheeting (also very cheap), to create an enclosure - and it cal all be done in less than 1 hour!

It can of course be made solid, but omitting the hinges and simply creating a box - and this will still likely be one of the cheapest enclosures you can make, with the PC Sheeting being typically ~$10/sheet (1220x720mm).

If you are keen to see more projects using corrugated plastics, check out my other projects like a Spacepod, and other modelling tips at Hey Jude on Instructables.

Supplies:

Piano Hinges can be found for around than $1/ft, on Amazon (LINK) and cheaper at local builders merchants.
Polycarbonate Sheet (for Greenhouses) can be found at ~$10-$15/sheet (large enough for a project like this if economical with usage, but perhaps get 2x in case!), on Amazon (LINK), but this is cheaper at a DIY centre.

The clear PC sheet is easier to come by, and may well be cheaper on Amazon or from a craft shop. (LINK) 2-Part

Epoxy Glue - I uses 90 Second Cure (very fast!). I used Araldite, but any others will do. I also used MDF for the base, but frankly - and solid bit of wood will do. 3D Printers vibrate a little, so hefty is good.

All other materials such as sticky-tape, craft knife, etc. I'm sure you have =) Not shown: Glue-gun, goggles, mask, etc. - be safe.

Optional Extra: Magnetic Door, using 4(dia)x3mm Magnets (LINK).

Step 1: Quick Mark-up

It's pretty obvious that you'll need to measure around your 3D printer to work out how big you want the enclosure to be. Take into account the 'max'/'min' positions of things like the printer bed, and also the ergonomics of where you need to put your fingers to get to stuff.

TIP - I used felt marker to ink-up the 'feet' of the printer, and placed on the MDF where I needed it.

TIP - I quickly 3D printed some rings to act as locating 'sockets' for the printer feet, and stuck them down with Glue-gun.

Final picture shows the fit of the spool, etc. So be aware of all of these parts and that they move freely.

I needed about 350(w) x 350(d) x 400(h).

Step 2: Cheap & Easy to Cut Material

Note - I've put the direction of the 'fluting' (corrugation) or the PC sheet in such a way for this to be what I think is the most structurally sound direction (as it mounts to a solid hinge, perpendicular to it).

For a 4mm sheet, this stuff is very easy to cut - but do take care and I'd suggest cutting in 3-5 strokes, rather than 1 forceful cut!

Once you have 2 pieces. - peel back the protective cover, and lay ready for gluing.

(If you like - roughen with some sand-paper to help the epoxy key)

TIP - clean any oils of the piano hinge with rubbing alcohol or acetone (don't use strong solvents on the PC Sheet - it may craze).

Check alignment and fit of hinges to the sheets...

Step 3: Tape Hinges/PC Sheets in Place

I think this is a great tip, and not only does the Sellotape take the guesswork out of this project, but it also allows the glue to set like 'rivets' through the drill-holes.

Last image shows the position of hinge - note fold-angle, relative to attachment of PC Sheets!

Step 4: Applying Epoxy (Quickly!)

Warning - Epoxy is nasty stuff, so read all safety warnings, and use in a well ventilated area with appropriate protection.

Mix about a quarter/10p sized quantity, and mix quickly for 10 seconds.

Apply to the inner faces of the hinge and PC sheet. Close afterwards.

You have less than 60 Seconds to apply, so I suggest doing one set of hinges at a time!

Step 5: Ensure Good Adhesion

Flip the PC sheets over onto a flat surface, and using a tissue - 'rub' the hinge-plastic together.

This is also a good reason we used Sellotape, as it allows us to do this without making a mess!

Check alignment and any air-bubbles, and leave for a couple mins to set.

Step 6: Fixing Mistakes

Because you are applying the glue liberally to the two materials - it's likely some will be squeezed out. Should it get onto the centre of the hinge, this would be bad if we let it set hard, so it's better to clean in off.

TIP - there is an optimum time to 'pick off' epoxy, and it's just when it starts to 'go-off' or start to set. As the chemicals are 'related' you can observe the 'set' of the glue left on the mixing paper...when this is getting to be so tacky it pulls off in a chunk, this is when you can pick off the glue on the hinge - with a wooden spatula/lollipop stick.

This is a great tip to know in general, and once you have the hang of it, it can take a messy job to a clean one in seconds.

Step 7: Peel Off Tape

Remove tape, not too long after the epoxy has started to really set. (say 5-10mins from application).

Leave for 5mins, while you prepare the next piece of PC sheet to attach...

Step 8: Rinse, Repeat...

In case you'd not guesses, I've repeated this step - to take photos, as the 90second mix-cure-apply-cleanup speed was not easy to take a picture as well! So this explains why this is done with off-cuts...but the same process applies.

Step 9: 4 Sides Done

Once you have 4 sizes joined, leave to set for a while, just so everything takes a hold.

Start-to finish this takes about 30mins, if you cut, clean, prep the next section as you're waiting for the last join to set.

This is also the last time to check if the hinges are all aligned nicely, etc.

Step 10: Sides to Base

I uses some 2mm ABS to finish the edges of the MDF, and to allow it to easily 'dock' and align.

Any material can be used, but this is easy to work with and cheap.

Step 11: Cables

I cut in two small slots for cables into the sides, for Power and USB. Simple!

Step 12: Optional - Door

The PC Sheet is pretty easy to see through, but obviously not perfect - so it's preferable to have a viewing side, and also a door (if you're going through the trouble anyway to cut another material).

I simply attached this 2mm PC (clear) sheet in the same way as the rest of this process, and it works nicely.

Step 13: Making the Lid

The Lid was made by cutting a PC sheet the same as the top of the box, and then adding some small strips on the inner side, that would keep it located squarely.

Optional again - I added a clear panel in the same way as the door, and fixed it in place with Epoxy.

Step 14: Optional Extras - Magnetic Door, Temp/RH% Monitor.

You can make any fastening mechanism you like - even a paper-clip would work.

However, in keeping with the minimal / flatness of this design, I inserted Magnets into the fluting of the corrugated PC sheet, and stuck the corresponding magnets onto the clear door.

I also had space to drop in a Temp & RH% Monitor.

Step 15: Collapse // Cover

Although more complex enclosures do exist, this for me is cheap, portable and keeps space to a minimum when not printing.

Do please vote if you liked it, or if you made a variation of it!

Have fun and happy printing =)

Jude

Step 16: Sketches of Assembly

Hope these help also =)

Step 17: Not Too Hot or Too Cold - But Just Right

Following a question, I thought I'd show the temp rise for a print that was ~30mins, and it rose ~5C.
This is still within the operating temp for the 3D Printer, though of course one can consider partial venting if needed to keep cooler. Most 3D Printers work well at moderately warm conditions.

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    26 Discussions

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    Biermeister1

    26 days ago

    Super cool, thanks! I'm probably jumping in with a tangential question, but I am interested in an enclosure for two reasons, for one as you've stated, but also to facilitate active ventilation out of the house to address the potentially serious nanoparticle issue with 3D printing. Have you considered this?

    6 replies
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    Hey JudeBiermeister1

    Reply 25 days ago

    As it happens, I work in a very well ventilated area, so I can 'exhaust' / 'purse' the printer case air, when needed - by opening a window. I think ABS printing should be done with good extraction, although PLA is apparently less harmful, I still take no chances.

    However, if I were to have a go at this - I'd incorporate a minifan into the side, and then duct this out using 100mm ducting tubes. I'd 'purge' before opening the door.

    Perhaps something like this?
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Portable-Adjustable-Desktop-Rechargeable-Cooling/dp/B01D41GU00/ref=sr_1_17?keywords=mini+fan+portable&qid=1561118762&s=gateway&sr=8-17

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    Biermeister1Hey Jude

    Reply 23 days ago

    Thanks for the good idea, I guess your concept is to retain the heat while printing, and then purge only afterwards? I guess that works, but it will leak particles unless you have 100% sealing on the enclosure, and in that case I wonder if the inside ambient won't get too high?

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    Hey JudeBiermeister1

    Reply 22 days ago

    Yes - correct - purge once printed.

    As for the Printer getting too hot, I guess this is where you have to ponder the gains-to-effort involved... From experience, I've found the printer I have (UP Plus) simply does not get that hot when printing a few items (under 35C). If you wanted to run this in a hot country, for a long time, I would suggest you build in a small 'indent' to where the vents are, to allow some circulation. As you might expect this has tradeoffs, but this is also why I put a Temp Sensor inside so I can 'learn' how my printer behaves. I'd consult your manual and see what operation temperatures are acceptable, and design around that.... Hope that helps =)

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    Hey JudeBiermeister1

    Reply 21 days ago

    Posted some pictures and temps for a print. Temp seems just right. Hope this helps =)

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    Noriah

    26 days ago

    Could you add a drawing of what you do for the lid? The clear materials make it very difficult to see what's going on. A demonstration in an opaque material like a few colors of construction paper would also work.

    Also a diagram of the position/orientation of the hinges relative to all the sheets would help.

    Showing the folding process step-by-step in the first/completion step would clarify the relative position of all the parts as well.

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    Hey JudeNoriah

    Reply 25 days ago

    Sounds fair enough. Give me a moment and I'll do a sketch ;o)

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    rmelchiori

    26 days ago

    If you changed the orientation of the wall material so that the channels ran vertically, instead on horizontally, you could cut finger joints in the corresponding edges and use a segment of stiff wire inserted in the overlapping channel to be the hinge. Just pull the wires to knock it back down to 4 individual wall sections and it would truly be flat packed.
    Nice job with this instructable.

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    Hey Judermelchiori

    Reply 25 days ago

    You make an excellent point. I've often put the 'fluting' in cardboard and corrugated to good use by inserting sticks for pivots or string for automata. However, I found that the tension needed to alternate between a tight (square) frame, and a loose (flat packed) fame, was tricky to know how to manage. Ideally I'd like that mechanism on the back of helmets you get with a click-wheel...but as you might imagine it gets complex. I'd also considered threading springs in-between, but this left big gaps.

    Instructables has Remix contests sometimes - perhaps if you have an idea - post it and make V2.0 even better! I'd make one =)

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    RobertW395

    26 days ago

    I just used an empty Amazon box with sections cut out to fit my printer. Granted, I have the 8x8 bed so it is bigger than this, but it cut out the drafts and helps the build plate get to temp quicker.

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    Hey JudeRobertW395

    Reply 25 days ago

    Haha - I guess you may see from my Design Modelling website - I'm a cardboard nerd....however, on this occasion, I liked a. the transparency, and b. the better fire-resistance (just to be safe right).

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    cjlobb

    26 days ago

    This is a very nice design, and very simple. I recall hearing, though, that it may not be a good idea to enclose the entire printer, as this can make the control electronics get hotter than it should get. I don't know if this is true or not, can anyone provide information on this? Thanks!

    3 replies
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    goldenskyhookcjlobb

    Reply 26 days ago

    The cooling fans should take care of that just fine. On the other hand, one of the more common things that can cause print failures is drafts or inconsistent build plate temperatures. An enclosure like this can cure a lot of minor printer problems, and cut down the overall noisiness as well.

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    Hey Judegoldenskyhook

    Reply 25 days ago

    I'm kinda with you on that I use this sparingly for long parts which are likely to warp. Frankly, if I was doing a little piece, I'd just forget it.

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    Hey Judecjlobb

    Reply 25 days ago

    I think you have a point if running many prints for hours on end back-to-back, but in my experience, this is not a hermitically sealed thing, so it naturally has draughts and does not get very hot (like no warmer than a hot summer's day). This is also why I keep a portable thermometer inside it (as a nerd), so if it were to get super hot, I'd crack the door open a little bit. Hope that helps.