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Managing Temperature in a Passive 3D Printer Enclosure

There's not much to a 3D printer enclosure.  Although ours look fancy, functionally they're not much different than putting a card box over the printers since both designs are passively heated by the heated beds.

We generally get two types of customers:

  1. Those interested mostly in air quality.
  2. Those interested mostly in print quality.

The problem is those two goals use two different techniques in terms of airflow.  For the best air quality, as much air as possible needs to come into the enclosure and then be vented or filtered out.  All of our enclosures come with fans, and we've chosen the CFM ratings to match the cubic size of the enclosures.  This ensures that for filament types like PLA, which don't like the heat there's enough airflow to keep the temperatures in the safe zone. 

At the same time, you want the internal temperatures higher for filaments like ABS, which happens naturally because the recommended bed temperatures are much higher than for PLA, typically in the 105-120C range.  With the fans turned on we shoot for internal temps between 35C and 40C for 3D printers that use E3D hot ends because E3D recommends that temp range to avoid clogging.  By keeping the temperatures in that range it puts the least stress on the equipment and follows the manufacturer's guidelines.

This works great for people either interested mostly in air quality or those who are risk-averse and don't want to take a chance of clogging their hot ends or decreasing the useful life of their printers.

More experienced 3D printer owners though, those for whom a clogged nozzle is a known risk, might want to run the temperatures higher for less warping of ABS parts or to print nylon.  In those cases, you can turn off the fans or even print one of the vent covers and just not vent at all.  For our internal print farm, we do the later on a couple of machines where the temperature when printing ABS gets as high as 46C.  They've been running like that for years with no filament clogging.  Even with no venting of the power supplies, we've never had a power supply fail either. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as it depends on a lot of variables such as filament quality and the quality of the power supply in that particular printer.

If you're looking for the highest temperature's possible, try turning the bed heater on for an hour before you print.  

The other part of the equation is the printer design.   Those printers where the hot end is at the top of the enclosure make it easier to achieve higher temperatures because the hot air rises to the top, and the vertical hot end position is fixed.  Those printers with the hot ends at the bottom are always going to have more problems managing temperature simply because the temperature is more likely to vary as the hot end goes from the bottom to the top of the enclosure.

If you're looking to achieve a particular temperature with your enclosure, let us know and we'll give some advice on how to manage, but it's really not that hard:  

Lower Temperature = More Air
Higher Temperature = Less Air