filament labs enclosure: the finished enclosure and notes on the enclosure [updates]
After a few days and a lot of glass cuts on my fingers, the enclosure for the printer is finally complete. I'll put an official bill of materials somewhere but it's made of:
Four pieces of 24x30in Glass Panels
Two pieces of 2ftx2ft 3/4" Plywood
VHB Tape/Super Glue
Two Door Hinges
Some car door seals from Amazon
And one filament enclosure from Amazon
Together this turned into one of the nicest looking but most functional projects I've ever done and the enclosure really really works to keep the bed and the print environment at a temperature where filament really likes to print. Since it's made of glass and wood, two very good insulators, and since there are seals around the side. The temperature is passively maintained. The only tricky part was figuring out how to feed the filament but after finessing a little bit with the included filament guiding tubes we got the system to work really well and even print filaments it never wanted to print before. We're going to run tests with ABS as well as Nylon, so far we have printed PLA and Carbon PLA.
And here she is, the finished enclosure with the PolyBox on top to hold the filament. Essentially, the box is a glass enclosure that has a 24x24 inches base and stands 30 inches tall. The front of the case features a single glass door with automotive-grade seals, and magnetic locking. The top of the case features a wooden work surface and a PolyBox filament holder with humidity control.
Here's a back-view of the printer, the all-glass back provides a nice viewing window into the print from all angles and is very aesthetic. You can see from this picture the filament injectors on the top of the printer which provide an air-tight path for the filament to travel from the PolyBox into the printing chamber. The filament extruder and breakage sensor had to be moved from the side where they were position to ideally extrude filament upwards to where it currently is in the top back of the printer positioned horizontally. That's the only change that was made to the printer to make it work in the enclosure.
These are just some other angles of the design. The fully glass enclosure gives it a very professional look. It was very easy to construct, however, because the glass is simply VHB taped onto the wooden fixture.
Here's an up-close view of the PolyBox, its humidity meter, and the Filament Labs logo plate in the top-right corner of the printer's glass front.
Here is the printer's name plate on the bottom-right corner and you can see part of the Automotive seal. Phobos, and her sister Demios is the filament extruder we are currently still building we will see how that project goes.
Here's a top view of the "work station" as well as the poly box and the rear Filament Injectors. There are three injectors for a total of three possible filaments that can be injected into the chamber. But we should note the Tronxy X5SA is a single-filament printer.
A view of the whole filament path. Previously the filament had to travel down around and back up again before it was fed into the main tube that led to the nozzle. We changed that by moving the extruder to the top of the 3D printer's frame which allows a more direct feeding path for the filament and a smoother print.
A closeup view of the injectors which are simply plastic tubes inserted into the vacuum holes in the poly box and 1/4" drilled holes in the wood frame itself. They're a very elegant way to feed filament into the chamber easily without worrying about it being exposed to humidity, and without breaking the heat-seals of the chamber itself.
But now let's get to what really matters. How does this help a 3D print and what effects have we seen on the prints that come out of this printer vs before? And honestly, after using this thing for just a few prints I can say the affects on the print quality, speed, and just general printability of certain materials - is profound.
The first thing I noticed was the drastic decrease in time that it took for the build-plate to heat up. Heating a 1ftx1ft build plate up to 70C took this printer in the open basement close to 15 minutes at least. Within the enclosure that time is down to less than five minutes. We'll actually time this and draw a comparison at some point. But what this means is the enclosure saves a lot of energy and prep time.
Second came the affect on local build-plate temperature control, equally impressive. This printer, being not very expensive, always had a hard time controlling its temperature. It would fluctuate between 60-75 when we set the plate to 70C. Now with the heated chamber the plate stays at 70-71C and never really moves form there. And this helps with the next part which is build-plate adhesion and print quality.
The affect on adhesion of filaments to the build plate and general print quality is beyond impressive. Comparing a filament that had previously good build-plate adhesion highlights a large advantage of this enclosure. When looking at Carbon PLA printing without the enclosure adhesion was decent, but more interesting was when we added the enclosure the PLA maintained such a high temperature when we took it off the print bed without waiting for the enclosure to be open for too long - it was still soft, it hadn't fully cooled! We could actually bend the part but when it did finish cooling the layer adhesion was rock solid. This is compared to the previous Carbon PLA prints which printed well but had poor layer adhesion so the parts were weak.
Even more impressive was the build plate adhesion, especially of filaments that didn't want to print. We had previously bought a very low-quality PLA filament that was so bad that, without the enclosure, the PLA was cooling before it even hit the build plate surface and never sticking to the plate. It was a terrible quality filament which we were about to return until we tried it on the printer in the enclosure. To our shock the PLA filament we thought was too useless to be used, in the enclosure adhered to the build-plate like magic.
All this has to do with the way the chamber maintains its temperature. Since the chamber is made of Glass and Wood, two very good natural insulators, and because the heated bed is so large, the heated bed is able to warm the chamber to a very large extent so the air temperature in the chamber is reaching much higher temperatures than room temperature (we haven't measured them yet). So much higher in-fact that the metal frame of the printer is getting hot to the touch, and so is the surrounding glass of the printer itself. This is why the filament is able to print so much smoother as it isn't cooling as fast as it was before.
We haven't tested this either but I suspect because of the slower cooling rate this will allow the whole part to cool more uniformly providing more dimensionally accurate prints as well. It would be really interesting to do a full-feature comparison between the printer with the enclosure and without.
The next steps for us is to make a nice instructions manual along with a bill of materials on how to make one of these for your printer. Having an enclosure like this could allow printers to use less power (be more efficient), and waste less material as well while also producing stronger parts.