I’m reading an interesting thread on Reddit about Bambu Lab enclosures and realized there could be a more widespread issue.
The thread proposes that “ABS is bad for your 3D printer”. It’s based on the experience of poster poofph, who operates ten X1C devices. Two are used to print PLA only, while the other eight print ABS only.
Over time poofph noticed issues with the ABS printing devices. They explained:
“The ones that print ABS have had tons of issues all year. Mostly electrical issues, needing new cables, new circuit boards (replaced nearly every board in the printer on most of my printers) etc. The ones that print PLA, have not had a single issue and only had to change the hotend once, on the ABS machines I have to change the hotends once every few months on average. The ABS machines get this glaze/yucky coating all over the inside of the printer which is very difficult to wash off, nothing on the PLA machines.”
Let’s take this apart.
First, ABS is well-known to produce far more emissions than most other common 3D print materials. Several studies have shown the nanoparticle and VOC counts are sometimes 10X that of PLA and other materials. Anyone who prints ABS already knows this, of course, because of the smell. And that’s just the particles your nose can detect.
When printing ABS on an open gantry 3D printer, these emissions simply float away and linger in the immediate work area. That’s why ventilation is strongly recommended for any 3D printing setup.
However, when there’s an enclosure different things can happen. The walls prevent the emissions from floating away, and they may linger in the chamber. In fact, many enclosures are designed to hold heat in to aid the printing process. However, they also hold in the emissions.
Operator poofph saw a yucky glaze on the inside of their X1Cs, and that is no doubt emission accumulations.
Aside: if that’s what the printer looks like after printing ABS, what do your lungs look like if you don’t ventilate?
There is the proposition that this somehow caused various hardware failures in the X1C. Perhaps that’s possible, but it’s more likely that the higher heat required for ABS printing is the culprit. Running continuous ABS jobs will keep the X1Cs very hot for long periods, and that’s never good for electronics.
While this report deals with the Bambu Lab X1C, the emissions/glaze issue is almost certainly present on other FFF 3D printers with enclosures.
However, there are some variations. Some enclosures are just that: a box around the printing action. These would certainly encourage accumulation of emissions.
There are other 3D printers with enclosures that have fans and filters. In these air from inside the build chamber is blown out through a filter. The filter would hopefully catch most of the emissions, and they would neither be in the air or walls of the 3D printer.
There are other enclosure designs with fans, but no filters. These are focused on heat consistency. The idea is that if the chamber temperature exceeds a threshold, then the fan triggers and pulls some hot air out — letting some cooler air in. In these machines the emissions are simply being blown out as if there was no enclosure. In fact, it may actually be worse since the airflow would push the emissions further.
What can we learn from all this? I think the following are true:
- Enclosures with no filters are not desirable
- Enclosed 3D printers should have a fan/filter system to prevent accumulation of gunk inside the machine
- ABS is a terrible material for 3D printing
- If you run 3D printers at high temperatures for long periods expect electronics failures
- Everyone should pay a bit more attention to safety concerns with their 3D printers
After reading through the post and thinking about why this happens, I now have a slightly different opinion of 3D printer enclosures. You should too.