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I am currently in the look for a 3D printer and one major issue I find it the fumes/VOCs that printing can emit. I am not planning to do ABS or similar but I've read from studies that PLA also may emit VOCs. I live in an apartment and I plan to put the printer in my office, in which I work remotely, so I spend 8+ hours per day in that room. Additionally, I'm not looking to print huge volumes, I'd rather say probably 1-2 prints per month or so.

Now, through my research I found that it's better to go with an FDM printer rather resin, as the latter not only stinks (and fumes are dangerous) but also is quite overwhelming for a beginner. Cool, then I was looking for FDM printers with enclosure (e.g. Qidi maker or da Vinci) and others without (e.g. Creality Ender 3 V2 or Prusa).

Let's start with the enclosed printers. So, most of them advertise that they have filters on their vents but from some quick research I see lots of people complain that these are useless. In some cases some have printed an adaptor, placed it on the fan's place and use an air hose to direct the fumes outside, to a window for example. That is fine, requires some bit of work but I guess it will keep most dangerous particles away.

For enclosureless 3d printers like Ender V2, I noticed that I can buy an enclosure, like the ones that Creality advertises as fireproof. Or still I could DIY one via IKEA parts. I thought that I could enclose my printer there when I needed to print something, seal it and when done, just put it in the balcony to rest, by opening the enclosure there for the VOCs to come out and disperse in the environment. Would that work? Would that enclosure keep the VOCs from contaminating my room? Does anybody tried something similar? Would that be practical? Would that affect the printing quality?

So in the end the question is: should I rely on an enclosure without ventilation and then put it on the balcony to rest and release the fumes? Or should I build a DIY air filtering system to redirect the fumes outside through my window? Which one would keep away those VOCs?

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  • $\begingroup$ you can get rid of VOCs with a simple ionizer; my fan has one built in, but you can get stand alone units for under $20. That said, this is a cure in search of a problem with PLA. $\endgroup$
    – dandavis
    Jul 19 at 21:36
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The VOC issue is overblown. Unless you print constantly, you don't need any air treatment. Often that kind of treatment is installed by people who like DIY for the fun of it, not because it's really needed.

Characterization of volatile organic compound emissions from consumer level material extrusion 3D printers shows that dangerous chemicals may, in some cases without ventilation, exceed some of the limit concentration, but not much. So, in general, nothing goes significantly above the allowed concentrations.

With less than 2-3 prints a day the natural ventilation of the room (which you need anyway if you work there) is enough to keep VOC to a safe level (unless you watch the whole print with the nose at few cm from it).

If you want to be extra safe, use one of those flexible enclosures around the printer. It won't be super good for PLA (it gets warm inside and PLA should not be printed in a hot environment) but it will contain the VOC. When the print is done, or simply when you finish work, remove the enclosure, open slightly the window and come back in an hour or so.

That's more than enough.

If you want to filter for the fun of it, buy a HEPA filter and put an activated carbon filter after it, plus the fans to push the air through these two filters. But then you won't be in the room to work due to the noise, so I'm not sure you gained anything.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! On flexible enclosure you mean something like this? cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0046/3781/8929/products/… I find it more of a chore rather than fun for me at least, what I want is to be on the safe side and not my hobby to affect my health. It's chemicals after all, melted and cooled in a closed environment like a room. Would an enclosed printer be safer choice compared to a open one? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ Yes that enclosure should work, unless you print PLA which should be kept cooler, but then see the other answer. An enclosed printer is like a flexible enclosure, just better sealed. The same applies. $\endgroup$
    – FarO
    Jul 13 at 22:50
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For some filament materials an enclosure without ventilation is too warm. You could run a hose to the outside like a cloths dryer uses and use a fan to blow the air out through it. Then, a filtering system is unnecessary.

My understanding is a resin printing system is more complex to maintain. You probably would only want to go that direction if you needed the special characteristics of those systems.

If you expose your printer to the variations in seasonal temperatures, you may need to adjust your printer parameters based on the different temperatures during printing.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, yeah resin printing is bit too much for me right now. Guess I have to get used to standard FDM printing and when I move to a house would probably fiddle around with that. For FDM printing, would an enclosed printer be better choice compared to an open one? In terms of 1) printing quality 2) VOCs & fumes FYI - since I'm a newbie I would be looking something on a budget. Plus I'm not looking to print huge items or in volumes, rather 1-2 prints per month just for fun & hobby. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ Questions about print quality in an enclosure should be asked in a different question, but probably has already been answered in this site $\endgroup$
    – FarO
    Jul 13 at 22:51
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An enclosure without ventilation would definitely not be enough to contain VOCs from my experience with ABS and HIPS (both have relatively strong smells). The fumes will simply seep out of the openings in the enclosure.

I put my 3d printer in a bathroom with an exhaust fan. The fan's outlet is IP-controllable, so I have OctoPrint run the fan every few minutes to exhaust the fumes (or constantly). It works great. When the fan is on no fumes escape. You can verify by burning some incense and seeing that the smoke flows into the bathroom from outside. Putting a facial tissue close to the door will demonstrate the suction effect also.

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