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MAKE fan Michael Schaller send along this project he built at home to deal with one very important factor of the 3D printing experience: noise. From Michael-


Just for background: I live in an old house that doesn’t have good insulation. We have some neighbors that live below us and sound travels really easily through the floors and walls. I wanted to do long prints, especially at night, but you could hear the printer all through the house. I built this using some off-the-shelf materials to dampen the sound. An added advantage that I didn’t consider at first is that it keeps the inside of the cabinet at a warm temperature (~110º F) during the build. I thought it might be a problem, but I think it actually produced more consistent parts because it reduced the shrinkage of the plastic during the build.

My wife called it the ‘fire box’ because she was worried about it catching on fire, but after monitoring the temperature for a few builds I stopped worrying about it.

Steps

Step #1: Modify the Filing Cabinet

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3D Printer Sound-Dampening Enclosure From an old Filing Cabinet
  • Remove the drawers from the filing cabinet, pulling them all the way out (there's usually a latch you have to press to get them to come out completely).
  • Use a saw or dremel to cut the back end of the top drawer off so only the face of the drawer remains. This is mostly just cutting by eye and doesn't need to be perfect. Make sure to grind any sharp edges down afterwards so no one gets cut.
  • Depending on the size of the printer and the filing cabinet, you may need to remove additional metal from the bottom drawer such as the folder hanging pieces. Go ahead and check by placing the printer onto the drawer and sliding it back into the filing cabinet. Make sure the build area and power switch are accessible. If not, cut away.
  • Drill a hole through the top of the filing cabinet where plastic can enter. Drill holes at the back of the filing cabinet where the power cable and USB cable can run.

Step #2: Add the Sound Dampening

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3D Printer Sound-Dampening Enclosure From an old Filing Cabinet
  • Cut the carpet into patches that fit the inside walls of the filing cabinet (top, back, sides, front, bottom). If you can, use one patch to do the 2 side walls and back wall — folding the carpet in at the corners. This helps prevent more sounds escape. Make sure not to cover up the sliding rails of the lower drawer, it may take a couple pieces to leave this section uncovered. Use an adhesive such as Gorilla Glue to attach the carpet to the walls of the filing cabinet. Place carpet patches on the bottom of the drawer and the inside of the front faces of both the drawers as well.
  • Use the foam insulation and spray into any corners or places where the metal cabinet is exposed (again, not near the drawer rails).
  • Cut a hole in the top piece of carpet to allow for the plastic filament to enter the filing cabinet.
  • Reassemble the bottom drawer into the filing cabinet - it should slide nicely.
  • Insert and connect the cables and plastic. You may want to coil some extra cable underneath the bottom drawer so it has somewhere to go as the drawer slides back in.
  • Place the rubber mat on the floor underneath the filing cabinet. Any extra carpet pieces can be placed inside the cabinet underneath the bottom drawer to further dampen.
  • Print! Try it out and see how well it works at reducing noise. You can monitor the temperature with a digital cooking thermometer to see if its getting too hot — mine never did.

Step #3: Extra Credit / Next steps

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3D Printer Sound-Dampening Enclosure From an old Filing Cabinet
  • I didn't do this but, attaching the top drawer face to the bottom drawer face would be a nice addition or adding a latch so it closes securely. Otherwise it's just pressed in and resting on top of the bottom drawer which seems to work, but isn't ideal.
  • Adding a light and a window would be great. Like an oven where you can see what's cooking.

Ken Denmead

Ken is the Grand Nagus of GeekDad.com. He's a husband and father from the SF Bay Area, and has written three books filled with projects for geeky parents and kids to share.


Comments

  1. Bill C says:

    Make sure you don’t get the Stratasys Lawyers on you. I hear Strat owns patents on making a box around a printer. :-)

  2. Ian Lee says:

    Nice job! Even better than a window might be to put add a WiFi webcam and LED strips inside the printer. Then you could watch it print from anywhere.

    1. Ken Denmead says:

      Yeah, this might work better. Having a window could let more sound through that you might want. Plus wifi cam is makier! ;)

  3. haber says:

    Tihs is good thanks my man !

  4. Scott Petrovits says:

    FYI, it’s “damping”, not “dampening”. The former is what you do to vibration (e.g., airborne noise), the latter is what you do to a sponge.

    1. Ken Denmead says:

      You know, I had to go double check, because what you said had the ring of truth, and I am the first to make the occasional word choice mistake. However, it looks like there’s no absolute right in this case. Webster defines “dampen” as “to check or diminish the activity or vigor of : deaden .” And really, if you google “sound dampening
      there are a huge number of results, especially in materials meant to reduce noise. I think this is one of those cases where the usage has blurred over time, and this is just as reasonable a choice.

  5. Sam says:

    I know there’s a patent on selling heated enclosures. One could use parts from or even buy an egg incubator for the enclosure. Hovabator makes a 60 dollar stryrofoam incubator with heating element and temp control which could be easily modded into printer enclosure heat source.