Last winter I got the new Prusa I3 Mk3 printer and placed it next to my older Flashforge Creator Pro in my garage. I do heat my garage to about 60F (about 15 C) and was having some warping issues that I don’t typically have with the Flashforge.
I assumed this problem was related to the temperature, so I moved it into my office which is typically kept at 70-75F (21-24 C). This made a noticeable difference and I was instantly seeing better quality prints.
So, does the temperature of the printing environment affect 3D print quality? Absolutely.
Room temperature can have a serious impact on the quality of your prints. For some materials, like ABS and other higher temp plastics, the temperature in the room can have an even more dramatic effect. Too much temperature differential can cause the prints too cool too quickly causing defects.
Ideally, you want to set up your 3D printer in a warm room that has limited drafts or breezes. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic for everyone.
Whether you just don’t have space or don’t know how to find the best location for 3D printing, here are some helpful tips to ensure you get the best print quality possible:
Having a 3D printer opens your world up to a wide array of possibilities. Before you can make cool trinkets, useful tools, and impressive artwork, you’ll need to decide on what type of material to use.
You can think of 3D printing materials like the ink cartridge or toner you put in your normal printer.
There are many different types of 3D printing materials out there. Cheap, versatile materials like PLA (polylactic acid) are great for everyday printing.
Slightly stronger, slightly harder to print, is ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Polymers like PETG is a great middle ground between the two.
There are also more “exotic” materials that can be used for 3D printing like nylon, wood, and even metals infused in plastic. For this discussion, we’ll focus on the more common plastic materials: PLA, ABS, and PETG.
When you are choosing which material to use, you should keep the temperature of your printing environment in mind. Some materials are better suited to printing in the cold while others need a warm or hot atmosphere to come out well.
Doing your research ahead of time will save you money and headache later and ensure your prints turn out great. Here is a quick guide to choosing a filament:
You should choose PLA if your printing environment is cold. This material is the best option if your 3D printer is set up in a cooler space and shouldn’t have problems from low temperature.
In fact, printing in a cooler environment with low humidity is the best way to print with PLA. Higher temperatures can start to warp the material as it prints. More on that later.
If your printing set-up is in an area that has cooler (or changing) temperatures, you’ll want to start with this simple, versatile material.
By contrast, you should choose ABS if you want to print more durable things. You’ll need a significantly warmer printing environment in order for ABS to turn out correctly.
Even in a warm room, you will likely need an enclosure around your print chamber to retain heat and keep the temperature elevated. If you can maintain the higher ambient temperature needed, you’ll love the strength and quality of 3D printing with ABS.
As we said, PETG is a great in-between material. You can use this material in either a warm or cool setting. It is a non-picky material that can turn out well in a wide range of environments.
The biggest downside most people point to with PETG is stringing. If you don’t have your slicer settings dialed in stringing can cause some issues.
The Benefit of an Enclosed Printer
Most of the more affordable 3D printers on the market today don’t come with a print chamber enclosure. This feature can drastically improve print quality, especially with materials like ABS.
Despite the higher cost of printers with enclosures, most users find that the increased print quality is well worth it. If you don’t want to shell out extra money for an enclosed printer, don’t worry.
There are some ways to build your own. We’ll talk about that later in the article.
So, why does an enclosed printer yield better results than an open one? From a temperature perspective alone, imagine the enclosure like a blanket for your printer. When you put a blanket on, you retain heat.
By enclosing your printer, it retains heat. This simple concept ensures your material in the printing chamber is kept warm at a consistent, higher temperature.
Having walls around your printing chamber also ensures that any drafts in the room won’t affect your print.
Air Movement Can Negatively Affect Your 3D Prints
When you are outside on a warm day, a nice breeze can do wonders when it comes to cooling you off. Likewise, a gentle breeze or draft in the room of your printing set-up can cool down what is printing.
As discussed previously, materials like PETG and ABS thrive in higher ambient temperatures. This cooling from airflow can negatively affect the outcome of your prints because it lowers the temperature of the materials as they are printed.
When you are choosing a location for your 3D printing set-up, you should find somewhere away from vents, open windows, and any other sources of airflow.
Your printer is equipped with the fans it needs to cool down materials appropriately and other breezes will only make it harder to print.
Is There Anything You Can Do If You Have An Open Printer?
There sure is! Once you have a 3D printer, customizing it with “mods” is a fun and fulfilling thing to do. You can find many examples of this with a simple web search.
In fact, you can even 3D print parts to upgrade your printer. When it comes to upgrading an open printer, one of the best things you can do is make yourself an enclosure.
Fortunately, there are many different ways to do this. Depending on the model of your printer, you can search for specific directions on how to build an enclosure for its print bed.
Another strategy is to build an enclosure that fits over the entire printer like a display case. Here is a great tutorial with two different types of 3D printer enclosures depending on your budget and resources.
Is Warmer Always Better?
Most of this article, we have discussed how keeping a warmer ambient temperature is best for printing. There is an exception to this.
As mentioned, PLA does best in cooler temperatures and may actually turn out worse if the printing environment is too hot. So, yes, it is possible to go too hot.
PLA has what is known as a low glass transition temperature. This means at just 60C it will start showing structural problems that make 3D printing less reliable.
When printing with PLA, you are probably better off with an open print bed or using a lower temperature setting on an enclosed one.
On top of printing PLA, if your temperature gets too hot, you can damage the sensitive electronics inside your printer. It takes a significantly high temperature to do this, but some people may end up overheating their set-up while trying to print with ABS or exotic materials.