3D Print In The Garage: 9 Tips To Make It Work

For some people, the only place with room for a 3D printer might be the garage. Other people may need to move their printer to the garage because it is too noisy or is a safety hazard for pets or children. Let me tell you how to successfully 3D print with your garage 3D printer.

When setting up your 3D printer in a garage, place the printer on a sturdy table. Use an enclosure to maintain proper printer temperatures and ensure proper air flow to keep sensitive electronics from over heating. Also, you will need to take care with the storage of any filament you keep in the garage.

The following are 9 tips that you can use to make a garage 3D printing setup work.

Put The Printer On A Stable Surface

Your garage might only have a work bench to set your printer on. Unless it is very stable, this will not work for most 3D printers.

The most popular 3D printer type is the fused deposition machine or FDM printer. These printers work by extruding out melted plastic from a nozzle.

To print each layer of your model, the nozzle moves left and right and either the nozzle or the print bed moves back and forth. Some delta printers have a rotating print bed, but those are the exception.

In any case, all this movement will result in unstable surfaces shaking. When the surface the printer is on shakes, this movement can interfere with printing or worse, cause the printer to shake off the table.

The table I first used when I started printing was very unstable. I went to a thrift shop and purchased a nice sturdy table. Printing on the sturdy table reduced wobble in my 3D prints, resulting in better quality.

The exception to this is if you are printing using a resin printer. These printers print each layer by exposing resin to a light source, either UV or a laser, that cures the resin. The only movement in these machines is the up and down movement of the build plate.

Even with a resin printer, you will still want a relatively sturdy table. Though the printer will not tend to shake the table, any else that does could potentially ruin the print.

Don’t Let It Get Too Cold, Use An Enclosure

The way an FDM printer produces a print is by layering plastic one layer at a time. Each as each layer is laid down, it starts to cool. If the layer cools to fast, it may shrink and pull it self off of the layer below, a process known as delamination.

If the bottom layer cools too fast, it may pull away from the build plate. This could result in curling, where the edges and corners pull up and off the build plate. Or the entire first layer may pull off the plate causing the print to fail.

Using a heated build plate can overcome shrinkage but the biggest contributing factor is the ambient air temperature.

When the air around the 3D print is too cold, the plastic will cool faster. In a garage, especially during colder months, the ambient temperature can drop so low that you have print quality issues.

The best way to maintain proper ambient temperature around your 3D print is to use an enclosure.

I purchased this 3D print enclosure off of Amazon for my Ender 3 V2. They have 2 different sizes of enclosures for different sized printers.

Alternatively, you can build your own enclosure if you are so inclined. This instructable shows how to build an enclosure with a wood frame and plexiglass. Luck Resistor has a slightly different design you can also use to base your enclosure on.

Don’t Let It Get Too Warm, Keep Good Air Flow With A Fan

Your 3D printer has a couple sensitive electrical components.

The primary one is the controller board. This is the electrical board that connects to everything else on the printer and controls all the movements during printing.

Additionally there is a display board, which controls the user interface of the printer. It has knobs and buttons that allow you to manually control the printer or select gcode files for printing.

While these are the primary electrical components of any 3D printer, there may be other sensitive electronics depending on your specific model.

These circuit boards are temperature sensitive. If the boards get too hot, their performance can degrade and they may ultimately fail.

Fortunately, the circuit boards on your printer are not as sensitive as the ones in your computer, where you have to have a fan constantly going to prevent overheating. But they are still sensitive enough that they need to be kept within a reasonable temperature range.

Since a garage itself is enclosed, it may not see as extreme a temperature range as the outside temperature but most garages are not temperature controlled. If your garage gets above 80 °F (27 °C) for long periods of time, you will want to have a fan going in the garage.

During extreme temperatures, if you are using an enclosure, keep the enclosure open and use a fan. Do not point the fan directly at the printer, as we do not want to negatively effect the print. Just a breeze near the printer should help keep the printer from over heating.

Have An Adequate Power Supply

When you start your printer on a cold day, the hotend and the build plate need to overcome the colder ambient air. This is when your printer will use the most electricity.

Because of the increased demand for electricity, you will want to ensure that you have a good power supply available near the printer.

There are no power plugs near where I have my printer in my garage. All the plugs are on the back wall, where my garage attaches to the main house. This means I have to use an extension cord to get power to my printer.

If you have an unattached garage, your problems may be worse. You may have no available plugs and will have to run power into your garage.

Depending on the distance, you may need to have an electrician run power to the detached garage.

If you are going to use an extension cord, you will want to use a heavy duty, high amperage cord such as this one from Amazon.

Warning: Do not chain multiple extension cords together. If you do not have a long enough extension cord, get a new one. If you cannot find a cord long enough, have an electrician come out and put in a new outlet closer to where your printer will be.

Prevent Filament From Absorbing Moisture, Store It Properly

Unless you live in a very dry climate, one issue that you will have is filament absorbing moisture from the air. This is a common problem even when not storing filament in the garage.

Almost all filament types easily absorb moisture from the air. If there is too much moisture in the filament, when you print, the moisture will steam in the hotend, potentially causing oozing and popping.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure that your filament is properly stored.

What I use are Nanovac Vacuum Pump & Airlock Bag Bundle (non-affiliate) from Polyalchemy. The bags are specifically sized for filament rolls. I have also used large vacuum sealed containers from Amazon and placed moisture absorbing dry packs to absorb any leftover moisture. Either way, these are great ways to store filament that you are not currently using.

Another option for storage is to build this filament storage box from Instructables. The directions are generic enough to show you how to produce a box for your filament that fits in whatever area you have available to store your filament.

Make Sure You Have Enough Room For Everything

So you have a nice little corner of your garage for the printer. Will that work?

Remember, at the bare minimum you will need room for your printer to sit on a sturdy surface as well as room to be able to access your prints.

For some reason, people like to park cars in their garage. It’s almost like they thing that garages are for cars or something.

If your park your car, motorcycle, for wheeler or other vehicle in your garage, make sure that there is enough room for everything.

You might be able to get away with leaving your car outside the garage to make room, but your 3D printer will not do well exposed to the elements.

Make sure that your printer is placed in a location where you will have easy access to it and it has enough room to move around without hitting anything.

Don’t forget about the build plate as well. It is common for printers to have build plates that move back and forth. The plate will need plenty of of clearance.

I recommend making sure there is a safe location for all of your tools. They do not need to be right next to the printer, but it is definitely better to have them in easy arms reach for when you need them.

Filament spools do not need to be stored next to the printer either. But having them in an easily accessible location will make switching them out more convenient.

Pick The Right Printer

Different printers are better suited to 3D printing in the garage. That being said, you can get any printer setup and running successfully.

If you are just getting started, choosing the right printer can make getting the printer working in the garage much easier.

Some printers already focus on the suggestions I made above.

You do not need to get a printer with a build in enclosure, but they will perform better in the garage. While it may be cheaper to grab a external enclosure and a more affordable printer, printers with build in enclosures tend to have less problems with over heating.

Printers the include an enclosure build into them are better able to regulate the temperature for their electronics. The built in enclosed space covers the print area and allows better air flow over sensitive electronics.

Your printer should definitely have a heated build plate. While an enclosure will help keep ambient air warm, a heated build plate will ensure that your prints keep better adhesion to the print surface especially if you decide to print with high temperature filaments.

The Best Filament For Success

The best filament to print with is PLA.

PLA will print more successfully in a garage than higher temperature filaments.

You may even be able to get away without a heated build plate if you use an enclosure with PLA.

Even without an enclosure, if your garage maintains a fairly warm temperature, similar to indoor room temperature, you are more likely to succeed.

The reason you will have more success using PLA is that it tends to have less shrinkage as it cools.

All materials shrink as they cool. But PLA prints at a lower temperature, which gives it a head start compared to ABS. Since ABS has to cool from a higher temperature, it will tend to shrink more.

PLA also just naturally has less shrinkage even if you print at a similar temperatures. Combining these 2 effects, PLA tends to shrink about 2% while ABS shrinks about 8%, quite a significant difference.

Resin Is More Garage Friendly

Notice how most of the issues in printing in the garage revolve around filaments.

If the filament cools too fast, you might loose build plate adhesion or get layer delamination. Moisture in the air can be absorbed by filaments so they need proper storage.

Enclosures and build plates are needed to over come the air being too cold. More power is required to the hotend and build plate can heat up.

If you print using a resin printer, none of these are issues.

I have been printing with my resin printer in the garage for over a year. I originally had an Anycubic Photon (rebranded the Anycubic Mono SE) but have since upgraded to the Anycubic Mono X. I prefer the new Mono line as it gives me 360° access to the printer.

I decided to move my resin printer to the garage because of the fumes. Even though I now use the lower odor resin from Anycubic, I haven’t found any reason to bring the printer back inside.

While I needed enough room to set up the printer and have a post-print cleaning station, none of the other tips I have given apply.

The printer comes with it’s own enclosure but that is not to maintain the heat around the print. The enclosure is a UV protective plastic to prevent uncured resin from curing. There is no heated build plate and I don’t have to worry about keeping the electronics cool.

I do have store the 3D resin but they are in bottles that can be easily set next the print on a shelf.

All in all, if you want to print in the garage, and get some of the best quality prints you can get any where, get a resin printer.

Verl Humpherys

I have been 3D printing since 2017, using both FDM and SLA printers. My prints have varied from small D&D figurines to full sized baby Groot. I printed mounts for my various game consoles and my Oculus Rift. Any problem you can have with a 3D printer, I have had. And I am here to tell you what I have learned.

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