Although the benefits of the technology are numerous, 3D printing still has its safety issues: namely, the emission of ultra-fine particles, chemicals and other pollutants into the ambient air. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can help, but there are some who believe that ventilated enclosures should be standard for FFF 3D printers, and the Ultimate 3D Printing Store (U3DPS) even has a security enclosure made specifically for that developed the Ultimaker S5. Mike Buss, a manufacturer and software developer from my home state of Ohio, took matters into his own hands and built his own air filter system for his Ultimaker S3 using a fan, a microcontroller, sensors and 3D printing.
Buss works at the Cleveland Clinic, writing software to help patients with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and concussions. Therefore health is obviously very important to him.
“I had been researching the potential health side effects of owning a 3D printer when I bought it – it turned out that it could fail and catch fire or release harmful chemicals into the air – but I apologized,” wrote Buss his website. “I only print in Polyactic Acid (PLA), which is one of the least harmful filaments – it’s probably fine. Sure, there may be tiny plastic in the air, but it’s a big room and sometimes I keep the windows open. Our smoke alarms are brand new and well tested. We’re probably fine. “
After his son was born a few months ago, Buss wanted to be doubly sure that his 3D printer was safe for newborns and started developing his own smart filter system to make sure the air in his home was clean. His original plan to connect a fan to a HEPA filter, but then he started thinking bigger and wondered if he could build something that could turn on and off automatically when starting a print job and that could adjust the fan speed, when it detects high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and also has an electrical switch-off and a fire sensor.
“I ended up building a completely ridiculous, completely over the top air filter system for our 3D printer that probably wasn’t necessary at all. And it was a lot of fun, ”wrote Buss.
After Buss had sketched out his plan, he used his own Ultimaker S3 to print out the components that he needed to build the filter plate and the housing. To build a shell for the case, he bought Lexan from Home Depot, cut it open, and bonded it to all of the 3D printed parts.
“Now that I had the shell, it was time for the courage: the electronics,” he wrote.
This was apparently his favorite part of the project, but it was definitely complicated – everything needed electricity, but not all of them necessarily the same amount of electricity.
“Some needed 12 volts to work. Others needed 3.3V. Some were controlled with pulse width modulation, others with I2C. In my opinion, the best part of this project was getting them powered and running a symphony of functions, ”said Buss.
He wired a 12V 3A power supply to his Arduino Nano 33 IoT, a relay, and a fan, the latter connected to one on the Arduino via its own PWM pin to control its speed, which in turn made the fan much quieter.
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Buss used the 3D printer’s built-in WiFi module interrogation “regularly” to convert his filter system into an intelligent system, adding sensors both inside and outside the housing that measure humidity, temperature and VOC levels. The data from these sensors are then sent directly via WLAN to a server running on its “… NAS (a Synology DS918 +)”.
“After all, I’d like to use this data in real time to control fan speed, but for now it’s just kept with information about what was being printed and when,” he wrote.
“Adding two temperature sensors was a bit tricky because they have the same hard-coded I2C address. Because of this, the Arduino cannot address them individually. My solution was to use an I2C multiplexer that I could use to switch between sensors and query them individually. “
Basically, while the Arduino is functioning normally, it is simultaneously checking a flame sensor over the 3D printer. If a fire is detected, the system is switched off immediately and a piezo alarm sounds, which can be heard throughout the house. For me, this is the coolest part of what is already a really great DIY project.
The fan of the filter system draws air from the closed chamber on top of the Ultimaker S3 and first passes through a HEPA filter, then a carbon filter and finally the back. Buss already has ideas for improving the fan, which “doesn’t push as much air through the two filters as I want”.
“All said and done, this project was fun and gives my wife and me a little peace,” he concluded.
A list of the parts Buss used for this cool project can be found here.
(All pictures: Mike Buss)