3D printer safety is a valid concern, and keeping an eye on things is important. Read on for the best ways to ensure 3D printer safety while you're away.
Unless you’re printing meat or something equally esoteric, your printer probably uses heat to do its job. In fact, the “hot end” is just that: Its job is to heat the filament prior to deposition. Unfortunately, the internet is full of horror stories of printers setting themselves on fire, or worse.
Is there a risk? Yes. Can it be managed? Yes. If you’re in the same room, turning off the power is usually enough. The real challenge comes with remote printing.
In this article, we’ll discuss prevention and control from a distance. We’ll discuss electrical risks, remote monitoring and control, and what you need to know to sleep well while your printer keeps chugging.
Note that we are focusing on hobbyist-level FDM printers. Many of our monitor and control recommendations also apply to SLS and larger FDM printers, but we’re staying away from that realm for now. Resin printers have their own issues with toxicity and gasses, but unless there’s an electrical short circuit, their single-axis mechanisms and light-based printing intrinsically minimize the risk of fire.
If you plan to do remote printing down the road, the right printer features can go a long way to minimize risk and worry. Here are a few items to look out for:
Ensuring your setup is safe is only have the battle. Here are some things you should do:
With the advent of cloud-enabled cameras, security alarms, and switches, remote monitoring and control are both simple and affordable. Just keep in mind that all of these devices go through a vendor’s cloud application and storage. Be sure to use a random login and complex password to prevent unauthorized access to your cameras and switches.
Nearly any security camera with WiFi connectivity can be linked to a cell phone for remote viewing. Look for one with close-focusing capabilities and real-time internet access. Reolink, for example, offers a range of cameras costing less than $50, and free monitoring through their application. Check out our camera article for useful tips and tricks, and look for suppliers that advertise free remote access, as some require a paid subscription.
Cameras connect through a WiFi router. For redundancy, it’s best to keep this in a different room. A two-channel setup, with one camera focused on the bed and another focused on the printer control screen, will display both printer status and the condition of the print itself. This is useful even if you’re just watching TV in the next room – no time wasted if you need to add new filament.
Another must-have for remote monitoring is a fire alarm. You may not be watching the cameras all the time, but a WiFi-enabled alarm will call a preset number when triggered by a fire.
As we said earlier, the quickest way to solve a printer problem is often to just shut it off. One way to do this remotely is to use smart plugs. These work with Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, and can be controlled from anywhere through a simple cellphone application. Combine these with a couple of remote cameras, and you’re all set to keep an eye and virtual finger on your 3D printer.
And then there’s OctoPrint. This open-source application provides an embedded webcam feed, keeping an eye on hot end and print bed temperatures. It also allows you to remotely control print head position as well as start, pause, and stop a print job.
The software requires that you add aas an intermediate controller to the printer. Not as simple as plugging in a camera, but it is a great starting point. If you only choose one thing to add control to your remote printing, this is the one to have.
Careful preparation, remote monitoring, and WiFi control are great, but what can you do when the printer insists on catching fire?
Unless you constantly watch the printer and remotely kill power when things go funky, automation is key. Commercial installations use halon systems that instantly blanket the area with fire-quenching gas. Luckily, there is a solution for the rest of us:
As you can see, a little preparation and planning go a long way towards reducing the risks of remote printing. While nothing beats sitting next to the printer, we hope we’ve shown you some ways to cut the tether.
(Lead image source: bethlenke via Reddit)
License: The text of "Remote Home 3D Printing: Safety, Fires, & Failures" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Stay informed with notifications from All3DP.
You get a notification when a new article is published.
You can’t subscribe to updates from All3DP. Learn more…