How to Add Fans and Lighting to Your RepRap 3D Printer

By Kalani Kirk Hausman, Richard Horne

Fans are widely used with RepRap home 3D printers; they help keep critical parts like the hot-end thermal insulator cool, and can also assist you with a smooth printing process.

Almost all RepRap electronics have dedicated fan outputs that can be controlled in G-code with both on/off and fan speed. When setting up fans to cool parts of your extruder or printed part, it’s important not to cool the heated-bed or hot-end of the extruder too much. Doing so wastes power and can cause lots of problems — for example, parts coming unstuck if the bed temperature drops too quickly.

Other fans can also be constantly powered to keep the electronics — and sometimes the power supply — cool all the time the printer is running.

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Lighting is another favorite for home 3D printing. Having good directed lights, normally white LED strips or spotlights, can help you align nozzles, check to see that printing is going as expected, and ensure that plastic is sticking to the build surface correctly.

LED lighting is normally wired directly to the power supply, but electronics are starting to provide spare outputs for options like this.

People connect and control many other devices from their 3D printer’s electronics. Another fun and simple add-on is a wired or infrared remote signal for a digital camera or video camera. You can specify that the camera take a picture at every layer change of your 3D print; these images can be assembled later into a time-lapse video of your entire print.

A common way to signal, which can be controlled in G-code, is to sound a buzzer at the start and end of a 3D print.

If your 3D printers are in another room (or otherwise away from you and out of sight) you can set up a monitored webcam to keep an eye on progress or help you spot problems.