Is It Safe to Leave Ender 3 (or Any 3D Printer) Unattended (Overnight, Etc.)?

While it doesn’t get talked about often enough, print safety is one of the first things that any current or potential 3D printing enthusiast should think of, as factors such as the high temperatures and the moving parts that a 3D printer utilizes come with a certain degree of potential danger, no matter how unlikely.

Unfortunately, the topic of print safety is often overlooked due to many 3D printing enthusiasts thinking that the possibility of a dangerous situation occurring is very low, and also due to the inconvenience that comes with and the time and effort spent on following the correct print safety procedures.

In today’s article, we will be going into one of the essential elements of print safety and investigate whether it’s safe to leave an Ender 3 (or any other 3D printer as the premise remains the same) unattended while it’s operating, in particular, such as by letting the print run overnight or leaving the house while the printing process is still underway.

So, is it safe to leave your Ender 3 (or any other 3D printer) unattended while it’s printing?

Even though the likelihood of an issue happening is quite low under standard conditions, we highly recommend not leaving your Ender 3 (or any other 3D printer) unattended (such as overnight) while it’s printing under any circumstances, as even one small problem can produce catastrophic results.

Moving forward, we will further examine whether it’s safe to leave your Ender 3 or any other 3D printer unattended, go through the process of pausing and resuming the 3D printing process when necessary, find out whether the Ender 3 turns off after the printing process is over, and finally, discuss the measures that we recommend taking for 3D printing safely.

Is It Safe to Leave Ender 3 (or Any 3D Printer) Unattended (Overnight, Etc.)? 

As the 3D printing process can take a pretty long time depending on the size and the complexity of your model, you may feel it necessary to leave your 3D printer running unattended, such as by allowing it to work while you sleep for the printing process to conclude.

Technically speaking, leaving any electrical device, even your phone charger, unattended carries some degree of risk, as no matter how unlikely it is, the occurrence of an electrical fault is entirely possible due to reasons such as a malfunctioning device or a problem with the power lines.

In cases where high temperatures are involved, this risk becomes even more significant for two reasons: the high temperatures are inherently an issue as the high-temperature components can come into contact with unsafe materials, and turning electricity into heat requires more electrical power, which increases the likelihood of an electrical fault.

A 3D printer combines the risk factors of being an electrical device and utilizing high temperatures during operation, and to add to that, it brings the added risk factor of having many moving parts, including the hotend, which is practically where the heat block resides. Essentially, this means that your 3D printer has a component that is heated up to over 200 degrees Celsius and constantly moving.

With all of these things in mind, it would practically be impossible to say that it’s safe to leave your Ender 3 (or any other 3D printer) unattended, such as letting it operate overnight or while you’re running errands, as even a tiny problem, such as a firmware bug, or a loose thermistor, can have significant consequences, such as creating a fire.

While the chance of such an occurrence is very low, and you will most likely never face such a scenario in your 3D printing journey, the risk is never worth taking with the severity of the consequences involved, no matter how small.

How to Pause and Resume Prints on Your Ender 3?

Pausing the printing process whenever necessary, such as in cases where you cannot attend to it, and resuming it when you’re available, is the best way to ensure that you don’t face any issues related to print safety, as this will entirely prevent a potential problem from occurring while you are not present to intervene.

To pause and resume prints on your Ender 3, you can utilize the Pause Print and Resume Print menu entries that become visible once you click the knob during the printing process.

On the Ender 3 V2, you can find the Pause/Resume button directly on the interface that is visible during the printing process, which you can utilize to pause and resume your prints.

Aside from using the LCD controller of your Ender 3, it’s also possible to pause and resume the 3D printing process by executing G-code commands, where the M0 (Unconditional Stop) command will pause your print for an indefinite amount of time, and the M25 (Break and Continue) command will resume it.

Does the Ender 3 Automatically Turn Off After Printing?

The functionality to automatically turn off after the 3D printing process is over is definitely a welcome one with the convenience it brings, especially considering that we can observe such a feature in many electronic devices nowadays.

As it currently stands, the Ender 3 does not have built-in functionality to automatically power down after the printing process is concluded, meaning there will always be power going into your 3D printer unless you manually shut it off. 

On the other hand, it is possible to power almost all of the individual components of your Ender 3 down, such as the heated bed, the nozzle, the steppers, and the fans, with G-code commands that you can get your Ender 3 to execute automatically once the print is finished.

Please note that there are many external solutions you can use to get your Ender 3 to completely turn off after the printing process is over, such as using a simple mechanical outlet timer that cuts the power after a pre-defined amount of time or a more advanced smart plug that you can control programmatically, which will automatically cut the power once your Ender 3 concludes the print.

Which Safety Measures Should You Take for 3D Printing?

Due to the dangers that stem from the usage of high temperatures required for the 3D printing process, it’s vital to take the necessary safety measures before you start your 3D printing journey to ensure that no harm can come out of it.

The primary safety measure we recommend taking for 3D printing is to activate the thermal runaway protection feature of your 3D printer, which essentially causes the 3D printer to automatically halt the 3D printing process as soon as a temperature-related anomaly is detected.

To detect such a scenario successfully, the thermal runaway protection feature constantly compares the temperature readings from the thermistor to calculated values based on the target temperature and the time spent, and warns the 3D printer whenever the temperature difference exceeds a particular figure.

On top of activating the thermal runaway protection feature of your 3D printer, we highly recommend taking the following safety measures to ensure further that a dangerous scenario does not occur:

  • Maintain the thermistor and the heating cartridge regularly.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Install a smoke detector next to your 3D printer.
  • Refrain from placing any flammable materials around your 3D printer.
  • Ensure that you haven’t placed your 3D printer in an area that could get hotter than usual.

As the measures we have listed above are practically the essentials for 3D printing safety, feel free to add your own safety measures to the list, such as installing an automatic fire extinguisher, if you would like to take your print safety a step further.

Wrapping Up

With the extended amounts of time required to complete a 3D print in mind, it’s only natural not to be able to find the time to attend to the entirety of the printing process consecutively, especially on a weekday where most of the time is spent on work and other obligations.

To quickly recap, leaving your Ender 3 (or any other 3D printer) unattended while it’s operating is not something we can recommend, as no matter how slight it is, there is always a risk of something going wrong, especially considering that a 3D printer has many moving parts, and utilizes exceptionally high temperatures.

As a result, our recommendation would be to pause the 3D printing process whenever you cannot attend your 3D printer and resume it when you have the time again, which will ensure that you will always be present to intervene in the case that a problem occurs.

Happy printing!