Wanted to share our Garage Glowforge Makerspace 1.0. We have attempted to optimize it for air quality, using exhaust, whole-room air-filtering, and remote monitoring.
We are very worried about air quality – we have two young children and both of us have a bit of asthma. We considered the Glowforge Air Filter but we couldn’t really find enough information on it to be convinced. It seems to apply a Brita-like filtration to the air and then release it back into the room, which seems like a bad idea. If we could have cleaned the air AND vented it outside we probably would have bought it, or maybe if someone could publish some tests with it, we’d have a bit of information. Glowforge has been very spare on the data.
Air Vent: We rigged an airvent out of the included Draftboard, cutting a 4-inch hole with the GF. We added a few screws and a plastic vent duct from amazon. Even with this, the air in the garage smells of burning materials during and after a print. Maybe the GF isn’t air-tight or maybe it’s coming back in through the walls, window, and doorways. Hard to tell, so we take other precautions.
Webcam: Since the cleanest air is not in the garage, we rigged a raspberry pi with a camera to a pole. This lets us monitor the GF from inside the house, combining fire safety with air safety. We were getting a low frame-rate because the wifi wasn’t great in the garage, but moving one of our Orbi wifi-mesh units to the rack solved that problem. We can watch the GF from any computer in the house, or our phones. We can also wait a bit after the print is finished to re-enter the garage, giving the room air filter a chance to work. Around $55, but you can get a cheaper prebuilt webcam.
Air Filter: We bought a " WEN 3410 3-Speed Remote-Controlled Air Filtration System (300/350/400 CFM)" from Amazon. It’s meant for workshops – it takes 2-4 hours to really clean the air of all smells in the garage, but it does work. This was $126.
Wire Shelf: This is a basic Husky wire shelf from Home Depot, about $99. Very sturdy and we could hang the air filter from it.
Thermometer: On hot days we run into cooling issues with the GF, and we’re a bit worried about our first winter with it. (Do people stop using their GF in the winter?) The digital thermometer gives us at least an indicator to help us work through this issue.
Fan: This is an old Vornado we had lying around. Every now and then we open the garage door and turn this on high, to recycle the air completely.
Central Air Conditioning: We usually shut off our home’s central air during a print to avoid sucking up the bad air we’re venting outside.
Nothing is perfect, and we still have some issues. For example, the air outside the garage doesn’t smell very good while we’re working, and it would be great to not need all the extra filtering and everything in the first place. We use these breathing masks (" 3M 8511PB1-A-PS Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve") when we have to be in the space during a print session. We are hoping to get a ton of use out of the GF without having new respiratory issues in 10 years.
We hope this was helpful to some of you! If you have comments or suggestions, especially any more information on the air quality issue, please share.
To move air, I highly recommend picking up one of those big squirrel cage carpet dryer fans from your local favorite hardware store.
Something like this. If you live in a climate that is hot in the day and cool at night, you can stick it outside blowing into the house/garage and drop the temperature in short order. I’ve used it in this mode to blow cool air from the house into the shop to get the GF down to pew compatible temperatures.
Thanks, this is helpful. We work mostly with leather and hardwood, so if the particles are mostly filtered, I feel better about the smells. The left side of the filter machine is blowing air, so we figured the right side would be the input (which definitely has a filter.) Would it work better the other way?
Central air is a closed system and recirculates the interior air, it doesn’t breathe from outside. That unit outside is the system condenser, it just removes the heat from the refrigerant.
Initially I had odor from the laser, which turned out to be small leaks in the extended exhaust run. After achieving air tight connections there is zero odor. I also opted for a screw type clamp on the flex duct to replace that spring type that is supplied.
The machine has two intake fans on the lower right side and a single exhaust fan on the left. The exhaust fan moves more CFM than the intake, so there is a slight vacuum inside the machine so that every crack in it is sucking air in. Nothing should be leaking out unless the exhaust fan grill is clogged or the vent hose is pinched (BTW, I would shorten that exhaust flex vent to remove the slump in the line and give a shorter distance to the outside, and cut down on the air resistance).
Another thing that helped with smell is the booster fan I needed because of the extended length of my exhaust run. It runs continuously between prints so the machine always has air being pulled through it. Yours is close enough to not need one, but considering your worry over air quality, it might be worth considering just to better purge the machine.
You would need a fan with 4" connections that moves around 200 CFM.
@PrintToLaser Wow, we’ll definitely try sealing the pipe and vent better. It would be awesome if that took care of the issue. Will also check out a 4" fan.
That’s an interesting bit about central air, we osmosed that precaution from some forum posting. It’s hard to suss out what’s a “makes you feel better for no real reason” and “makes a real difference.” Our house is a bit drafty, but you’re right in that it’s probably not drafty enough to let in toxins. Will experiment with that.
The interior of the machine is under slight vacuum, but everything downstream of the machine’s exhaust fan is under pressure, so any axillary fan should be as close to the end of the run as possible, so any cracks would be drawing air in.
Keep after it, it took me about a month to nail mine.
You’ll still get some smells with a fully sealed exhaust when you open the lid and pull your material out. The material traps smoke & odors within the honeycomb that escapes when you pull it out. Also when you leave the material or scraps around those also retain & then exude odors.
i can’t vouch for the GF filter (nobody can), but at my office we use a heavy duty BOFA filter and you smell nothing at all until you open the lid of the laser cutter. we have strong fans pulling into it and it filters everything that should go through a laser cutter well.
the model we have is the AD1000, which is an industrial unit and costs $7k. the AD1000 would be overkill for the GF (we’re using it on a large universal PLS6 that’s capable of 150w (we have one 75w in it at the moment, could add a second 75w to it).
but there’s another user here (whose username i can’t remember) who has a smaller BOFA that was more like half of that cost. maybe 1/3. i think he was happy with it.
i haven’t researched it, but here’s a smaller bofa unit that’s only $1500ish.
Another very sneaky source of lingering odors is the masking from both sides of PG materials. @jules gave me great advice when I got my GF – keep a box of ziplocs handy and bag 'n seal the masking as soon as possible after post-job removal.
You need a HEPA filter, or static filter to remove smoke and < 1 - 5 micron particles (the ones that irritate your lungs the most). That workshop fan is probably down to 10 microns which isn’t going to do much for smoke, it’s designed for dust (sanding, cutting, etc…). put a sealed, 200CFM fan inline with the GF exhaust, this will continue to vent smoke out of the GF after it’s done cutting and the internal fan shuts off. You’ll then want to create a 4" input vent into the room (ideally on the opposite wall the exhaust is venting. This should flow through an AC coil to cool the air down if it’s hot out. Now, seal the window and door. If this is a small room, as it looks in the picture, this should create a slight vacuum exhausting thru the glowforge. No smell, no smoke inside. If you don’t vent air in you will create a large enough vacuum in the room to prevent the GF exhaust fan from working properly and smoke could escape because the GF is not sealed, by design. You can then eliminate all the fans and the workshop filter. Maybe a small ceiling fan to circulate air to equalize air temp and prevent dead spots.
If you have a garage door open while cutting you could possibly create negative pressure in the GF and draw smoke out if the wind is blowing away from the door causing a pressure drop in the garage. That’s a ton of math and I hate math.
Or, create a crate for the GF to live in, seal it, pipe cool air in and let the GF vent out the window. Still recommend an air assist or you’re going to get a face full of burnt marshmallow (what my kids think it smells like) when you open it. Fire suppression is going to be difficult if you have to open a box to get to the GF.
@samuel_mason Oh my, that’s a professional setup (do you design bioweapon labs?) I think I have a better understanding of the air flow issues now, and I’m definitely going to try putting in a duct/fan combo in with the GF Exhaust. If you don’t mind, would you take a quick look at this one? VIVOHOME 4 Inch Inline Duct Fan with Carbon Air Filter Odor Control Scrubber … The exit would be outside, and the filter may cut down on the smells, etc. outside the garage. What do you think?
If this isn’t enough, we’ll start to experiment with the air pressure differentials to make it work better. Although I have to admit, that intimidates me.
i should probably ziplock, but i have a separate trash can with a lid (an old simply human can) that i have a plastic bag inside. i make sure all the masking and little scrap pieces i’m not saving go in there with the lid closed.
and my scrap bins are those big costco plastic pretzel tubs with lids on them.
I don’t think I’d waste the money on FILTERING the air blowing out. A 4" vent booster like this one : https://amzn.to/2OkgTCZ
that will do your trick. That one pushes 120CFM - the entire glowforge itself is ~2CF in size… so you’re sucking 55 glowforges in volume out the window every minute… (.92 glowforges per SECOND…)