How To 3D Print An Air Purifier

The article offers a cost-effective and efficient solution for air purification with a step-by-step guide on building an open-source and 3D printable air purifier. It also explains the benefits of using air purifiers in reducing the risk of respiratory infections.

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I am the Epi-Yeti, and I am passionate about clean air. I worked on an open-source software project to build tools for IAQ, and I designed a 3D-printed air purifier to combat indoor air pollution. For a while, I worked alone, becoming increasingly isolated in the frosty mountains. However, one day, I stumbled upon a group of people who were building an affordable air purifier to combat indoor air pollution.

I joined their cause and worked alongside them, sharing my expertise in air filter design. Together, we integrated my designs into their project. I found a group that shared my vision and passion for a cleaner, healthier world.

This article will go through the process of designing an open-source and 3D printable air purifier that effectively removes pollutants from indoor air.

We’ve created this guide to help you design and build air purifiers using open-source materials and 3D printing technology. You can find the files on this page.

I’ll guide you through the design process and show you how to create the 3D models, choose the right materials, and assemble the components to create a functional air purifier.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the design process for air purifiers and how to use open-source and 3D printable materials to create your own. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve created a device that benefits your health and the indoor environment. So, let’s get started on designing your own air purifier and take control of the air you breathe

Designing Your Own Air Purifier

Did you know that you can make your own air purifier using a box fan and furnace filters? That’s right, the original design can be easily assembled with just four furnace filters and a 20-inch box fan. And if you’re feeling a bit crafty, you can even make an updated design, known as the Comparetto Cube, using just four filters and a cardboard base that sits directly on the floor. What’s great about this DIY air purifier is not only its simplicity and effectiveness, but also its cost. You can make one of these filtration units in just 20-30 minutes, and the materials will only set you back between $50-150 USD.

Clean air delivery rates (CADR) of a $75 USD design were estimated at between 165-239.

And it gets better! A study by UC Davis found that a DIY design using just five MERV-13 filters can deliver an effective clean air delivery rate of up to CADR of 850 cfm. That’s some serious air-cleaning power for just $0.08 per CADR, It’s like having a tiny army of air-cleaning robots working for you 24/7.

As a comparison, the popular Philips 3000 AC3039/73 Turbo air purifier boasts a CADR of approximately 306 cubic feet per minute (CFM), but comes with a hefty price tag of $520. This translates to a cost of approximately $0.6 per CADR, making it 7.5 times more expensive than the DIY design we talked about earlier.

So not only is it more effective and efficient, but it’s also much easier on your wallet. You could buy multiple DIY purifiers for the cost of just one Philips 3000, and still have money left over for other essential household items, like a giant plush Yeti to keep you company.

Cost-effectiveness and Efficiency

First off, let’s talk about size. Airborne virus particulates come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a teeny tiny 1 micron to a whopping 50 microns. That’s where the four-filter cubic air purifier comes in, with its fancy-schmancy HVAC testing equipment that can remove around 60% of those pesky 1 micron particles, and almost 90% of those chunky 10 micron particles. That’s some serious filtering power right there!

When it comes to the spread of infectious diseases, understanding the nature of aerosols and droplets is crucial. Aerosols and droplets are microscopic particles that can carry infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They are generated when we breathe, talk, sneeze, cough, or even just exhale. These particles can vary in size, from <1 micron to over 100 microns.

In particular, aerosols smaller than 5 microns can pose a greater risk of respiratory infections. This is because they are able to remain suspended in the air for longer periods of time, allowing them to travel farther and be inhaled deeper into the lungs. Once in the lungs, they can cause more severe respiratory infections, especially in individuals with underlying health conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this issue to the forefront of public health concerns, as the virus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols.

So how can air purifiers help in reducing the risk of respiratory infections from airborne particles? The answer lies in the filtration process. An air purifier typically uses a combination of filters to capture airborne particles of various sizes. For example, a HEPA filter is designed to capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, making it effective in capturing both larger droplets and smaller aerosols. By continuously filtering the air in a room, air purifiers can help reduce the concentration of infectious particles, making it less likely for individuals to inhale them and become infected.

Now, you might be thinking “But Epi-Yeti, what about wildfire smoke? Can this air purifier handle that too?” Fear not, my friend! A study of a DIY purifiers showed that particulate matter between 1 and 10 microns in size was reduced by a whopping 75%. And if it can handle wildfire smoke, it can handle those virus particles too, right?

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, researchers have expanded studies of these citizen science filtration units to evaluate their efficacy for reducing the levels of airborne volatile chemicals. And guess what? They found that levels of semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) were also reduced by a functioning DIY air purifier.

So not only does it handle those virus particles like a boss, it can take care of those pesky chemicals too. So there you have it! The four-filter cubic air purifier is your go-to solution for clean air. With its filtering power, low cost, and quiet operation, it’s a no-brainer. So go ahead and breathe easy, my friend!

The Problem

Project, not a product – The DIY design may have a few issues, but don’t worry, they’re not deal-breakers. First off, it’s more of a project than a product – which means you get the satisfaction of building something yourself, but it might take a bit of elbow grease. And let’s be real, if you’re anything like us, you’d rather spend that time binge-watching your favorite zombie show. Plus, you have to rebuild it every time you change the filters – but on the bright side, that’s just another excuse to flex your handy skills.

Aesthetic – A downside is the DIY duct-tape aesthetic. Hey, we get it, not everyone wants their air purifier to look like a high school science project. But let’s be real, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and the build delivers on performance and cost savings.

Let’s channel your inner DIY spirit and create something that’s not only functional but visually stunning too. Imagine designing an air purifier that resembles a futuristic Apple product. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get creative!

Our goal is to revolutionize the DIY by designing a unit that is a breeze to install and replace filters. Our aim is to make filter replacement as effortless as switching out a typical furnace filter, taking a minute instead of the tedious 20-minute process of the original design.

The Art of Purification

The Blende default cube.
Image 1: The default cube.

We’re harnessing the power of open-source technology to build our air purifier, with most of the tools we’re using available for free. To make this project accessible to as many people as possible, we’ve opted to build our prototype using Blender 3D, a popular and user-friendly software. And of course the product itself will be published under the opensource license.

As we dive into the creative process of designing our air purifier, we’ll be tapping into our inner Michelangelo and channeling his artistic flair. Using a basic cube geometry as our foundation, we’ll meticulously carve out our design with precision and finesse. It’s like a contemporary sculpture, with every cut and curve serving as a brushstroke on our masterpiece.

Through the use of specially crafted tool shapes, we’ll bring our vision to life, shaping the air purifier into a stunning work of art that not only pleases the eye but also serves a practical purpose in purifying the air around us. Like the David statue, our air purifier will be a symbol of beauty, elegance, and functionality.

And just as Michelangelo labored over his sculptures, we’ll put in the time and effort necessary to perfect our air purifier. Each stage of the process will bring us closer to our final product, with every detail meticulously planned and executed to ensure the highest quality.

In the end, our air purifier will stand as a testament to the power of art and science combined. It will be a work of art that not only enhances the aesthetic of any room but also improves the air quality and health of those around it. So let’s roll up our sleeves, grab our tools, and embark on this creative journey together. Let’s sculpt our way to a healthier, more beautiful world.

Optimizing Air Flow: Using Tool Shapes

The negative shape for the vent.
Image 2: A negative shape for the vent.

When designing an air purifier, one of the key considerations is air flow. The air needs to be able to flow through the filters effectively in order to be cleaned of impurities. In order to achieve this, the air purifier needs to have openings or “holes” in the structure to allow air to pass through. In the design process, a shape resembling an air duct can be created and used as a tool to subtract or remove material from the cube shape of the air purifier. This will create the necessary openings for air flow.

By using this method, the designer can ensure that the openings are placed in the optimal locations and are of the correct size for efficient air flow. Additionally, using a tool shape specifically designed for air flow can further enhance the effectiveness of the air purifier. The tool shape can be designed to create a particular pattern of openings or to ensure that the openings are of a specific size and shape to maximize air flow.

The cube minus the negative shape.
Image 3: The cube minus the negative shape.

It’s like using a cookie cutter to make a perfectly shaped cookie! By subtracting the tool shape from the cube primitive, we’re left with a shape that’s closer to what we want to create. It’s like sculpting, where we start with a rough block of material and gradually chisel away until we reach the desired form. In this case, our box primitive is like the block of material and our tool shape is like the chisel.

With each subtraction, we get closer and closer to our final design. It’s amazing to see how this simple process can transform a basic cube into a sophisticated object with purpose and functionality. It’s like magic, but with the power of software and creativity!

It’s important to keep in mind that each cubic end of the duct should be measured accurately to ensure a perfect fit for the standard 20x20x1 furnace filter.

Effortless Filter Replacement

A tool shape for the furnance filters.
Image 4: A tool shape for the furnance filters.

We wanted to make sure that the new design could accommodate standard furnace filters with minimal effort. To achieve this, we measured the dimensions of a 20x20x1 3M filtrete filter and created four planes around the cube that matched those exact measurements. Afterwards, we subtracted that shape from our new cube frame using our custom tool shapes. This resulted in a space that’s nearly perfect for inserting the filters in seconds.

CleanING Up The Model

A Beveled cube tool.
Image 5: Beveled cube tool.

By beveling the corners, we not only add a touch of sophistication to our cube but also create room for a potential fifth filter to be added to the bottom. This process will allow for easier installation and replacement of the filters, making it more convenient for users.

In this case, the addition of a fifth filter requires us to raise our cube a few inches off the ground. Fear not, for we shall not be deterred! With a stroke of genius, we could add legs to our cube, elevating it to new heights and allowing for the addition of the coveted fifth filter.

A screenshot of the building process in Blender 3D.
Image 6: A screenshot of the building process in Blender 3D.

The process involves using 10 stacked modifiers that work together like a virtual machine to carve out the frame from a cube. It’s almost like magic, where you can see the cube taking shape before your eyes as the modifiers are applied.

The stack modifiers in Blender are a unique feature that allows you to manipulate and transform objects in ways that were previously impossible. They work by applying a series of modifications to an object, one on top of the other, until the desired result is achieved. This approach offers a non-destructive way to edit and refine your models, as you can always go back and adjust the modifiers if needed.

In the case of the Cube geometry, the stack modifiers are used to create a precise and intricate frame shape that would be difficult to produce manually. Each modifier adds a new layer of detail to the model, building upon the previous one to create a stunning and visually appealing end result.

The refined cube form.
Image 7: The refined cube form.

Wow, this model is looking great after our clean-up work! However, we’ve hit a bit of a snag. The model is now a compact 20x20x20 cube, which is much larger than the printing volume of most consumer grade 3D printers – which typically max out at around 4x4x4 to 8x8x8. So, we need to come up with a solution that allows us to print the model in smaller, more manageable pieces.

Our solution? Modular pieces that fit together like a set of Legos. This approach not only allows us to work within the limitations of the 3D printers, but also makes the assembly process intuitive and user-friendly.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to making the model easy to print and assemble, we also need to ensure that it’s easy to transport. DIY designs can be notoriously difficult to move and ship due to their large volume and so its onsite construction typically, so we need to keep that in mind as we design the modular pieces. With a bit of creative problem-solving, we can create a model that’s both stunning and practical.

An image showing five separate modular pieces that are part of an air purifier.
Image 8: An image showing five separate modular pieces that are part of an air purifier.

Instead of printing the cube as one big piece, I divided it into five unique pieces – corner pieces and bridge pieces. This not only allowed them to print the cube with their consumer printer, but it also added a cool modular aspect to the cube. You can mix and match the pieces to create different cube configurations. It’s like a puzzle, but without the frustration of trying to fit the pieces together.

Now, how did I make sure the pieces fit together? By giving them connecting joints, of course!. This way, the pieces can easily snap together like puzzle pieces. It’s almost like they were made for each other. Ah, true love.

The seams between the pieces weren’t just slapped together haphazardly. Oh no, we used math to make sure the seams were just right. I took the cube’s dimensions and scaled them down twice by the golden ratio to find the coordinates of the seams. This created a precise overlap between the pieces, allowing them to hold together without extra glue or fasteners. It’s like magic but with numbers.

We took a problem (how to print a big cube on a small printer) and turned it into an opportunity to create something modular, functional, and beautiful. And we did it all with math! Who knew math could be so cool? Maybe we should all take a page from the math book and start using math to solve all of our problems. Or maybe we should stick to printing cubes…

With Blender, we can rapidly try a few different looks for our cube.

3D Printing

A screenshot of the 3D software Cura displaying a 3D model of a corner piece for an air purifier, which has been 3D printed.
Image 9: A screenshot of the 3D software Cura displaying a 3D model of a corner piece for an air purifier.

As makers and creators, we are passionate about 3D printing and the endless possibilities it offers. That’s why we’re excited to share the stats of our latest project, generated using the open-source printing software Cura. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for each part:

  • Top-Corner: 15.5 hours, 77.6 meters of filament, 232 grams.
  • Top-Bridge: 6.3 hours, 33.3 meters of filament, 99 grams.
  • Mid-Bridge: 5.75 hours, 26.3 meters of filament, 79 grams.
  • Bottom-Corner: 11.55 hours, 64.6 meters of filament, 193 grams.
  • Bottom-Bridge: 5 hours, 29 meters of filament, 87 grams.

Impressive, right? But the real question is, what do these numbers mean for the overall project?

Well, printing an entire box takes us a total of 120-175 hours, using 1180.4 meters of plastic and weighing in at 2760 grams. That’s approximately 5.78 spools of filament, which we purchase at $23 per spool.

As makers, we also prioritize sustainability and energy efficiency. That’s why we’ve calculated that printing this box requires approximately 63 kWh of electricity, at a cost of about $4.35, bringing the total cost of the cube to be about $130 USD for the frame, not including the fan or the filters.

A 3D printed air purifier assembled and diassembled.
Image 10: A photo of a 3D printed air purifier, showing two versions side-by-side. One version is fully assembled, and the other is disassembled into its individual parts.

If we were to instead use injection molding to produce this cube, we could drastically reduce the time and cost required. Injection molding allows for rapid production, where multiple cubes can be produced at once, taking only a fraction of the time required for 3D printing.

Additionally, the cost per unit would be significantly lower, as the cost of materials and energy required for injection molding is much lower than that of 3D printing. While we may be passionate about 3D printing and its possibilities, it’s important to consider the practicality and convenience for consumers. In the case of this cube, injection molding would provide a much more practical and cost-effective solution.

I believe that 3D printing is a fascinating world of intricate design, technical expertise, and creative thinking. Who knows what groundbreaking projects we’ll come up with next? 

Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Won’t this design require a lot of plastic?” However, let me suggest that it could be more environmentally friendly than your typical air purifiers.

For instance, take the 55 CADR HEPA purifier, which is priced around $65 USD. To achieve the same CADR as our printed purifier (assuming it has 165-239 CADR, a lower-end build), you would need about 3-5 of these HEPA Tabletop Air Purifier units, which appears to contain more plastic weight than a single printed DIY purifier. which would cost you around $195-325. That’s a significant cost difference.

Moreover, consider the fact that mass-producing the purifier could further reduce its price and plastic usage. With some optimization, we could make something like this purifier even more affordable and sustainable.

Overall, this DIY is an exciting development in the world of air purification. Not only is it cost-effective, but its innovative design could pave the way for even more efficient air purifiers in the future. So why not try it and see how it can improve the air quality in your home or workspace?

Image 11: 55 CADR Table-Top HEPA Purifier

Conclusion

We find that 3D printing is a fantastic way to prototype but is unlikely to be practical at large scales, mostly due to the printing time of the large pieces. However, a miniaturized version may be more practical for such an air purifier. Further R&D may be required to build a scaleable consumer-ready device. You can find the files on Github.

In order to create a consumer-ready device, further research and development would be necessary. This would involve exploring alternative manufacturing methods, such as injection molding, to reduce production time and costs while maintaining quality and performance. In summary, while 3D printing may not be the most practical method for the mass production of an air purifier, it does offer an excellent tool for prototyping and innovation. 

At the end of the day, the possibilities for innovation and creativity with 3D printing are endless, and we look forward to continuing to explore its potential in the field of air purification and beyond.

Epi-Yeti

Epi-Yeti

I am a creator with a passion for clean air and a background in software development and design, making me uniquely qualified to lead Air Support Project in the fields of technology and communications.