Feb 22, 2016 | By Tess

As the 3D printing industry grows in many sectors, becoming an increasingly present form of manufacturing, some researchers have begun to consider the potential risks of the emerging technology by investigating what effects it could have on the people and environments it encounters.

Very recently, a pilot study published by an investigative team of researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) showed findings that a number of photopolymers used in 3D printing were actually toxic and could cause health and environmental risks.

The team of researchers at RMIT, led by Associate Professor Donal Wlodkowic, were prompted to investigate 3D printing and its common materials because of the quickly growing nature of the technology and its quickly increasing exposure to both people and environments. As mentioned, the findings of the study revealed that certain materials used in 3D printing processes could pose risks as they leached toxic substances when put in contact with water.

“We used both cell-based assays as well as whole-organism biotests to screen for risks of exposure to 3D printed parts as well as potential leachates of toxic molecules from 3D printed plastics,” explains Wlodkowic. “This process highlighted the toxicity of 3D printed polymer and allowed us to establish a predictive analytical workflow to rapidly determine the toxicology of a burgeoning number of polymers used in 3D printing. We have already found one very toxic substance that has recently been reported as leaching from plastic ampoules used for intravenous injections.”

So far, few organizations have dedicated themselves to testing or monitoring the hazards and risks of 3D printed polymers, and according to Wlodkowic there are no regulatory systems set up to evaluate the potential consequences of human exposure to 3D printed parts, or to determine methods for safe collection, treatment, and disposal of 3D printed parts and waste. Part of the aim of the study is to provoke interest in regulating 3D printing materials, and to ultimately characterize the health and environmental risks posed by being exposed to certain 3D printed materials.

The studies conducted by the RMIT team tested four commercially available 3D printing polymers: VisiJetCrystal Ex200, Watershed 11122XC, Fototec SLA 7150 Clear, and ABSplus P-430, by seeing how zebrafish embryos reacted and developed when brought into contact with them.

"Based on our pilot studies, we garnered evidence that many of the polymerized resins used are unsafe,” explains Wlodkowic. “This data warrants development of a larger study to perform comprehensive exploration at genomic, cellular, and organismal levels…The results carry significant consequences for researchers within healthcare, bioengineering and biomedical devices communities, in which 3D printing and more generally rapid prototyping technologies have provided an opportunity to generate physical parts or devices in a short period of time, directly from computer-based designs. Similarly researchers within the broader field of life sciences have now recognized the benefits of these technologies, and our findings provide a route towards assessment of a plethora of devices fabricated using additive manufacturing to ensure biocompatibility.”

As we come into contact with 3D printed parts in a variety of ways, perhaps most significantly through biomedical applications, the study conducted by the RMIT researchers points to a need for safety regulations and systems for 3D printed parts and demonstrates one possible way of going about it. For more, you can read their full study report here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Mr. Eddy wrote at 2/22/2016 9:05:37 PM:

Not a very good report for 3d-printing in general, and certainly not for 3d Systems' visijet crystal ex200

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