Nov 3, 2016 | By Benedict

A British 17-year-old named Tom Taylor was killed in an explosion after using hairspray to make objects stick to the bed of his 3D printer. An inquest found that the hairspray had left a cloud of propane in the air, which was then ignited by a spark from either the 3D printer or a power outlet.

Scene of the 3D printer explosion / Image: Jordan Challis

In an effort to help makers maximize the potential of their low-end 3D printers, various websites  and online communities have recommended ways to make PLA objects stick to the bed of an FDM 3D printer more effectively. These DIY methods have included use of tape, kapton, and hairspray—with the latter explained in articles like this 2013 Hackaday contribution. The tragic death of British teen Tom Taylor has just given makers everywhere cause to abandon this technique, after an inquest heard that flammable gases from the hairspray exploded after being ignited by an electric spark.

On the afternoon of his death, 17-year-old Taylor was using his 3D printer to make a school art project at his family home—a converted retail building in Lincoln, UK, which also served as the family’s independent magic shop. The teen was using the hairspray technique to provide extra adhesion to the 3D printer’s build plate, allegedly in accordance with an article he had found online. However, after gases from the hairspray had built up over several hours, a spark—which may have come from the 3D printer itself or a nearby socket—caused the cloud of gas to ignite, causing a large explosion.

Tom Taylor

“We believe Tom used hairspray on a 3D printer after watching a video online,” Fire investigator Ian Woods reported during the inquest into Taylor’s death. "This is an extremely unsafe practice which I advise against wholeheartedly.”

The fire from the explosion was worsened by large quantities of flammable flash papers stored underneath the desk at which Taylor was working—these flash papers, commonly used by magicians, were to be sold at the magic shop, but are usually stored in sealed containers and destroyed after two years. When the explosion occurred, Taylor attempted to escape from the back office, but inhaled fumes and died from smoke inhalation.

The 3D printer had been purchased off eBay for £300 several months before the incident, and was described as “low-end,” though the inquest could not confirm whether the 3D printer was in any way faulty. Taylor’s body was recovered from the building after ten fire engines battled the fire, which started at around 16:25 on December 21, 2015. Witnesses described a “great big ball of flame” that was visible from a distance.

The Taylor family home and scene of the accident

The inquest found that the highly flammable flash papers should not have been stored as they were in the office, but decided that prosecution of the Taylor family was “not in the public interest” given the death of the teen.

“Tom was just such an amazing, kind, generous, humorous young man,” the Taylor family said in a joint statement. “He was such fun and was happiest when he was making others happy, and he always succeeded in doing that. He was constantly upbeat, cheerful and happy.”

Using hairspray to improve print bed adhesion / Image: Mike Szczys

While heated print beds on 3D printers are becoming more common, reducing the need for adhesion techniques such as hairspray application, Taylor’s death still serves as a stark warning for makers attempting similar actions to improve their printer performance. Companies like FLEKS3D and LokBuild have proposed safer solutions for warp-free FDM 3D printing, and the popularity of their products may rise in the wake of this incident.



Posted in 3D Printing Events



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IgguT wrote at 1/9/2018 4:58:10 AM:

My condolences to the family... This article is nonsense. Unless he was running a factory with multiple cans of hairspray going at the same hundreds of them...

FlybyWire wrote at 11/5/2016 2:04:47 PM:

According to other news he used three bottles of hairspray, in other words drowned the printer in it. The concept of flammability seems unknown be the family. The 3D printer surely did not explode, there is nothing on such a thing which can explode. This utter nonsense title is repeated all over the world.

Giterdunn wrote at 11/5/2016 3:10:39 AM:

white rain hairspray uses propane and another brand uses butane, I use them in spud guns. I doubt the hairspray had anything to do with this though, it would have to be a very very small room with zero ventilation, and even then you would need to use the whole can or more than one can. The flash papers seem like a much more likely cause, or a gas leak from something else in the house. Typical media, afraid of new technologies so everything must be blamed on them. Kinda like how people were terrified when they first put radios in cars.

arpanettic wrote at 11/4/2016 5:14:29 PM:

Blaming it on the 3D Printer??? Just because theres a printer in the room doesnt make it a cause. Its a office with so many other electronics and spark emitting objects and he ueed 3 cans of hairspray, you should only use a small amount to stick it to the bed. Thats a build up of propane and if a spark or enough heat occurs, the propane ignitesm causing a chain reaction around the room of flame, then exploding the flash papers, resulting in a explosion. Blaming the 3D printer is bs. Want more ? Here you go. RIP TOM TAYLOR,

Urb wrote at 11/4/2016 2:59:38 PM:

First and foremost, condolences to the family. This article is all nonsense. Cloud of propane? Built up over several hours? Come on man.

A. N. Whitehead wrote at 11/4/2016 12:28:43 PM:

Irresponsible journalism. Reprinting a year old story with suspect non-verifiable information. Simple logic has escaped all mankind. Maybe it was a slow news day!

pure knowing wrote at 11/4/2016 11:04:24 AM:

its wondering me why not often explode some hairdresser, much hairspray and sparks from blow-dryer happen every day in many studios (switchs inside those blowers sparks very often) thinks can happen, the worse thing this time was surely the large quantities of flammable flash papers stored underneath the desk condolence to this familie

I.AM.Magic wrote at 11/4/2016 8:49:57 AM:

RIP buddy.

Scottm wrote at 11/3/2016 10:34:13 PM:

Yep, must have been caused by the hairspray! Not the flashpaper. How many cans did he use five or six? If it's so dangerous on a print bed no one should put in on their head. I'm sorry he died but this is another example of a knee jerk reaction and I personally doubt the conclusion. I swear it's amazing that they have not banned water because there are two many drownings.

Kev. wrote at 11/3/2016 10:33:40 PM:

Article is from last year,(21 dec 2015) and is not news. I found the date on the 6st paragraph above the picture of The Taylor family home and scene of the accident.

Feign wrote at 11/3/2016 10:26:45 PM:

... What hairspray uses butane as a propellant? That seems vastly more hazardous than the basic concept of misting the bed with hairspray.

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