Nov 13, 2018 | By Thomas

Researchers have found that many desktop 3D printers generate a range of different-sized particles, including ultrafine particles (UFPs), which may pose a health concern since they are the size of nanoparticles and may be inhaled and penetrate deep into the human pulmonary system and impact respiratory health.

“These printers tend to produce particles that are very small, especially at the beginning of the print process, and in an environment without good ventilation, they could significantly reduce indoor air quality,” said lead researcher Rodney Weber in a statement.

The two-year investigation to explore the impacts of desktop 3D printers on indoor air quality was conducted by scientists at UL Chemical Safety and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). The results were published in two separate studies in Aerosol Science and Technology.

The research revealed that more than 200 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are known or suspected irritants and carcinogens, are also released while 3D printers are in operation.

Several factors, including nozzle temperature, filament type, filament and printer brand, and filament color, affect emissions while extrusion temperature, filament material and filament brand were found to have the greatest impact on emission levels. However, there is currently little marketplace information available to help users choose safer options.

“We found that one of the overriding principles is the temperature of the filament,” said Weber. “If you use a filament that requires a higher temperature to melt, such as ABS plastic, you produce more particles than PLA plastic filaments, which require lower temperatures.”

"Following our series of studies – the most extensive to date on 3D printer emissions – we are recommending additional investments in scientific research and product advancement to minimize emissions, and increased user awareness so safety measures can be taken," Marilyn Black, vice president and senior technical adviser at UL, said.

To fully understand the impact of the chemical and particle emissions on health, Black advocates for a complete risk assessment that factors in dose and personal sensitivity considerations.

The findings come at a time when this low-cost, compact and user-friendly emerging technology is increasingly gaining momentum in consumer, commercial, medical and educational settings.

As the use of 3D printers in schools has become prolific, special care should be taken to minimize exposure of emissions to children who are the most sensitive among populations to environmental contaminant impact.

The potential risks can be lessened by:

  • Operating 3D printers only in well-ventilated areas 
  • Setting the nozzle temperature at the lower end of the suggested temperature range for filament materials 
  • Standing away from operating machines 
  • Using machines and filaments that have been tested and verified to have low emissions.

Based on the scientific research conducted with Georgia Tech and further collaboration with third-party stakeholders, a UL/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) consensus standard for testing and evaluating 3D printer emissions has been developed. UL/ANSI 2904 is now in the final stages of completion, and the final standard is expected to be ready in December 2018.

Two scientific research papers, "Characterization of particle emissions from consumer fused deposition modeling 3D printers" and "Investigating particle emissions and aerosol dynamics from a consumer fused deposition modeling 3D printer with a lognormal moment aerosol model," have been published in Aerosol Science and Technology. Two additional papers are currently under review on the toxicity of 3D printer particles and plethora of chemical emissions.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Kyzor wrote at 11/28/2018 11:50:35 PM:

really guys? Breathing in cali air is more harmful so why look into this is your argument? I work with these machines every day as part of my job. From Fortus 900's to Ultimaker S5's I and many of my coworkers spend a lot of time with these machines. We all welcome the scientific approach to answering this question regarding out health. To those who don't support the effort that's fine, proceed, but for the rest of us that are concerned please don't try to hamper these efforts. Lets try to avoid another asbestos situation...

PLA wrote at 11/15/2018 11:40:41 PM:

I remember reading about some research being done in this area, but it was at least a year out of date. Glad to hear that more attention is being brought to this area.

me wrote at 11/14/2018 5:22:41 AM:

jajaja ok keep more investigation but can someone make a comparison of driving and spend the time outside in a big city vs a room full of 3d printers, I bet the room will be safer with all this UFP's

ZZ wrote at 11/14/2018 12:42:18 AM:

I'm in San Francisco so this is a moot point. The air is already 50% particulate matter.

SH wrote at 11/13/2018 8:12:22 PM:

Sounds like an effort to control ad regulate personal 3D printers or an attempt to further a funding budget.

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