Research shows that consumer 3D printers have potential health effects

- Apr 01, 2019-

Underwriters laboratories (UL, northbrook, ill.) has begun using FDM 3D printers in homes, educational institutions and workplaces to assess potential hazards to the public.Experiments using standard emission Chambers and data analysis protocols show that 3D printing can produce high concentrations of ultrafine particles.

Research shows that consumer 3D printers have potential health effects

Research shows that consumer 3D printers have potential health effects

At the 2018 indoor air conference in Philadelphia in July, a speaker pointed to growing concerns about the potential negative health effects of 3D printers as they become more popular in homes, classrooms and other small indoor environments, leaving vulnerable groups such as children vulnerable.The study recorded high levels of particles and volatile organic compounds in the air from 3D printers.

Until recently, there was no systematic characterization of particle emission using standard methods, and the particle formation mechanism of 3D printers was unclear.Studies on the toxicity of particles produced by FDM are also limited.* in this new study, UL conducted a comprehensive assessment of FDM3D printer emissions, including characterization of particle and VOC emissions (emissions per length of filament consumed) through laboratory tests, and estimates of composition and potential toxicity.

Attempts to get comment on the study from Stratasys, the maker of the FDM 3D printer, were unsuccessful.

The test was conducted in a stainless steel laboratory designed to ASTM standard D6670 and ULGreenguard certified 2823.Test procedures and calculations for emissions follow the BAM(2012) standard for testing laser printer emissions.Particle composition was determined by aerosol mass spectrometry, and filament/particle composition was determined by pyrolysis BC/MS method.The toxicity test focused on particle oxidation potential or oxidative stress.In laboratory experiments, particles were collected on teflon filters and extracts from the filters were analyzed in various cellular and non-cellular ways.

The results show that, generally, the particle number concentration reaches a peak at the beginning of the printing process, and then decreases as the printing continues and reaches a stable state.The concentration distribution and total discharge depend on the filament material to a great extent.* the widely used raw material ABS, for example, typically releases more particles than polylactic acid.

Poly (lactic acid) particles are chemically similar to filament monomers, while ABS filaments produce particles that are chemically different from bulk filaments.Toxicity tests showed that the particles were essentially insoluble in water because the filtration of the granular liquid extract eliminated all toxic reactions.All toxicity tests showed a response to FDM emitting particles, and the filament with different components also reacted differently on a per surface area or mass basis.

However, the particles released from ABS are more toxic than those from PLA on the basis of unit print time or unit print mass (or the filament consumed).The emission of volatile organic compounds varies with filament materials.ABS total VOC emission is higher than PLA.Among the various vocs detected, there are many known potential hazards, such as styrene in ABS filament and caprolactam in nylon filament.

In outdoor air exchange * less small space printing, the concentration of some harmful substances may exceed the recommended level.Therefore, the study suggests that strategies to reduce exposure include printing with low-emission filaments, reducing extrusion temperatures, increasing outdoor air ventilation, or providing local exhaust.The results show that measures should be taken to minimize indoor exposure.