3D Printing Fumes

With the popularity and availability of 3D printers growing exponentially, big businesses and home office professionals alike are using these printers to create an endless possibility of 3D replicated items. As with all new technologies and manufacturing processes, the initial excitement may overshadow important health and safety related precautions. For example, studies5 [p 336] have found that Ultrafine Particles (UFP) are emitted from desktop 3D printers during operation. This occurs when the feedstock filament is heated before being laid down into very thin layers. This filament can be comprised of a host of materials including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA). While UFP is practically invisible to the naked eye, it is vital to implement a source-capture respiratory engineering safety control to trap or remove these microscopic particles. If UFP is inhaled, there is a likelihood that the particles will deposit into the lungs and respiratory airways; allowing travel through the olfactory nerve and into the brain, ultimately causing adverse health effects.

3D Printer Fume Extraction

Designed and engineered to remove fumes and particulates left by 3d printing, our, American Made and Manufactured, air filtration systems are the perfect addition to regulate the harmful air left from 3d printing. Our 3D printer fume extractors are a highly effective filtration system that not only protect the operator from potentially hazardous fumes, but it also helps maintain the integrity of the 3d printing machine.

3D Printer Health and Safety

3D printing fumes or ultrafine particles carry an occupational hazard designation by several health and safety governing boards, deeming that these fumes hold potential health effects on the respiratory system. Most 3D printing processes utilize high variant thermoplastics and chemically induced materials. When these materials are heated, and/or fused together, they emit UFP fumes (3D Printing Fumes) that are microscopic to the human eye, measuring at 1/10,000 millimeter or sub-micron range. In a study done by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 3D printing materials, by means of PLA filament, that are utilized at a low temperature, can generate over 20 billion particles per minute; with ABS feedstock having the capacity to release over 200 billion, in that same scenario. These nanoparticles are very small, and can easily enter into one’s body via their respiratory, cardiovascular, and/or nervous system and be extremely harmful to one’s bodily function.

Since 3D printing is a relatively new application, most online filament retailers do not offer a SDS (Safety Data Sheet) with their filaments. Due to the difficult process of predicting thermal decomposition3 [p 883], initially safety professionals may be faced with making protective decisions with research data not directly related to 3D printing. It is recommended that you take the time research UFP and polymer fumes to develop a respiratory protection plan that offers appropriate ventilation for the users of 3D printers.

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Noted by researchers “…caution should be used when operating some commercially available 3D printers in unvented or inadequately filtered indoor environments."5

Chemical Exposure from 3D Printing

The building blocks of solid chemicals, polymer chains, become loose and disorganized when heated, a property that allows the polymer to flow through your 3D printer and release chemical ingredients and UFP [ultrafine particles] into the air. However, some filaments are made up of more than just one chemical; For example, the ABS filament is composed of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene.

Multiple research experiments2 [p 95] have found that ABS, when heated to temperatures ranging from 210C to 800C, without flames, produces 20+ chemical by-products, including:

Acetophenone Acrolein Acrylonitrile Benzaldehyde
Cresol Dimethylbenzene Ethanal Ethylbenzene
Ethylmethylbenzene Hydrogen cyanide Isopropyl benzene C - Methylstyrene
P - Methylstyrene Phenol Phenyl cyclohexane 2-Phenyl-2-propanol
3-Phenyl-1-propene n-Propyl benzene Styrene Vinyl-1-cyclohexene

The main elements -- acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene – are discussed by the NIOSH in the documentation for Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentrations abstract.

The graphic below shows the recommended, time-weighted-average [TWA] exposure limits for acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene.

ABS Measurements

3d Printer Fume Extractor Case Study

Client: Houston Children's Museum
Subject: 518,800 particles per cubic foot produced inside of 3d printer cabinet while in use. All particle readings at a minimum size of 0.3 microns.
Control: Python 3d Printing Fume Extractor w/ HEPA filter
Result: The particle counter registers 0 (zero) particles while the 3D printer is in operation and producing particles.

Laminar Flow Hood (SS-300-WSL)
Laminar Flow Hood (SS-200-WSL)
  • 3D Printing Fume Extractor
  • 3D Printing Fume Extractor
  • 3D Printing Fume Extractor