Additive manufacturing technologies and the respiratory hazard of UFP

What’s going to revolutionize manufacturing this week?

Chart by Sentry Air shows additive manufacturing technologies designed to manipulate powders of many materials, including metals.

Additive manufacturing technologies designed to manipulate powders of many materials, including metals and biological materials.

Lasers that sinter? 3D printers that add? Electron beams that melt or fuse or weld?

As exciting as the possibilities are, a key aspect of additive technologies is often a powdered material that is manipulated by light or temperature into objects our
customers want.

Chart by Sentry Air Systems explains sizing of nanoparticles.Powders as feedstock

Today’s powders may be metals, polymers, ceramics or biological materials.

These engineered nanomaterials may be composed of individual particles smaller than 100 nanometers.

In discussions of air pollution, particles smaller than 100 nm are often called UFP, or ultra-fine particles.

UFP in the body

You can’t see them, but you can inhale them.

Researchers have determined that 3D printers produce UFP. So do lasers4.

Inhaled, UFP can travel from the olfactory system to other parts of the body, including the brain.

Inside the body, UFP can cause inflammation, heart disease and may alter DNA processes.

In their additive manufacturing lab, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) used a variety of metal powders, including stainless steel and alloys containing nickel, cobalt, chrome and titanium.

Although they used a system that is self-contained when in operation, NIST says “raw metal powders used as input materials present the greatest risk to operators”.2

Clearly, nano-scale powders in additive processes present respiratory risk to your team.

Manufacturing professionals must develop health and safety programs with respiratory protection strategies to protect workers from UFP.

Particle exposure in additive manufacturing processes

Workers can be exposed to hazardous particles when:

  • powders are received and inventoried.
  • powder-based additive manufacturing systems are set up for production.
  • the systems are opened, cleaned and maintenance is performed.
  • workers remove the PPE they wear for the above tasks.
  • manufactured objects are post-processed by machines and hand tools.
Avenues of exposure to UFP in additive manufacturing.

Welding fume extraction’s relevance to UFP and additive manufacturing

Welding produces combustion-derived nanoparticles, known hazards to human lungs.4

Our 30-year old company produces welding fume extractors that capture UFP before it can be inhaled.

We know this because we test them.

For example, the HEPA-equipped Model 300 reduced welding-produced hex chrome – a known carcinogen – by 99.9%.

The Model 450 with reusable MERV 16 filters reduced welding-produced hex chrome UFP by 97%.

Additive manufacturing fume extraction

3D printer with fume extraction provide by a Sentry Air Model 300 fume extractor.

A customer sent us the photo of the 3D printer shown on the right. It runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Shown on the left is a Sentry Air Model 300. Its filters capture the particles and odors that once made co-workers complain – a lot.

Read about the impact of 3D printing fume extraction on a medical manufacturer’s facility in our blog.

Similar good results are possible for your facility.

Seeking appropriate ventilation for processes that produce UFP?

Our applications specialists work with manufacturers in many industries to solve unsafe air problems. Call them at 800.799.4609 or email them at

You can also use the comment form below as well as in the feedback forms on our website.



1Translocation of Inhaled Ultrafine Particles to the Brain

2Lessons Learned in Establishing the NIST Metal Additive Manufacturing Laboratory, NIST Technical Note 1801, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce

3Combustion-derived nanoparticles: A review of their toxicology following inhalation exposure

4A guide to laser safety

5Everybody manufactures?

6Manufacturing Day 2014

7Air quality solutions for manufacturing technology