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Desktop 3D Printers Produce Toxic Materials?

Gizmodo recently ran an interview with the authors of several studies published in the scientific journal Aerosol Science and Technology concerning the toxic materials produced by desktop 3D printers.

Of course, this isn’t a new worry, but these scientists, hailing from UL Chemical Safety and Georgia Institute of Technology, have conducted a “two-year investigation to assess the impacts of desktop 3D printers on indoor air quality.”  During this study, “the researchers were able to identify hundreds of different compounds, some of which are known health hazards.”

UL Chemical Safety’s Vice President and Senior Technical Advisor Marilyn Black “says her team’s findings should serve as a wakeup call, and they’re asking health researchers, scientists, and other institutions to investigate further.”

“Standard desktop 3D printers produce detectable amounts of ultrafine particles, or UFPs, while performing print jobs. UFPs are nanoscale particles that are invisible to the human eye, but could lead to serious health issues, particularly if they’re inhaled and delivered to the body’s pulmonary system.”

“When a printing process is initiated, a burst of new particles is created, which then becomes airborne. It’s this initial batch that tends to contain the smallest sizes and the maximum number of UFP concentrations during the entire print job, according to the new research.”

FDM 3D printers (of which MakerBot is just one desktop example) are particularly notorious for such particles: “The sheer variety of the toxic substances produced by these printers was alarming. No less than 200 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in the invisible puffs emanating from the printers as they churned away—including many known and suspected irritants and carcinogens.”

However, despite this alarming research, Dr. Black is quick to point out “this study was not a detailed look into the long-term health effects of 3D printers.”  Going forward, it is vital makers begin to take certain steps in order to counteract the effects of these harmful materials, though.

Dr. Black advises makers to “use [3D printers] only in well-ventilated spaces with outdoor air flow and stand away from the printers during operation.  Choose and select printers and feedstocks which have been proven to be low emitters.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Gizmodo

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