3D Printer Emissions and Indoor Air Quality
3D printing has become increasingly popular in recent years, allowing people to create objects in a wide range of materials and designs. However, with the increase in the use of 3D printing, there has also been an increase in concerns about the impact of 3D printer emissions on indoor air quality. In this article, we will explore the potential risks associated with 3D printer emissions and how to minimize them.
What are 3D Printer Emissions?
3D printer emissions refer to the release of particles and gases into the air during the printing process. These emissions can be released into the surrounding environment and can potentially have harmful effects on indoor air quality. The emissions can come from the printer itself or from the materials used in the printing process.
Types of 3D Printer Emissions
There are two main types of 3D printer emissions: particle emissions and gas emissions.
Particle emissions occur when the printer creates the object by heating and melting the material. The heating process can cause particles to become airborne, which can then be released into the surrounding environment. These particles can include both ultrafine particles (UFPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). UFPs are small enough to be inhaled into the lungs and have been linked to a range of health issues. VOCs are organic chemicals that can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, and long-term exposure to high levels of VOCs has been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer.
Gas emissions can also be released during the 3D printing process. These gases can come from the materials used in the printing process, such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PLA (Polylactic Acid), and PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol). These gases can include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and formaldehyde, which are all known to have negative effects on human health.
Risks Associated with 3D Printer Emissions
The potential risks associated with 3D printer emissions are still being studied, but early research suggests that there are some risks associated with exposure to these emissions. The risks depend on the type and amount of emissions, as well as the length and frequency of exposure.
Short-term exposure to 3D printer emissions can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as headaches and dizziness. These symptoms are typically mild and go away once exposure to the emissions has ceased.
Long-term exposure to 3D printer emissions can have more serious health effects. For example, studies have linked exposure to UFPs with an increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Long-term exposure to VOCs has also been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer.
How to Minimize 3D Printer Emissions
There are several ways to minimize 3D printer emissions and reduce the risks associated with exposure to these emissions.
Use a well-ventilated area
One of the most effective ways to minimize 3D printer emissions is to use a well-ventilated area. This can be achieved by using a printer with an enclosed print chamber and a ventilation system that draws the emissions out of the printer and away from the user. Alternatively, you can use the printer in a well-ventilated room, such as a room with an open window or a room with a ventilation system that draws air away from the printer.
Use low-emission materials
Another way to minimize 3D printer emissions is to use low-emission materials. Some materials, such as PLA, emit fewer particles and gases than other materials, such as ABS. Choosing low-emission materials can help to reduce the amount of emissions released during the 3d printing process.
A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in 2016 found that 3D printers emit high levels of UFPs and VOCs. The researchers measured emissions from several different types of 3D printers and found that UFP emissions were highest during the printing process, while VOC emissions were highest immediately after the printing process.
Another study published in the journal Indoor Air in 2018 found that exposure to 3D printer emissions can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular effects. The researchers exposed mice to emissions from a 3D printer for 10 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 3 weeks. They found that the mice had increased levels of inflammation in their lungs and blood vessels, which are known risk factors for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
A study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment in 2019 found that using a ventilation system can help to reduce UFP emissions from 3D printers. The researchers measured emissions from a 3D printer both with and without a ventilation system and found that the ventilation system reduced UFP emissions by up to 95%.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene in 2017 measured 3D printer emissions in a simulated office environment. The researchers found that emissions from a 3D printer can lead to elevated levels of UFPs and VOCs in indoor air, and that using a commercially available air purifier can help to reduce these levels.
Another study published in the journal Environmental Pollution in 2018 measured emissions from a 3D printer using different types of materials, including ABS and PLA. The researchers found that emissions from the printer varied depending on the type of material used, and that PLA emissions were generally lower than ABS emissions.
A study published in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology in 2018 measured 3D printer emissions in a range of different environments, including homes, offices, and a library. The researchers found that emissions from 3D printers can contribute significantly to indoor air pollution, and that using a ventilation system can help to reduce emissions in these environments.
Another study published in the journal Building and Environment in 2020 investigated the effectiveness of different types of air filters in reducing 3D printer emissions. The researchers found that using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter was the most effective way to reduce UFP emissions, while using an activated carbon filter was the most effective way to reduce VOC emissions.
25 Things You Can Do To Prevent Or Reduce The Risk
Here is a list of 25 things that can help to reduce the risk associated with 3D printer emissions:
Use a 3D printer in a well-ventilated area.
Use a 3D printer with an enclosure or cover to contain emissions.
Use a 3D printer with a HEPA filter to capture UFPs.
Use a 3D printer with an activated carbon filter to capture VOCs.
Clean the 3D printer regularly to reduce the buildup of emissions.
Use PLA instead of ABS, as PLA emissions are generally lower.
Use a 3D printer that is specifically designed for low-emissions printing.
Use a 3D printer that is certified as low-emissions by a third-party organization.
Avoid using 3D printers in small or poorly ventilated rooms.
Use a ventilation system or air purifier to capture emissions.
Avoid using 3D printers in areas where people are sleeping or spending long periods of time.
Allow 3D printed objects to cool before removing them from the printer to reduce emissions.
Limit the use of 3D printers to periods when people are not present in the room.
Use a 3D printer in a dedicated workspace that is separate from living areas.
Use a 3D printer that has been tested for emissions in a third-party laboratory.
Use a 3D printer that has adjustable print settings to reduce emissions.
Use a 3D printer with a low-temperature printing setting to reduce emissions.
Use a 3D printer that has a built-in air filtration system.
Consider using a filament dryer to reduce emissions.
Avoid using 3D printers in areas with poor indoor air quality.
Use a 3D printer with a timer or automatic shut-off to limit printing time.
Use a 3D printer that has been designed for energy efficiency.
Store 3D printer filaments in airtight containers to reduce emissions.
Use a 3D printer that has a low-emissions rating.
Educate yourself about the risks associated with 3D printer emissions and take steps to reduce these risks.