Printing with Caution: a Guide to Ensuring Safety When Using 3d Printers

29 August 2023. Written by Emily Wilson. Time investment required: 5 minutes.

Understand the Risks of 3D Printing

3D printing is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. With its endless possibilities, from shaping intricate designs to building entire houses, 3D printing is becoming increasingly popular for a variety of applications. However, with progress comes risk, and 3D printing is no exception.

Like any manufacturing process that involves the use of heat and chemicals, 3D printing has its own unique set of risks. One of the most significant risks is the release of toxic particles, specifically, ultrafine particles (UFPs). These particles are small enough to enter the lungs and cause respiratory issues. Prolonged exposure to UFPs can lead to serious health problems for both operators and those in the vicinity of the printer.

It’s essential to understand the risks associated with 3D printing and take appropriate measures to minimize them. One way to do so is by investing in a high-end printer that produces fewer particles. Another way is by positioning the printer in a well-ventilated area to reduce the concentration of emissions. Additionally, consider wearing a mask when working with 3D printers to reduce your exposure to toxic particles.


Minimize Your Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

One of the most significant challenges associated with 3D printing is the use of hazardous chemicals. Hazardous chemicals are typically used in the printing process to ensure that the plastic filament melts and flows smoothly without causing damage to the printer. These chemicals can cause skin irritation and may also emit harmful fumes.

To minimize your exposure to these harmful chemicals, it’s essential to take the necessary precautions. Always wear gloves and protective clothing when handling chemicals, and never consume food or drinks near a 3D printer. Consider using alternative solutions that don’t expose you to hazardous chemicals whenever possible.

By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of 3D printing without exposing yourself to unnecessary risks.


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Use Protective Equipment When Necessary

Although 3D printers have become more accessible over the years, it’s important to remember that they’re not entirely risk-free. In some cases, there may be a need for you to wear protective equipment when operating the device. For example, when working with materials that emit toxic fumes, it’s advisable to wear a respirator to protect your lungs from inhaling harmful particles. Similarly, if you’re working with hot surfaces, such as the printer bed, gloves can protect your skin from burns or other injuries.

Protective equipment doesn’t have to be bulky or uncomfortable. There are many options available that can be both practical and stylish. For instance, you can choose a respirator with a comfortable, ergonomic design that fits snugly around your mouth and nose, such as the 3M Reusable Respirator. Additionally, there are plenty of lightweight, heat-resistant gloves that can keep your hands safe without impeding your dexterity. By wearing the right protective equipment, you can stay safe while enjoying the benefits of 3D printing.


Choose Safe Materials for Printing

When it comes to 3D printing, choosing the right materials is key. Not all materials are created equal, and some may pose hazards when heated, such as ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PLA (polylactic acid). ABS is known to emit potentially harmful fumes when heated, while PLA can cause skin irritation if prolonged contact is made. Additionally, additives used in some filaments could pose additional risks to your health.

If you’re concerned about the safety of the materials you’re using, it’s important to do your research. Always check the safety data sheet (SDS) for the material you intend to use to understand any potential hazards. A comprehensive SDS should include information about the material’s toxicity, flammability, and any other safety concerns. Additionally, consider using materials that are more environmentally friendly, such as plant-based plastics, which are gentler on the environment and less hazardous to your health.


For more information on 3D printing safety practices, check out this article on Desktop Subscription Vs. Perpetual License explained and learn how to choose the right software that can help you create safe and innovative 3D prints.

Know Your 3D Printer Inside and Out

Before starting any 3D printing project, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the printer you are using. Each 3D printer is unique, with its own set of features, settings, and limitations. Knowing how to operate your 3D printer properly will not only ensure that your prints turn out as expected but also keep you safe.

Begin by reading the user manual and understanding the printer’s settings, such as temperature controls and print speeds. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type of filament to use and any specific safety instructions. Inconsistencies in the filament material or heat settings can lead to prints that don’t solidify properly or emit harmful chemicals.

Regular maintenance of the printer is also essential for safety. Keep the printer clean and free of dust and debris that can cause malfunctions or fires. Replace any worn or damaged parts before using the printer to prevent accidents. By knowing your 3D printer inside and out, you’ll be able to use it safely and efficiently.


Properly Store and Dispose of Materials to Ensure Safety

Storing 3D printing filaments and other materials correctly is critical for safety. Incorrect storage can lead to the degradation of the filament material or the release of harmful chemicals. Always store filaments in an airtight container at room temperature to protect them from moisture and dust. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight or heat sources, which can cause warping or melting.

When a filament is no longer usable, it’s essential to dispose of it properly. Improper disposal of filaments can be harmful to the environment and your health. Some filaments may contain toxic chemicals that can contaminate soil and water. Dispose of filaments according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, such as recycling or using special disposal services.

By properly storing and disposing of materials, you can avoid unnecessary risks and contribute to a sustainable future for 3D printing.


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Emily Wilson is a novelist from Los Angeles, CA. Her books explore themes of family, identity, and self-discovery.

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