3D printers could make you seriously ill

Image credit: Pexels (Image credit: Pexels)

3D printers could pose a serious risk to your health due to dangerous emissions that linger when these devices are used in a typical office, classroom or home environment which isn’t suitably ventilated.

This is according to a new study examining VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions from 3D printers, authored by scientists from UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

This report examined fused filament fabrication (FFF) printers, the most common type of devices used by consumers, and in offices along with schools or colleges, finding that 3D printing creates a large number of VOCs – with 216 chemicals detected, no less.

Carcinogens and potential toxicity

The worse news is that many of those emissions are irritants, which can have carcinogenic properties, and indeed “reproductive toxicity potentials” the authors warn. Exactly what chemicals are emitted is down to the precise filament parameters and indeed the conditions where the 3D printing is taking place

And it’s the latter which is the rub, because when these 3D printers are used in an indoor environment without suitable ventilation – such as your average home or office – these emissions can be a big concern.

The study notes that it tested exposure levels to the room, and to a person, in both a bedroom and classroom, and concluded: “Some chemicals of concern exceeded recommended indoor levels linked to adverse health effects.”

So what can be done to mitigate any potentially dangerous emissions? The authors of the study recommend using verified low-emission 3D printers, and filaments, as well as the obvious – do your best to increase ventilation levels around the machine (open all the windows maybe). We’d also assume that ideally you shouldn’t hang about the device when it’s printing; go somewhere else if possible.

It’s also good if you can reduce the printer nozzle temperature, if that’s feasible, or indeed use a filament which operates with a lower nozzle temperature.

Hopefully combining all these measures should mean a safer 3D printing experience, but in the meantime, you should certainly be wary of the environment you’re using these kind of devices in.

It might also be worth bearing in mind that some of the best rugged smartphones have VOC detectors built-in.

Via Tech Republic

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).