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Are There Any Dangers with 3D Printing?

Are There Any Dangers with 3D Printing? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

September 16, 2021

Yes, there are dangers with 3D printing including safety concerns, dangerous materials, and ethical issues.  However, 3D printing poses no more threat than any other manufacturing environment. The key is knowing the issues and dealing with them appropriately.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process which creates 3D objects by adding material layer by layer.  The material, called filament, comes in a variety of composites like plastic, metal, wood, nylon, etc.  The filament is pulled through an extruder which heats the material thus allowing it to form the object.

3D printing is a revolutionary technology that has already benefited many industries such as theater, automotive, medicine, and architecture. It comes with hype, speculation and discussion on just how much it will change the world for good.  As with all good comes a corresponding dark side, which is the purpose of this article.

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Table of contents:

First, let’s review some of the positives.  

3D printing has made rapid prototyping possible at a fraction of the cost.  With modern software designers are able to digitally create anything.  And, if it can be created digitally it can be 3D printed.  3D printing dramatically improves the time from idea to mass production.

3D printing reduces the need for inventory, and shifts to anon-demand capability.  While 3D printing is not currently designed for mass production, it is good for unique and specialized tools or parts that are only ordered occasionally thus reducing the need for space, which is always at a premium.

3D printing is an additive process rather than a subtractive process meaning you add material rather than take it away to produce an object.  This helps to minimize waste in the production process.

3D printing is available for anyone, versus traditional manufacturing which requires expensive presses, CNC machines and other equipment.  

So there are just a few positive things about 3D printing, the list could go on and on.  But it is important to ask if there any dangers with 3D printing?

Are certain 3D printing materials more dangerous than others?

Yes, there are certain materials that may be dangerous.  Just like the cleaning closet has chemicals, the 3D printing world uses materials that may be harmful if used incorrectly.  So, it is recommended that you don’t just pick any material you come across.  Know before you go (or do.)  The more research you put into learning and understanding 3D and the materials being used, the less likely you are to have any issues.  

Plastics are the most commonly used material when it comes to home users and hobbyists. All plastics are not created equal and vary in terms of their properties.  

Common types of plastics include ABS, PLA, NYLON, PEEK, PET,PETG, and PVA.  Plastics are often considered hazardous if you burn or improperly dispose of them.  Plastics such as ABS, nylon and PLA are known to be key sources of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of the compounds emitted by these products include butanol, styrene, ethylbenzene, cyclohexanone, among others.

Heating plastics at the specified temperature for 3D printing can lead to the emission of VOCs. Breathing these fumes and emitted gases is dangerous. ABS and PLA are known to release ultra fine particles that can be dangerous to those who get exposed to them.

Inhaling VOCs after short-term exposure can lead to memory problems, headaches, and irritation of eyes. Long-term exposure leads to fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and loss of coordination. VOCs can damage your liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and even cause cancer.

These are the extreme dangers so again, dress properly, ventilate properly, and follow any recommended guidelines when using these plastic materials.

Is It safe to print indoors?

Many people wonder if it is safe to print indoors?  Is it wise to spend long hours 3D printing indoors? Here are some factors that you should consider when 3D printing indoors.

  • Is the dimensional volume of your worksite adequate?
  • Is the air exchange rate in a room adequate?
  • How many 3D printers will you have running at the same time?
  • What materials are you using?
  • What long will it take to print the desired object?
  • Are there any other hazardous emission sources in the room?

It's not only 3D printers that emit VOCs and UFPs. Photo copiers, laser printers, computers, cleaning agents, and vacuum printers are known to emit hazardous compounds. The point is ask these questions, search the answers, and take the necessary steps to minimize any negative impact.

What are the ethical issues of 3D printing?

Yes, there are ethical issues surrounding 3D printing.  In fact ethical issues may out weight the health concerns mentioned above.  Due to the convenience and growing popularity of home 3D printers some of the ethical issues being discussed are as follows.

1. Safety

Many people feel that 3D printing will not measure up to the product safety regulations currently in place. 3D printers vary in quality and this could negatively affect products that get produced and sold to consumers.

2. Intellectual Property

When 3D printers create a whole new set of intellectual property problems. With the current technology anyone moderately 3D printing skilled person can scan an object, digitally recreate it, and then 3D print it.  Copyright issues are sure to surface when reproducing original pieces.

3. Printing of Human Organs

When we say you can print anything, that includes human organs.  Without getting into details you can imagine some of the issues that could surface around printing category.

Wrapping up the dangers of 3D printing.

Many scientific, medical, and manufacturing breakthroughs have hit the market with the advent of 3D printing. This technology comes with many benefits if used correctly, but if use incorrectly it poses concerns both physically and ethically.  We believe 3D printing is here to stay and will make the world a better place.

It is up to each of us to consider how we can utilize 3Dprinting and do it safely.  The key is getting into the details and learning. 3Dprintingspot.com hopes to help that education process along.

About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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Are There Any Dangers with 3D Printing?

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