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Can I Bring a 3D Printer on a Plane?

Can I Bring a 3D Printer on a Plane? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

Craig A Fry

/

March 1, 2021

With the drastic technological advancements, you are able to use 3D printers more easily.  Having this amazing tool at your disposal makes it understandable why you would want to travel with it.  Accessibility is a significant reason why a 3D printer may be so valuable to you.  There are many ways you can travel with your 3D printer; but, having it in your possession is probably the safest option.  

So, yes you can bring a 3D printer on a plane.  However, it is best if you check with the safety and regulations of your particular airline prior to arriving at the airport to ensure you there are no complications.  Because of the possible safety risks involved there is always a risk of your 3D printer being confiscated, so check first.  While the safest method to transport a 3D printer is in person, the preferable method would be to pack your printer in your baggage and check it.  

Many 3D printers are portable and handy to transport and likely could fit in the overhead bin on any particular flight.  But, to lessen your stress and anxiety, you need to always check with airport officials and make sure it does not fall under dangerous or hazardous goods.

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Table of contents:

How to Safely Travel With a 3D Printer?

A portable 3D printer certainly makes it easier, cheaper and more flexible to travel and accomplish remote work.  Just insure you adequately protect your device against shock and severe temperature changes during the length of your travel.  Nothing would be worse than to damage this valuable piece of equipment.  

You can travel with your 3D printer in various ways.  Some prefer to have their 3D printer travel alongside them either in their lap or in the overhead bin while on an airplane.  Others don’t mind checking their 3D printer, after packing it securely.  And then others elect to ship their 3D printer so it will arrive at their destination prior to their arrival.  

Shipping your 3D printer can still be stressful, but certainly ensures less stress by eliminating the interaction and hassle of burdensome security checks at the airports.  You can ship your 3D printer through FedEx or UPS or any other reliable shipping company.  

If you do choose to fly with your 3D printer on your person, make sure airline officials are aware of the 3D printer to avoid any awkward questions or searching of your bags.  3D printing has gained more acceptance but is still an unknown technology to much of the world.  You’d never want to be accused of smuggling drugs or anything. 

Precautions Needed when Transporting a 3D Printer?

When you are traveling with your 3D printer, first and foremost make sure it is protected by packaging it with care and consideration.  Recall how your printer was packaged when you first received it and this will offer some guidelines as to the best way to package it for transporting.  At a minimum your printer should have protective coverings surrounding the printer to prevent damage from bumps and bangs caused by throwing the box or stacking other packages on top.  Here are some standard packaging materials to consider using to protect your 3D printer when traveling:

  • Packing peanuts
  • Air pillow film
  • Cushion wrap roll
  • Packing foam sheets and corners

All of these materials offer a supportive and safe way to transport your 3D printer that limits movement when traveling.  You should also unplug and secure motors and other movable parts to prevent them from being damaged during transportation.

Keep in mind that if you are carrying your 3D printer onto an airplane, you need to pack in such a way that it is easily inspected or removed during security or on the plane itself.  Be prepared to explain your 3D printer equipment, which can appear confusing with all of the exposed wires and circuit boards.  Having an organized and easy to inspect 3D printer moves the process along quickly and smoothly.  

How Does a 3D Printer Improve Traveling?

This might sound an odd question to ask.  But there is some logic to it.  Of course, using your 3D printer for work purposes is the most likely reason you are traveling with it.  But, there are other benefits.  If you are a consistent user of 3D printing you understand it’s value.  If it has value at home, it can have the same value on the road.  You may find you need certain little things that are not available.  These products help make your traveling easy and more user friendly.  So consider the following items that might make your trip a little more enjoyable if only you had a 3D printer.

Trash Bag Holders

You can create a plastic hook that is great when you are traveling in your car to hold your trash bag and help maintain a clean and organized travel environment.

Shelf

You can create more usable space for organizing your belongings with a simple shelf.

Cups with straws

You can create a cup and straw eliminating the need to take up room in your luggage  

Food Cutlery

You can create missing utensils to enjoy your food and eliminate mess.  

Phone Stand

You can create a phone stand to more easily watch a movie or take a picture.

Luggage Bag Handle

You can create a plastic luggage bag holder to ease tension from excessive luggage and make it easier to lug multiple bags around.

I don’t know about you, but when you travel you forget things or remember the conveniences you had at home.  A 3D printer might seem odd to travel right now, but it might just be the thing that revolutionizes travel in the future.  

How to Maintain Your 3D Printer when Traveling:

When you are traveling, you need to make sure the environment your 3D printer is in is hospitable for your printer.  It must be clean and hygienic because dust, dirt, and other environmental factors harm the functionality of your printer.  

To prevent contamination with your device, you can clean your printer while traveling.  This includes cleaning the clogged nozzle of the 3D printer.  You should also regularly clean the printer bed after each print while you travel. You should also make sure you empty each waste bin frequently to maintain your device.  

While traveling, you need to also monitor how many printing hours your machine is operating under.  The more hours it prints, the sooner it will need a maintenance check.  Your parts wear down over time, and a regular check-in with the device is expected after reaching a minimum of 2500 printing hours.  

How to Fix Broken 3D Printer Parts when Traveling?

Most things break at one point or another and traveling can put undue stress on a 3D printer so be prepared to fix your printer to avoid frustration.  You would hate to go to all the work of transporting the device only to have it break.  Be prepared by thinking of some of the following tips.

  • Travel with the help desk number of your specific 3D printer manufacturer.  Sometimes the needed fix is just a phone call away.
  • Travel with key replacement parts.  You should understand your printer well and know which parts are most likely to break.  Carry a spare and save frustration.
  • Travel with superglue.  A little glue often will fix a slight crack or other minor issue.  
  • Travel with a little plumber’s cement that can be used to attach two or more broken parts.
  • Travel with acetone to dissolve particles from your prints and help connect two pieces that are bonded back together.
  • Travel with a hot glue gun to easily bond for all materials of your broken 3D print.

You may not need all of these items, but one or two of them may become the difference between a good trip and a great trip.  Be cautious of the bonding materials as they are often flammable and would not be allowed to carry onto the plane directly.

Conclusion

Overall, traveling with a 3D printer may seem like a daunting task at first consideration, but there are advantages.  And considering the various ways to transport, you can find the one the works best for you.  Then with a little advance preparation you can package and protect your equipment to ensure it arrives safely at your destination.  Happy traveling.

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Can I Bring a 3D Printer on a Plane?

Craig A Fry

Craig A Fry

Craig 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.

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