What is the worst 3D printer

Study examines possible health risks from 3D printers

Scientists at the Illinois Institute of Technology have published a study on the emission of nanoparticles by 3D printers. In doing so, they used similar investigation methods as they did earlier to check emissions from laser printers. Not only were several printer models tested, but also different filaments, i.e. the consumables used in 3D printing.

3D printers such as the Da Vinci 1.0 Pro with enclosure recently presented by XYZPrinting reduce emissions by around a third (Image: XYZPrinting). With regard to laser printers, the discussion about a possible health hazard has largely died down after several studies. Because most of them certify the harmlessness in "normal" use, to which technological improvements by the manufacturers have also contributed. In the case of 3D printers, however, the debate will probably have to be fought first. The current test by the Chicago scientists provides a whole range of starting points for this.

The amount of emissions - ultra-fine particles (UFP, smaller than 100 nanometers) and volatile organic compounds - therefore depends on the printer model and, in particular, on whether it has an open or closed installation space, the filament, the extruder, the temperature of the heating plate and the duration of the printing process. According to the measurements, the emission rate is highest when printing with ABS and lowest when printing with PLA. In terms of volatile organic compounds, styrene was mainly produced in ABS, whereas in PLA it was mainly lactide. While lactide is not considered dangerous, styrene is suspected of being carcinogenic.

With this, PLA, which is the most common and popular filament in the private sector in particular, has once again collected plus points. It is mostly used in devices that work according to the FDM method, such as those marketed by the providers Makerbot, RepRap and Ultimaker. Its popularity is due not only to the fact that PLA is available in virtually all colors, but also that it is flame-retardant, has high UV resistance and is light.

Emissions from 3D printing (Graphic: Illinois Institute of Technology)

Last but not least, it owes its good reputation to the fact that it can be made from renewable raw materials such as corn starch and is largely unproblematic when it comes to disposal. However, PLA has one disadvantage: the melting point is relatively low and the strength of the printed objects is significantly lower than with ABS, which performed worst in the test in terms of emissions.

3D printing enthusiasts had already pointed out earlier that emissions can at least be reduced by keeping the printing temperature and the temperature of the print bed as low as possible. Enclosing the installation space also helps. If it is not available, it may be easy to manufacture it yourself. It is also advisable to install a hood over the printer and to pay attention to the origin of the consumables. Because here too, as always, the following applies: Particularly favorable offers carry the risk that they come from less carefully controlled production and that the ingredients are therefore less strictly checked.

[with material from Peter Marwan, ITespresso.de]

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