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mvrk
 mvrk
(@mvrk)
Active Member
Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

Hi Guys,

First, let me say how pleased I am with the Original Prusa i3 MK3 Kit I received and assembled three months ago. This is simply an awesome machine in every respect that’s important to me. Can’t thank you enough for the effort that went into the design and manufacture of the hardware, as well as the excellent firmware and Slic3r Prusa Edition software.

Much has been written lately regarding the potential hazards of breathing the micro-particles emitted while a typical FFF 3D printer is depositing layers of heated plastic filament. Articles I’ve read suggest that this is especially an issue with filament materials like ABS that require higher nozzle temperatures. It’s supposedly not as much of an issue with lower temperature filaments like PLA. Nonetheless, the articles I’ve read have been vague regarding specifics regarding when we should be concerned with harmful emissions, and steps that can be taken to avoid subjecting ourselves to the harmful effects of these emissions. Adequate ventilation and keeping nozzle temperatures as low as possible are the only recommendations I’ve seen thus far.

As highly trusted innovators and experts in the field of 3D printing, would it be possible for Prusa Research to do an in-depth study of this issue and make some concrete recommendations with regards to the variety of filament materials that are available for printing? I currently use PLA exclusively and would therefore be most interested in your detailed recommendations for PLA. For example, is it advisable to use some sort of particle respirator mask when we are closely observing a part being printed in PLA? If so, can you recommend the most effective type of mask for this purpose? Also, I expect that I will be expanding beyond PLA in the not-too-distant future, so detailed recommendations for other materials like ABS, PETG, Nylon, etc. would be most appreciated as well.

Believe it or not, I actually find it very interesting and rewarding to watch my MK3 go through the motions of producing 3D prints of my various designs. It’s disappointing to realize that the air I’m breathing while doing that can potentially be a health hazard. Any light Prusa Research can shed on this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

Posted : 19/11/2018 3:49 am
bobstro
(@bobstro)
Illustrious Member
Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

There are two issues:

  • The release of toxic fumes (styrenes) when printing with some materials such as ABS.

  • The release of ultra-fine particles (UFPs) by all materials.
  • Not all materials release known carcinogens, but you have to do the research. I personally am avoiding filaments that release known carcinogens.

    The science is still out on the UFPs. What is known is that they can move deep into the lungs and will not come out. Plastic is generally not a good thing to have in one's body, so the general recommendation is to print in a well ventilated area at minimum. Additional filler material such as carbon fibre is also a concern.

    A rudimentary air filter isn't going to do much, but probably can't hurt and some circulation is probably a good thing. Some informal testing I read up on indicated that PLA puts out far fewer UFPs than ABS, and PETG and other "sticky" materials far fewer than PLA. Other testing seems to indicate that the hazard is greatest nearest the print, so distance helps.

    Nobody is going to know anything for certain without a lot of expensive research, and even then, it's likely to be disputed for years. Producing anything definitive is going to be well beyond the means of a company the size of Prusa. In the meantime, if you're concerned about the health of anybody who might be exposed, simply use common sense and ventilate the area well. The same practices are recommended for a variety of hobbies, not just 3D printing, so this is nothing new. Your environment probably is filled with plenty of hazards other than your 3D printer that generate just as many UFPs and other concerns, so use common sense in reducing exposure where you can. Folks out in California are certainly being exposed to worse this week.

    My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing

    and miscellaneous other tech projects
    He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

    Posted : 19/11/2018 6:42 am
    BRSlicer
    (@brslicer)
    Trusted Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    For reference, here is a year-old stack exchange post with some relevant thoughts.

    https://3dprinting.stackexchange.com/questions/3771/commercially-available-3d-printer-fume-and-ufp-extractor

    Posted : 19/11/2018 7:37 am
    rob.l6
    (@rob-l6)
    Honorable Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    For those that live in/near big cities or industrial areas I think you are probably breathing in more harmful substances on a more regular basis. Even living in very dusty areas can be hazardous. How often do you sit in close proximity of your printer? Everything is relative.

    Posted : 19/11/2018 9:47 am
    bobstro
    (@bobstro)
    Illustrious Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations


    [...] Everything is relative.
    True, though everything is also cumulative. The fact that you live near a big city doesn't mean that adding to your total exposure is a good thing!

    My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing

    and miscellaneous other tech projects
    He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

    Posted : 19/11/2018 3:50 pm
    surfgeorge
    (@surfgeorge)
    Estimable Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    Through my work I know something about the measurement of UFP and the health effects.
    Talking about particles in the sub 50nm range they can directly penetrate the cell membrane and any toxic substance that sticks to the particle will then be directly inside the cell.

    On a practical note, I closely watched the printing of a small polycarbonate part. Printer was in a closed LACK enclosure. It did not smell much, but afterwards my lung felt irritated for a day and I had a slight headache.

    I have a fan, active carbon and hepa filter at home to be installed in the enclosure.

    Posted : 19/11/2018 5:52 pm
    Nikolai
    (@nikolai)
    Noble Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    Health risk is always an issue. I see it similar to a laser printer. It also emits toner dust and volatile organic compounds. So I wouldn't run it 24/7 in my bed room.

    Often linked posts:
    Going small with MMU2
    Real Multi Material
    My prints on Instagram

    Posted : 19/11/2018 7:15 pm
    BRSlicer
    (@brslicer)
    Trusted Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    I think the first step would be to get some ballpark measure of how much an average desktop FDM printer puts off. Until we have that fact it's all hand waving when trying to compare it to other hobby/work projects and the environment.

    Posted : 21/11/2018 7:47 pm
    mvrk
     mvrk
    (@mvrk)
    Active Member
    Topic starter answered:
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    Allow me to clarify what I meant to suggest in my original post above regarding Prusa Research becoming involved in addressing this (potential) emissions issue. Obviously, I don’t expect them to become experts in the mechanical, chemical and physiological analysis of nano-particle and toxic chemical emissions from the FDM 3D printing process. There are existing organizations that are much better suited to conducting such analyses. However, I do believe they have an opportunity to take the lead in coordinating a viable and cost-effective solution to whatever health hazards may be posed by the printing of various filament materials. In fact, I believe Prusa has an opportunity to produce a revenue-generating product accessory that embodies the same excellence in well thought-out design and manufacture as all of their other products. They can and should coordinate with experts in the field of emissions analysis. Once the relevant experts have all concurred on the levels of emissions being produced by the various filament types, Prusa can design an accessory enclosure for their 3D printers that effectively reduces the potential for harmful emissions to near zero. The reason I believe Prusa Research should be the one developing and producing the enclosure is simple…they have repeatedly demonstrated an ability to develop innovative products with ground-breaking features and function at a fair and reasonable price to their customers. I would expect no less from whatever solution they decide to produce to address this whole emissions issue. It would be a win-win-win situation for Prusa Reseach, their customers and the 3D printing industry in general. Just my humble opinion…

    Posted : 23/11/2018 12:47 am
    Nikolai
    (@nikolai)
    Noble Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    PR is very small company which is growing very fast. They have limited resources which are currently tied to maintaining current Software/Hardware and developing future ones. Opening up a new product line and producing/shipping/developing requires a lot of new resources. There are already companies out there who are offering a full blown solutions for casing the printer and filtering the fumes. PR would need to compete with those.

    For regulations and warnings do exist official organisations. They are also independent and not biased. FDM is not new to the industry and there are regulations for work environment in this companies. Why just don't take those and apply to consumer products?

    I understand that this "hazardous issue" make some people nervous. But on the other hand it's well known that plastic is not good for a human body. Still you don't find a sticker/sign on the plastic fork which is telling you this. Or even better, is giving you a recommendation to not leave it in your mouth for longer period of time.

    Maybe we will have an orange sticker on all 3D printers with a sign to use it outside but this decision should not come from a company (doesn't matter which one) who produce this printer. There is a conflict of interest. PR is a profit based company like any other!

    Often linked posts:
    Going small with MMU2
    Real Multi Material
    My prints on Instagram

    Posted : 23/11/2018 6:18 am
    cwbullet
    (@cwbullet)
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    I would like to see more research. I am sure walking down the city street given you higher risk exposure.

    --------------------
    Chuck H
    3D Printer Review Blog

    Posted : 23/11/2018 4:18 pm
    mvrk
     mvrk
    (@mvrk)
    Active Member
    Topic starter answered:
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    Wow @nikolai.r, thanks for the lecture. That was very helpful.

    Posted : 24/11/2018 6:13 pm
    BillC
    (@billc)
    Reputable Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    I read Nicolai's post as a clarifying statement which was both realistic and practical. We surely want Prusa to continue focussing on improving the reliability and ease of use of existing products and developing the next generation.

    Bill
    Tagaytay City, Philippines
    Founder member of Philippines Prusa Printer Owners FB Group
    Sponsor Pillars of God Academy in Bacoor

    Posted : 25/11/2018 3:20 pm
    mvrk
     mvrk
    (@mvrk)
    Active Member
    Topic starter answered:
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    As I said, Bill, it was helpful. It inspired me to rely on my maker mentality to build an enclosure for my M3 out of plexiglass and vent the emissions to a window that's conveniently located about a foot away from my printer. An inexpensive duct booster fan provides the required airflow. Problem solved.

    Posted : 27/11/2018 11:08 pm
    BRSlicer
    (@brslicer)
    Trusted Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    I'd say Nikolai's post is not useful at all.

    1) The reason for this topic is that these findings are recent and new. Current regulations for workplaces would not take this new information into account. Even if they do eventually, we have to consider that people use printers in their homes where they sleep and eat, whereas industrial regulations would would be tailored towards use in shops.

    2) Comparing this to a plastic fork is over-simplistic and misleading and he's trying to use it to make a bad "slippery slope" point. I suspect he doesn't fully understand the nature of the recent research or the information provided about UFPs , because his statements certainly don't reflect it.

    The biggest problem right now is that we don't have a "how much" factor attached to the research. I'd like to continue printing in my tiny apartment with no way to exhaust, but I'd also like to know if the printer is the cause of my respiratory distress.

    Posted : 13/01/2019 4:26 am
    rob.l6
    (@rob-l6)
    Honorable Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations


    but I'd also like to know if the printer is the cause of my respiratory distress.

    If that is the case then I hope you are going to do the obvious, and stop immediately. Wait for some days/weeks and see if your issue improves. If it does then printing may well be affecting you.

    Posted : 13/01/2019 4:33 am
    BRSlicer
    (@brslicer)
    Trusted Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations

    I appreciate your concern and advice Rob. Thank you. The problem is that there are so many factors feeding into my health happening all at once. Between large temperature swings, control of room humidity and temperature, allergies, sicknesses floating around, and holiday visits, there are too many variables.

    I look at all these variables and I throw my hands up in the air, because trying to change one variable, the printing, won't keep the other variables from changing at their own will. I could change the printing variable, but I won't be able to get an accurate result. Do you agree with this theory?

    Posted : 13/01/2019 4:48 am
    bobstro
    (@bobstro)
    Illustrious Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations


    [...] Do you agree with this theory?
    If it's your health, no. I'd definitely stop printing in the same room. If you feel better, try re-introducing the printing but stop if symptoms get worse. 3D printing itself may not be "harmful" to the general public but it's yet-another variable that might be contributing to your health problems. I'd make your health problems the priority, not scientifically determining whether 3D printing is itself "harmful" to everyone else.

    My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing

    and miscellaneous other tech projects
    He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

    Posted : 13/01/2019 5:06 am
    Nikolai
    (@nikolai)
    Noble Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations


    I'd say Nikolai's post is not useful at all.

    1) The reason for this topic is that these findings are recent and new. Current regulations for workplaces would not take this new information into account. Even if they do eventually, we have to consider that people use printers in their homes where they sleep and eat, whereas industrial regulations would would be tailored towards use in shops.

    2) Comparing this to a plastic fork is over-simplistic and misleading and he's trying to use it to make a bad "slippery slope" point. I suspect he doesn't fully understand the nature of the recent research or the information provided about UFPs , because his statements certainly don't reflect it.

    The biggest problem right now is that we don't have a "how much" factor attached to the research. I'd like to continue printing in my tiny apartment with no way to exhaust, but I'd also like to know if the printer is the cause of my respiratory distress.

    Hello Benjamin,
    You can refer to me directly and ask me directly. No need to try to interpret what I might mean with my post.

    1) No, they are not new. Plastic is harmful to human bodies. We just don't know which type of plastic and in which way. This is something only studies will tell in couple decades. Fact is that burning plastic is toxic. I don't have access to this regulations but 3D printing with plastic and other toxic materials is not new to the industry. It's just new to end customers. If somebody is working 40 hours a week near this devices, It's pretty close to the usage at home. Based on that my common sense tells me to apply at least the same regulations at home (like good ventilation and some filters).

    2) We are heavily exposed to plastic. I'ts well known that heated plastic releases particles. Like plastic cup of coffee, PET bottle left in the hot car and yes even plastic cutlery expose it and we are consuming it directly and also over the air. It starts already as a baby/toddler/child. How many plastic things do we had and our children have in their mouth. Most people don't care about this. My point is that the current plastic which we are printing is chemically not new. We are just increasing the dosage in our homes of not healthy plastic fumes. But I think some people are raising awareness of this situation only after they got a 3D printer.

    Sorry to hear about your respiratory distress. I would highly recommend to stop printing at home in this case. All the studies and tests which you're maybe referring to are clearly stating particles increase which pollutes the air. Especially if you're sensitive to this, I would try to increase the air quality in my home at all costs.

    Often linked posts:
    Going small with MMU2
    Real Multi Material
    My prints on Instagram

    Posted : 13/01/2019 6:18 am
    K7ZPJ
    (@k7zpj)
    Estimable Member
    Re: Harmful Emissions from 3D Printing - Prusa Recommendations


    I would like to see more research. I am sure walking down the city street given you higher risk exposure.

    In the United States, the development of 3D printer safety standards is being lead by UL in cooperation with the Georgia Institute of Technology which is researching the effects of ultra fine particles.

    Here is a link for more information: https://industries.ul.com/news/ul-leading-development-of-ul-ansi-standard-for-3d-printer-emissions-testing-and-evaluation

    Posted : 13/01/2019 9:01 pm
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