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Home 3D printers spew potentially harmful emissions

3D-printing is a growing market, and is finally beginning to find its place in our homes and offices. However, a new study reveals that they emit some potentially harmful particles.

3D printing is still a developing technology and as such, home 3D printers are still largely untested in terms of safety. It’s reasonable to assume that a device that deals in the manufacture of plastic models could potentially spread some harmful stuff into the air. Because of this, researchers at the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology have put the printers to the test. They’ve selected a popular model and subjected it to a test which analyzes the printer’s ultra-fine particle emissions.

The researchers found that the printer emitted particles both when working with PLA, a starch-based material, and ABS plastic. Nearly 20 billion particles per minute were emitted by the printer during PLA work. Meanwhile, ten times as many particles were emitted during ABS work. 200 billion particles may seem like an awful lot, but we can’t let the numbers scare us without context. The emissions are roughly equivalent to what you’d get from lighting a cigarette or using a gas stove. In other words, the emissions may indeed be harmful, but likely not more than any number of things we do in our every day lives anyway.

Put your printer next to the window and you can be safe and show off!

The study didn’t mention which materials were in the emissions. One can assume they’d be the same as the materials used however, and that raises the concern slightly. While PLA is non-toxic and has been used in the past to deliver medicine, ABS plastic has been proven toxic to lab rats. Obviously, the lesson here is to ventilate. While it may be overkill to place the printers under lab-grade ventilation, it could be a good idea to crack a window.

Via Phys.org

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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