The global 3D printing market was $13.84 b in 2021 and is expected to reach $16.75 by the close of 2022. 3D printing is transformative from 3D printing medical implants automotive parts, customized food, drugs and clothing. In 2015 Aprecia Pharmaceuticals’ 3D printed the FDA-approved Spritam levetiracetam. Last month in September 2022, Adidas debuted their 3D printed 4DFWD running shoe.
There are two components necessary in the process of 3D printing, heat and substrate material. Substrate material is the physical structure of a part. Heat is applied to melt the source material so it can be printed into a part.
Substrate materials are made from nylon and other typical plastics that produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at high temperatures. VOCs from 3D printers include harmful chemicals and carcinogens such as styrene.
The unseen dangers that arise during heat application to substrate can make the 3D printing process hazardous in an uncontrolled environment.
A new report from the Chemical Insights Research Institute in partnership with the Georgia State University School of Public Health shows that particles released into the air during printing with FFF (fused filament fabrication) devices and breathed by users may contribute to human health hazards, including human cell injury and inflammation.
According to Marilyn Black, Ph.D. and Vice President and Senior Technical and Strategic Advisor at Chemical Insights Research Institute of Underwriters Laboratories, the particle pollution released by the 3D printers from the study were ultrafine particles that can be easily inhaled into the respiratory system.
“This is similar to air pollution released by vehicular exhaust as if one was sitting by a heavily traveled freeway. This pollution is associated with lung and heart disease or cardiopulmonary disease,” said Black.
However, Black says users can take proactive steps to reduce human exposure, including adding extra room ventilation to dilute the pollution and opening windows to flush pollutants out of the room. “Another step is to use a validated air cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove small particles and operate close to the printer,” said Black.
“You can also purchase low emitting printers certified to UL standard 2904; and use a printer enclosure that contains a HEPA filtration system which is often offered by the printer manufacturer,” added Black.
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