3D printers! They are a new, fascinating technology that allows everyday people to create their very own objects. They do this by heating up a plastic filament and moving it to create layers upon layers until a 3D object has been created. This enables homeowners to create 3D objects at their leisure. But what most people aren’t thinking about is when the nozzle on the 3D printer heats up a plastic filament, it may release air pollutants into our homes. See, the heating of a plastic filament releases gases and nano-sized particles into the air. You may be asking yourself “if the particles are so small, why should I care?” That’s a great point, but a regular 3D print job can release more than 1 trillion particles. Breathing in these large amounts of very small particles may lead to effects in our respiratory system. These particles are so small that they can cross over to the blood stream and reach other organs. But because this is a fairly new field of research, more studies are needed to tell us what these particles are made of and if whether they are toxic or not. You have to wonder though, when particles are being emitted, how much is too much?
Here are some scientific references on this topic:
Stephens, B., Azimi, P., El Orch, Z., & Ramos, T. (2013). Ultrafine particle emissions from desktop 3D printers. Atmospheric Environment, 79, 334-339.
Vance, M. E., Pegues, V., Van Montfrans, S., Leng, W., & Marr, L. C. (2017). Aerosol emissions from fuse-deposition modeling 3D printers in a chamber and in real indoor environments. Environmental science & technology, 51(17), 9516-9523.
Pelley, J. (2018). Safety standards aim to rein in 3-D printer emissions. ACS Central Science, 4 (2) 134-136.
Zhang, Q., Wong, J. P., Davis, A. Y., Black, M. S., & Weber, R. J. (2017). Characterization of particle emissions from consumer fused deposition modeling 3D printers. Aerosol Science and Technology, 51(11), 1275-1286.