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3D Printers Shown To Emit Potentially Harmful Nanosized Particles 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the price-you-pay-for-having-a-plastic-version-of-your-own-head dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study by researchers in the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology shows that commercially available desktop 3D printers can have substantial emissions of potentially harmful nanosized particles in indoor air. Many desktop 3D printers rely on a process where a thermoplastic feedstock is heated, extruded through a small nozzle, and deposited onto a surface to build 3D objects. Similar processes have been shown to have significant aerosol emissions in other studies using a range of plastic feedstocks, but mostly in industrial environments. In this study, researchers measured ultrafine particle concentrations resulting from a popular commercially available desktop 3D printer using two different plastic feedstocks inside an office. Ultrafine particles (or UFPs) are small, nanosized particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Inhalation of UFPs may be important from a health perspective because they deposit efficiently in the lung and can even translocate to the brain. Estimates of emission rates of total UFPs in this study were high, ranging from about 20 billion particles per minute for a 3D printer utilizing a lower temperature polylactic acid (PLA) feedstock to about 200 billion particles per minute for the same type of 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) feedstock. The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette."
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3D Printers Shown To Emit Potentially Harmful Nanosized Particles

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:00PM (#44338543)

    The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:18PM (#44338631) Homepage Journal

    Because it's cumulative, it can be very worrying. Factor in that it's not just your own activities you have to worry about, but neighbours etc, and you can see the problem. I mean, all non-smokers know how fucking vile it is having to be near smokers, and how it affects breathing for many.

    yeah.. but candles & cooking? if it's similar to cooking, I'll continue to not give a shit about it. if smoking.. well I might build an exhaust - or start smoking indoors.

    this study isn't about if it smells good or not though, which is pretty much the instant cigarette effect people get, so why bring that up..

    (anyhow, from the study, pla seems to be 3x background for duration of the print. I'd be interested in PET plastic study too, the prints with it are a lot sturdier.. also, probably the coloring agents etc play a role, so including those would have been nice)

  • by khallow (566160) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:06PM (#44338881)

    Factor in that it's not just your own activities you have to worry about, but neighbours etc

    No, you don't. You might not have noticed, but this world is chock full of floating nanoparticles. We call them "dust", "pollen", "smoke", etc. Our lungs have similarly evolved to deal with these particles. I think it is quite senseless to get up in arms over the minuscule supply of particles from your neighbor's 3D printing machine while ignoring the vast swarm of particles coming from the dust mites living on your skin and environment.

  • by ndogg (158021) <the DOT rhorn AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:49PM (#44339463) Homepage Journal

    The difference is that we don't know what these particular particles will do to our bodies yet, and this was something rather unanticipated with 3d printers. Ultimately more research needs to be done, and it may well turn out that these particles are harmless, but considering that we don't know much about their interactions with our biology, it's best to assume the worst until we know better.

    With cooking, candles, etc., we've been doing it for so long that we can probably safely assume that the resulting particles aren't causing any significant harm.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:05PM (#44339533) Homepage Journal

    For regulation, and then restriction.

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:30PM (#44339631) Journal
    Something tells me our systems are a little more capable of dealing with biodegradable skin cells than burnt plastic byproducts.
  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:32PM (#44339641) Journal
    Yes, but how often do you cook plastic?

    One must distinguish between similarity in particle output and similarity in particle composition!

  • by BlackHawk-666 (560896) <ivan.hawkes@gmail.com> on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:47PM (#44339703) Homepage

    Pollen can break down in our bodies, dust get's encased in mucus and expelled and smoke - well, you don't want to be inhaling too much of that at a time. As you said our bodies 'evolved' to handle most of those threats - including becoming smart enough to not expose ourselves to them. Plastic however is only about 100 years old. I'm pretty sure we haven't evolved enough since the early 1900s to develop resistance to inhaling an aerosolized version of this already toxic chemical.

  • by GrpA (691294) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:50PM (#44339717)

    Yes, smoke sometimes curls from the printhead. No surprises there. Usually, there's not much, but hey, ABS chemicals aren't exactly a health-product.

    What I would have liked to have known though is whether the use of covers ( eg, stabilising temperature and keeping the workpiece enclosed ) make any difference.

    There is actually benefit to using covered printers, so it wouldn't be that difficult to add some filters to them would it? It's an entirely practical approach too, since plastic fumes are always worth avoiding.

    And the use of less emotive terms for smoke would have been nano-appreciated.

    GrpA

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