Health & Safety
3D printing fumes or ultrafine particles carry an occupational hazard designation by several health and safety governing boards, deeming that these fumes hold potential health effects on the respiratory system. Most 3D printing processes utilize high variant thermoplastics and chemically induced materials. When these materials are heated, and/or fused together, they emit UFP fumes (3D Printing Fumes) that are microscopic to the human eye, measuring at 1/10,000 millimeter or sub-micron range. In a study done by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 3D printing materials, by means of PLA filament, that are utilized at a low temperature, can generate over 20 billion particles per minute; with ABS feedstock having the capacity to release over 200 billion, in that same scenario. These nanoparticles are very small, and can easily enter into one’s body via their respiratory, cardiovascular, and/or nervous system and be extremely harmful to one’s bodily function.
ABS is a synthetic compounded thermoplastic that is widely used for heavy type plastics such as LEGO, autmobile bumpers, and casings for electronics. Due to its sensitivity of changes in the temperature and the environment, it is highly recommended to use a 3D Printer Enclosure, to allow the ABS to cool down slowly after printer usage. Otherwise, if cooled to quickly, ABS can crack along layer lines, as well as curling and warping. In general, ABS can withstand more heat, pressure, and stress than PLA, which makes it an ideal element for wear and tear applications.
The graphic below shows the recommended, time-weighted-average [TWA] exposure limits for acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene.
The building blocks of solid chemicals, polymer chains, become loose and disorganized when heated, a property that allows the polymer to flow through your 3D printer and release chemical ingredients and UFP [ultrafine particles] into the air. However, some filaments are made up of more than just one chemical; For example, the ABS filament is composed of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene.
Multiple research experiments have found that ABS, when heated to temperatures ranging from 210C to 800C, without flames, produces 20+ chemical by-products, including: