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3D Printing Fumes May Be Hazardous Over Time: Study

Update Date: Jul 25, 2013 04:20 PM EDT
3d Printer
A team of researchers in China and the US have successfully created a 3D model of cancerous tumor using a 3D printer. (Photo : Lindsay France/Cornell University Photography )

If you planning to print anything using your 3D printing, be sure to open a window to let some fresh air in as a new study found that fumes from the printer can be hazardous over time.

According to a paper published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, the researchers compares operating a 3D printer in a non- ventilated area to smoking a cigarette indoors and found that 3D printers were hazardous.

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"These results suggest caution should be used when operating some commercially available 3D printers in unventilated or inadequately filtered indoor environments," the researchers say.

The report noted that the most popular 3D printers using ABS and PLA are classed as "high emitters" of Ultrafine Particles, aka. UFPs. UFPs are defined as particles less than 100 nanometres (nm). To put that into perspective, 100nm is the greatest particle size that can fit through a surgical mask, anything less than that will pass through a mask.

 The release rate is similar to what would be found when using an electric stove or burning scented candles. "Regardless, the desktop 3D printers measured herein can all be classified as 'high emitters' with UFP emission rates greater than 1010 particles per minute," the researchers said.

It was also noted the particles could be more toxic due to a different chemical composition.

However, the paper is the first of its kind and further research needs to be done.  "More controlled experiments should be conducted to more fundamentally evaluate aerosol emissions from a wider arrange of desktop 3D printers and feedstocks," the researchers said.

3D printing popularity is on the rise, not only in science, but for personal use as well,TechCrunch reported.

The gadgets are currently out of most people's price range, but Gartner, a technology research firm,  predicts they will cost less than $2,000 by 2016.

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