A new study by UL’s Chemical Research Institute sheds light on the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particles during FDM printing. There is often controversy in 3D printing forums about whether home printers are safe.
The scientists collected data from 447 particle emission measurements and 58 measurements of volatile organic compounds. These revealed that ultrafine particles with diameters of less than 100 nm are released in particular.
According to study leader Qian Zhang, the particle concentrations during the printing process can be similarly high to other indoor activities. The model calculations for personal exposure showed that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations were exceeded for many scenarios.
A complex mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was detected, including harmful substances such as formaldehyde, styrene and benzene. The exposure estimates showed that the limit values were exceeded, particularly for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). The study thus confirms earlier findings on health risks from ultrafine particles and VOC emissions during 3D printing with plastics.
According to the scientists, precautionary measures are required when using 3D printers with plastic filaments indoors. They recommend printing in larger, well-ventilated rooms, using low-emission materials such as polylactide (PLA) and limiting exposure through organizational and technical measures.
The full study entitled “Exposure hazards of particles and volatile organic compounds emitted from material extrusion 3D printing: Consolidation of chamber study data” can be read here.