As a new manufacturing technology, 3D printing is very popular all over the world. There is no problem with 3D printing itself, but since 3D printing uses some polymers as printing materials, the printing process does have certain (polluting or toxic) emissions. Materials commonly used in FDM printing, such as PLA, ABS, PETG. Is the fume of PLA filament toxic? As a person who is interested in 3D printing, everyone must want to understand this question.
We need to fully consider the emissions that may be generated during the printing process, or when the material is heated. When using an FDM printer, the plastic material needs to be heated at high temperature continuously and melted to form a model. Most of the FDM printers do not have a closed working space, unlike resin printers, which are often equipped with a sealed casing. This means that the fumes from melting plastic will continue throughout the FDM printing process.
But we don't need to worry too much. The 3D printing process does not design metal, plastic cutting, grinding and other traditional machine tool subtractive manufacturing of fine particles, nor does it generate a lot of waste and exhaust gas that need to be disposed of. Compared with traditional manufacturing methods, the security of FDM desktop printers and 3D printing technology that we usually use is higher. During subsequent use, some 3D printed products will produce plastic particles or nanofillers due to factors such as abrasion. But this is not the culprit of 3D printing, but the material itself. Even if 3D printing products are not used, composite material processing products such as inverted molding and blow molding will appear in life. So there is no absolute 'no pollution, no danger' situation. Under the same conditions, 3D printing materials are less, the operation is simple.
Is Filament Toxic When Heated?
When we operate FDM printers and use filament, we can smell different odors in the air, which seem to be emitted by the printer and materials, so many people will wonder whether the process is safe and whether the fumes emitted by 3D printing are toxic. To figure out whether 3D printing heating materials are toxic, we need to consider two aspects. What are the commonly used heating materials for FDM printing, and what will be emitted during the heating process?
We can smell the special smell formed by 3D printing. This is because the plastic is heated and melted during the printing process, resulting in chemical reactions and changes. The melting of PLA or ABS produces volatile organic compounds (VOC), which is what we smell when plastic melts. Another thing to watch out for is Ultrafine Particles (UFP), which are extremely fine particles produced during the printing process, which can also be harmful to humans if inhaled.
PLA&ABS&PETG filament Fumes：Are PLA plastic fumes toxic?
The characteristics of materials are different, and the smoke emissions produced are also different, so we also need to pay attention to the properties of different materials. It is generally believed that PLA is safer and more environmentally friendly. The full name of PLA is polylactic acid. It is mainly made of some renewable raw materials such as corn starch. It is environmentally friendly. The emissions of VOC and UFP produced by heating PLA at high temperature are relatively low, and the use of PLA is relatively safer. But long-term or large-scale exposure to these emissions is still not recommended, and we still have to perform FDM printing in a more ventilated environment.
Before PLA was widely used, ABS was a very popular FDM printing material, but ABS was melted at high temperature, which would produce harmful VOC. Styrene released by ABS is a harmful substance, and long-term exposure will cause harm to the human body. Therefore, more attention should be paid to safety when using ABS. Another commonly used material is PETG, which is softer and more flexible, but PETG, like ABS, will release styrene when heated at high temperature, so we recommend that you also pay attention to the safety of using this material.
Filter 3D Printer Fumes: Ensure Good Ventilation When 3D Printing
How should we reduce the hazards of fumes emitted during 3D printing? First of all, we recommend choosing High-quality filament to complete your FDM printing. High-quality filament is not only more environmentally friendly, but also provides better printing results, and is better than low-quality filament in terms of smoke emission. Secondly, we recommend a ventilated printing environment. If your studio is airtight and poorly ventilated, please note that VOC and UFP emissions will be generated during the printing process. A ventilated printing environment can quickly reduce emissions in the air concentration, which is better for your health and safety. Some high-quality resin printers, such as Anycubic Photon M3 Premium, not only have a closed casing to isolate the printing process, but also equip the machine with an air purifier. Of course, if you want to further improve the printing environment, then you can equip your printer with air purification or filters.
Experts believe that the potential hazards of some polymer products are a common problem facing the entire manufacturing industry. In order to solve this problem, one of the key points of 3D printing in the future will be the research and development of new materials, and use them to replace some existing materials. In factories and laboratories, there are corresponding protection conditions and measures for problems in the 3D printing process, but 3D printing may not be protected after it enters the home. This aspect requires us to strengthen the research and development of new additive materials and develop new materials with excellent performance and environmental friendliness. On the other hand, an additive manufacturing safety standard system including design, materials, product performance, certification inspection, etc. should be established.