3D printers are used not only to make plastic figures and parts, but also to create complex structures like the cornea of the eye. There is no doubt about their convenience and benefit, and that is why the fact that their price is already low enough so that they become available to many medical and educational institutions cannot but rejoice. But 3D printers also discovered another, frightening side – they eject particles into the air that are dangerous to the human body.
This discovery was made by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Department of Chemical Safety of Underwriters Laboratories. The object of their research was common 3D printers that print using FDM technology, where they use thermoplastic materials as raw materials.
It was found that in the process of printing, printers emit into the air ultra-thin particles that are dangerous to human health. Their diameter does not exceed 100 nanometers, so they are invisible to human eyes. In their microscopic size, the main danger lurks – when inhaled, they easily penetrate into tissues, which can lead to pulmonary and heart diseases.
Tests have shown that these emissions are 200 kinds of volatile organic compounds. Among them are formaldehyde, which is dangerous for mucous membranes and skin, stimulates styrene and causes headache to caprolactam, causing chronic diseases. The amount of these particles is influenced by both the type and color of the raw material, and the nozzle temperature of the 3D printer.
The head of the research project, Marilyn Black, believes that their work will help manufacturers of 3D printers to minimize the amount of harmful emissions. They have already asked them to warn users about the dangers and the need to use the equipment only in well-ventilated areas.
The research team is not going to stop there. In the future, they plan to study the emissions of other types of 3D printers and find out how their emissions affect the body in the long term.