How to Ensure Safety in a 3D Printing Lab
In the last decade or so, the demand for 3D printers in educational laboratory spaces has increased significantly. The definition of 3D printing is basically when a three-dimensional object is built from a computer-aided design (CAD) model. Both smaller schools and large universities now purchase 3D printers for their maker-spaces, fab-labs, STEM labs and more, but most people who purchase 3D printers might not know the extent to how hazardous they can potentially be. Many setups with 3D printers do not have the proper ventilation, and this can lead to harmful effects for the person using the printer. The scary part is that the long-term health effects associated with 3D printing are still unknown. That’s why everyone should follow these guidelines to ensure safety in any 3D printing environment:
- Always wear safety goggles when near the printer, especially when removing items or support material from the printer
- If your printer is an enclosed model, then the doors should remain closed throughout the entire printing process.
- Cconduct an air quality analysis of the area while the 3D printers are operating, or contact Longo Labs and we will do it free of charge!
- If possible, use PLA plastics for any 3D printing work. PLA plastic is plant based and emits safer levels of UFP/VOCs as compared to ABS Plastic- which is oil based.
- Most importantly, Non-enclosed 3D printers without a built-in ventilation system should be operated within ducted or ductless fume hoods. This is a safer way to remove harmful UFPs and VOCs.
UFPs are ultrafine particles, and VOCs are volatile organic compounds. Both UFPs and VOCs are not supposed to be inhaled, however it is extremely common for inhalation of these particles and compounds during the 3D printing process where proper ventilation is not accounted for. This new hazard is actually quite similar to asbestos being used in the construction of schools and science labs in the mid 1900’s prior to anyone knowing about the effects of working/inhaling air in an asbestos riddled environment.
If your school is looking to set up a 3D printing lab or has an existing one, but does not have proper ventilation in place, then please click HERE to browse our ducted and ductless fume hood options. If you would like to set up and air quality analysis of your existing 3D printing lab or if you would like to set up an evaluation prior to investing in 3D Printers please contact a Longo Representative today.
Love, Tyler and Kenneth Roy. Safer Makerspaces, Fab Labs, and STEM Labs: A Collaborative Guide!. National Safety Consultants, LLC, 2017.