Ultrafine particle emissions from desktop 3D printers

Many desktop 3D printers rely on heated thermoplastic extrusion and deposition, which is a process that has been shown to have significant aerosol emissions in industrial environments. However, we are not aware of any data on particle emissions from commercially available desktop 3D printers. Therefore, Brent Stephens, Parham Azimi, Zeineb El Orcha, and Tiffanie Ramos report on measurements of size-resolved and total ultrafine particle (UFP) concentrations resulting from the operation of two types of commercially available desktop 3D printers inside a commercial office space.

They also estimate size-resolved (11.5 nm–116 nm) and total UFP (<100 nm) emission rates and compare them to emission rates from other desktop devices and indoor activities known to emit fine and ultrafine particles. Estimates of emission rates of total UFPs were large, ranging from ∼2.0 × 1010 # min−1 for a 3D printer utilizing a polylactic acid (PLA) feedstock to ∼1.9 × 1011 # min−1 for the same type of 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) thermoplastic feedstock. Because most of these devices are currently sold as standalone devices without any exhaust ventilation or filtration accessories, results herein suggest caution should be used when operating in inadequately ventilated or unfiltered indoor environments. Additionally, these results suggest that more controlled experiments should be conducted to more fundamentally evaluate particle emissions from a wider arrange of desktop 3D printers.

Read more about this research here

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