Laboratory Instruments for Safe and Efficient 3D Printing

Tuesday March 26 2019

Additive manufacturing refers to the growing field of techniques used to create structures via computer numerical control (CNC) material deposition. 3D printing is the most renowned of these novel technologies. It utilizes standard printing tools, such as a printer head or nozzle, to rapidly deposit sequential layers of a material into a three-dimensional shape. This technology has been available in rudimentary forms for decades, but significant investment has transformed 3D printing into a worldwide phenomenon. It is now possible to print complex geometric shapes using synthetic polymers, metals, technical ceramics, even organic tissues.

As is often the case with new commercial, industrial, and laboratory instruments; enthusiasm may be overriding important health and safety considerations. 3D printers commonly utilize what is known as a filament as the source of deposition media. This filament is heated to the point that it will readily flow through the system, enabling small-volume deposition via the printer nozzle.

Elevating the temperature of synthetic and organic compounds causes thermomechanical degradation to their physical structure. This facilitates flow, but it may also cause materials to emit fumes and chemical by-products as their structure breaks down. It is vital that fume and particulate control laboratory instruments are utilized to capture and retain these potentially hazardous emissions as close to the source as possible.

Importance of 3D Printing Vapour Control

The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) spearheaded research into the generation of potentially harmful emissions from standard benchtop 3D printers. Their research found causal links between respiratory distress and particulate emissions from both natural and synthetic 3D printing feedstocks. This demonstrates the importance of careful process control and strengthens the argument for mandatory use of vapor control laboratory instruments for additive manufacturing facilities .

This research found that emissions were generated as the filament is heated before deposition, and are released continuously throughout the printing process. Smoke is visible to the naked eye, and the unpleasant odors associated with melted plastic are self-evident. However, it is impossible to detect the volume of ultra-fine particulates (UFPs) emitted by 3D printers in operation.

The NIOSH study found that natural materials such as corn-based filaments emitted much finer particles than plastic filaments, which tended towards agglomeration and the formation of larger clumps. Inhalation of these incredibly fine particles poses a significant risk to respiratory health, with the potential to aggravate pulmonary conditions. One of the key takeaways of the NIOSH research was the importance of proper ventilation to guarantee extraction of vapors and provide a particulate-free working environment for equipment operators.

Glas-Col Laboratory Instruments for Fume Control

Glas-Col is one of the world’s leading suppliers of laboratory instruments for fume and vapor control in working environments. We provide an extensive range of Airfiltronix ductless fume hoods to facilitate ongoing vapor and particulate extraction in demanding working conditions. Our range of laboratory instruments can be optimized for various specifications, including larger geometric requirements and specialized filtration media to guarantee air purity in your 3D printing environment.

If you would like to learn more about our laboratory instruments for fume control, simply contact a member of our team.