Characterization of emissions from a desktop 3D printer and indoor air measurements in office settings
David J. O’Connor, Alan F. Smeaton, Aoife Morrin et al
School of Chemical Sciences
School of Computing

There are environmental and health considerations that are associated with 3D printing that we are yet to fully understand. Low-cost 3D printers are being used more and more in professional, creative and domestic settings. It is non-industrial settings like these that may carry the highest risk to human health as these printers are typically used in poorly ventilated living spaces, are not operated within enclosures, and usually without PPE. This contrasts with common practice in non-domestic environments, where printers can be equipped with air quality monitoring capabilities and protective enclosures.

During 3D printing processes, thermoplastic polymer filaments are melted at high temperatures in the printer nozzle to allow extrusion. The thermal decomposition of these polymers process leads to emissions to the surrounding environment of particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the characteristics of which are dependent on the filament type, the printer type, and print conditions used, e.g., extrusion temperature. Without proper ventilation and personal protection users may be exposed to the harmful particulate released by this process.

For this study, emissions from a desktop 3D printer based on fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology were measured in a test chamber and indoor air was monitored in office settings.