MakerBot, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of 3D printers, has partnered with the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) Advanced Materials and Manufacturing field team to conduct measurements to characterize 3D printer emission rates.
Several MakerBot 3D printer models and types of filament were evaluated.
The thermoplastic filament materials used in the 3D printers at the time of the study included True Orange PLA (polylactic acid), True Yellow ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), and Slate Grey Tough PLA (impact-resistant PLA).
During 3D printing, respirable particulate concentrations were non-detectable (below 0.03 micrograms per cubic meter, µg/m3) and VOC concentrations were well below applicable occupational exposure limits (OELs). Particulate and VOC concentrations measured in the conference room during 3D printing with 20 printers were much lower than those measured in the test chamber.
This was likely due to general dilution as a result of the conference room’s larger ventilated space compared to the enclosed test chamber. However, local exhaust ventilation could reduce or eliminate the concentrations of ultrafine particle emissions that were measured in the conference room.
Another key finding of the study was that True Orange PLA filament produced lower ultrafine particle emissions compared to published results from other emission tests in the scientific literature such as He, et al , Stephens et al. , and Stefaniak et al. .
However, additional research should be conducted to identify other lower emitting filaments as an option to reduce ultrafine emissions in the workplace and to develop a system to categorize 3D printer emission rates.
Occupational exposures and potential exposure-related health effects associated with 3D printing/additive manufacturing are areas that require further evaluation and research.
There are currently no OELs for 3D printer emissions and potential toxicological effects of exposure to emissions from 3D printing are not fully understood. While more information is being gathered and assessed related to these issues, we recommend the following actions to reduce potential for uncontrolled emissions from filaments used in the 3D printers.