New study confirms safety of 3D printing materials

ABS Filament in Pantone 319C.
ABS Filament in Pantone 319C.

A study funded by SajTom Light Future, a privately held company headquartered in Poland, has looked into the emissions produced by common 3D printer filaments ABS, PLA, PET and nylon. The research supports an existing and extensive body of research proving that, with adequate ventilation and common sense, the melting of materials like ABS, PLA, PET and nylon don’t cause harm to 3D printer users. The study did point out that, in plastics produced from fossil fuel extracts, there’s a risk of creating harmful gases when they’re melted at temperatures from 460°C – 600°C. However, the maximum temperature of extrusion in typical desktop 3D printers is between 240°C and 250°C. Researchers also noted that a 3D printers operation temperature is significantly lower than pyrolysis temperature at which dangerous CO (carbon monoxide) and HCN (hydrogen cyanide) are formed.

Samples examined in the study were heated up from 240°C to 250°C, with vapours emitted from the plastics carefully recorded over a period of 10 minutes. The conclusion was that “the concentration of formed organic vapors is not dangerously high” and therefore “not a threat to the user.” The company was supported in this research by 3D printer manufacturer 3DKreator, and the University of Milan, where SajTom Light Future assistant director Dr. Tomasz Baran is a post-doctorate student. Although not an exhaustive study, the authors suggest further investigation by changing the experiment’s variables – i.e. filament thickness, machine setting and room volume. Development of more eco-friendly 3D printer materials is currently taking place worldwide, including an initiative funded by the European Union for automotive and aerospace industries. A full version of the study can be accessed online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. It’s co-authored by Szymon Wojtyła, Piotr Klama and Tomasz Baran


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.