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Emissions and Health Risks From the Use of 3D Printers in an Occupational setting

  • Market Insight 24 August 2020 24 August 2020
  • Americas

  • Insurance & Reinsurance

In order to assess the health risks and potential exposures of using a 3D printer in an occupational setting, a recent case study focused on determining the concentrations of particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 3D printers using polylactic acid (PLA) filaments. With one printer being the typical usage, and three printers operating as the worst case, the amount of particulate concentration (total and respirable), VOCs and formaldehyde were measured. The collection of air samples were done in the printing room and adjacent hallway. The samples also included size-resolved levels of nano-diameter from the printing room.

The findings revealed total particulate levels were higher in the worst-case scenario (0.7 mg/m3) vs. typical-case scenario (0.3 mg/m3), while respirable particulate and formaldehyde concentrations were similar between the two situations. Total VOC levels were approximately 6-fold higher during the worst-case scenario vs. typical situation with isopropyl alcohol being the predominant VOC. Airborne concentrations in the hallway were generally found to be lower than inside the printing room. All measurements were below their respective occupational exposure limits.

The conclusion of the case study found that when multiple 3D printers were in use emissions of particulates and VOCs increased. Airborne levels in the adjacent hallway were found to be similar between the two scenarios. In summary, the data as a whole suggests there is low risk of significant and persistent adverse health effects from the use of 3D printers. However, the use of 3D printing and resulting health effects have not been fully confirmed, and observing good hygiene principles is suggested when using 3D printers. 

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