Indoor Air 2016 – Fine Particulate and Chemical Emissions from Consumer 3D printers
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3D printers are used in various applications, by designers and students for their inventions, as well as industrial, medical, and residential purposes. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) works by heating a coil of thermoplastic filament and extruding the filament from a nozzle onto a moving platform, building the object layer by layer. Heating of thermoplastics typically range between 180°C and 270°C but can be as high as 320°C. Printers typically have small motors and fans, but only some printers are enclosed. Numerous filaments available for FDM are usually a blend of thermoplastic (e.g., polylactic acid (PLA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
(ABS), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), nylon and polycarbonate) with coloring dye, metal, wood, plant, and other additives.
3D printers emit volatile gases and particulates that deteriorate indoor air quality (Stienle 2015; Stephens et al. 2013). These emissions can occur over a long period of time since the printers are typically operated indoors for hours. Ultrafine particulates (UFP) present a hazard to human health since they are capable of penetrating through lungs and into the bloodstream. Gaseous emissions are complex and contain a mixture of low level volatile organic compounds which may include odorants, irritants and carcinogens. Currently, little research has been done on desktop 3D printer emissions. Previous studies did not investigate in depth on key parameters that affect 3D printer emissions.
We have developed a methodology for characterizing and quantifying UFP and VOC emissions from operating 3D printers that involves operation inside a controlled environmental chamber. To capture the wide range of 3D printer emissions, various combinations of printers and thermoplastic filaments were tested. The following printer parameters and their effects on particle and VOC emissions were studied: filament color, filament brand, extrusion nozzle temperature, and printer brand.