3D printing, for all of its multitudes of benefits, also comes with some risks, which include the emission of ultrafine particles and gaseous pollutants. In a paper entitled “Characterization of particulate and gaseous pollutants emitted during operation of a desktop 3D printer,” a team of researchers tests eight different kinds of 3D printer filament for ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds. All experiments were carried out on a ZortraxM200 3D printer, which has a single extruder, single heated plate, and sidewalls but no cover on the top. They tested ABS, ULTRAT, ASA, HIPS, PETG, GLASS (PETG mixed with fiber glass filings), PCABS and ESD.
The researchers 3D printed a small model that has been proposed by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). It consists of a square base and several small structures on the top and one side wall. The 3D printing was carried out in a stainless steel chamber with air set to 50% relative humidity and 23ºC. Air samples were taken to determine the chamber’s background concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and very volatile organic compounds (VVOCs). The 3D printer was loaded into the chamber, and samples were taken again one hour after loading.