3-D Printer Safety

Overview

Recently, 3D printers have been increasing in both popularity and affordability. They are being used in laboratories, offices, shops, and also in residential locations (dorm rooms and apartments). The fact that there are known hazards associated with the use of these types of printers has prompted RIT's EH&S Department to take a closer look at the printers used on campus and evaluate them for their safety.

3D printer hazards include, but are not limited to:

  • The generation of ultrafine/nano-sized particles;
  • Heat;
  • Mechanical hazards from moving parts;
  • High voltage;
  • Ultraviolet light; and
  • Chemical vapors (ex. styrene, acrylonitrile, or formaldehyde, etc.) depending on the media being used.

 

Printing Materials

There are a variety of printing materials available for use with 3D printers, each with its own inherent hazards. The most commonly used materials are Polylactic Acid (PLA), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), PP (Polypropylene), PET-G (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) and Nylon. In general PLA, PP and PET-G are much safer to use than ABS and Nylon.

Other printing materials used include metallic powders which are generally used to fabricate tools and machinery parts.

Please review product Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for material specific safety information before using anything in a 3D printer. SDSs can be found through RIT’s MSDS Online chemical inventory database and/or through the manufacturer’s website.

RIT's 3D Printer Safety Guidelines

The following is a list of safety precautions that need to be considered when using a 3D printer:

  1. RIT prohibits the 3D printing of gun parts.

  2. Whenever possible, purchase 3D printer models that are enclosed.
    NOTE: During an RIT EHS Department risk assessment, it was found that the enclosed models have substantially smaller particle plumes associated with them, which reduced exposure to the user.

  3. Purchase filament brand(s) specified by the printer manufacturer.

  4. Whenever possible, purchase filaments with lower emissions associated with them.

  5. Follow manufacturer instructions on use of the printer including setting the nozzle and base plate temperatures at the lowest recommended settings to reduce potential emissions.

  6. When 3D printers are running, users should not congregate around the printing operation to minimize the inhalation of particulates being created and exposure to chemical vapors.

  7. Whenever possible, 3D printers should be placed in areas designed as labs.
    NOTE: Lab designated areas have increased ventilation rates (6-12 air exchanges per hour) making them a preferable location for 3D printing operations.

  8. Place 3D printers away from return air vents.

  9. There shall be no eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, chewing gum, or handling contact lenses in rooms that contain 3D printing operations.
    NOTE: This practice follows the RIT Laboratory and Chemical Hygiene Safety Plan on food and drink in lab designated areas.

  10. Wash hands thoroughly after working with 3D printers.

  11. All work surfaces must be cleaned by a wet method. Sweeping and other dry methods can create airborne particles.

  12. Clean the printer nozzle before each use and the build plate after each use.

  13. All 3D metal printing operations must be assessed on a case by case basis by the RIT EHS Department. Please contact us at (585) 475-2040.

  14. If you use a material other than PLA, ABS or Nylon while printing, please contact the RIT EHS Department to conduct a risk assessment.

  15. Anyone that works with a 3D printer needs to take the RIT Lab Safety or RIT Hazard Communication training (links below).

 

Use of Corrosive Baths

If the printing process includes use of a corrosive bath, the following rules must be followed:

  1. Corrosive baths shall only be used in designated lab space. Under no circumstances are they to be used in any other areas.
  2. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including: lab coat or apron, chemical resistant gloves, and safety goggles when handling the chemical, placing an item in, or removing it from the bath.
  3. Use tongs when placing an item in, or removing it from, the bath.
  4. Ensure tank is properly labeled with the chemical name and associated hazards.
  5. Ensure there is proper ventilation in the area where the bath is located.
  6. Ensure there is an eyewash in the vicinity of the bath, in case of a splash.
  7. Do not pour any chemical down the drain. All used chemicals must be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Contact the RIT Environmental Health and Safety Department with any questions at (585) 475-2040.