Do 3D Printer Ventilation A Necessity?

Are you a 3D printer user for some time? You might have faced a problem of Odor released while printing. Many 3D users are worried about these fumes due to their toxic nature causing harm when breathed. Let’s discuss the ways to get rid of these fumes safely. 

Many factors play their role in making the 3D Printing a success and 2 important among these are 

  1. 3D Printing Environment 
  2. Type of Filament or printing material being used.

As per the study made by the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2016, 3D printing fumes produced by ABS are harmful and should be used in well-ventilated areas. Whereas PLA fumes aren’t harmful and can be printed in any environment.

Many people ignore the Pollutants and Fumes produced by 3D Printers and suffer the adverse effects on their health. So, ensure proper 3D Printing ventilation of your 3D printing environment. 

Leverage some of the best Ventilation Systems to drive out toxic fumes and to have a safe 3D printing environment causing less harm. 

3D Printer Enclosure Ventilation

One of the best methods of ventilating the 3D printer is by putting the 3D printer inside an enclosure with ventilation. Again this 3d printer enclosure ventilation should be facilitated by ventilation systems that drive out the small particles and fumes emitted by printers. Carbon filters prove their efficiency in getting rid of nanoparticles as opposed to HEPA filters which can’t eliminate them.

Is Ventilation Essential for 3D Printers?

At the time of 3D printing, odors are released by 3D printers due to melting at high temperatures. Proper ventilation in your workspace is essential to throw out these toxic odors 

The type of printing materials being used defines odor smell. ABS odor smells strong which is harmful too. Whereas, PLA fumes are less toxic and safe compared to ABS.

In addition to Odor and smell, nanoparticles also get added when thermoplastics are heated and melted at high temperatures. Particles get even worse when the temperature increases. 

The chemical composition of the 3D materials is another factor that defines the safety and risk of the emitted 3d Printing fumes. Ventilation is a must if you are printing with ABS, Nylon, or resin (vat) using SLA printers. 

On average, most of the 3d prints take 2-8 hours to complete which is quite a long duration. For all this duration, the printer emits fumes that are hazardous to health. 

To protect yourself from these harmful fumes, you need to have good ventilation in place. 

PLA Ventilation and Fumes

PLA is the only eco-friendly filament that is made by fermenting corn, sugarcane, and maize starch which turns into lactic acid which is then made as Polylactic Acid. 

Since PLA is made from starch, its fumes are sweet in nature and not much harmful to humans. The fumes also contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and ultra-fine particles(UFPs). Exposing oneself to these may not pose any problem in a healthy individual while it is for unhealthy people with respiratory issues. 

Therefore it’s better to have a 3d printer ventilation system in place rather than being exposed to the risk.

Even Though studies say that PLA fumes are safe, they may have long-term health issues if not immediately. Breathing these PLA fumes over years is similar to inhaling paint smell, wood polishing, and soldering. 

One study on PLA emissions shows that Lactide emitted by it is harmless. But, it is important to know that different brands create PLA differently with varying colors and their impact also varies. 

Most of the studies made to understand the health impact of PLA are done in-office workplaces where many other devices are present. So, it’s hard to determine the health impact contribution of PLA. 

PLA fumes are not much risk when compared to other pollutants from vehicles and industrial fume’s impact on humans. 

ABS Ventilation and Fumes

As per the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, most filaments such as PLA, Nylon, and ABS contain VOCs that are dangerous in nature.

Particularly, when ABS is heated to high temperature, it emits high VOC with the major component being Styrene. Styrene, when inhaled in small portions is less harmful while regular exposure and breathing can cause harm to the body. 

Although many users have reported that Styrene is not as dangerous to cause serious negative health issues, it’s always better to place the printer in a well-ventilated place for safety. 

Never do the ABS printing inside a room or in a place where you spend most of your time as it can cause serious health issues. 

In the least case, encase your printer with a cover with proper ventilation.

Where Are You Using 3D Printer?

Garage / Workshop

When you place the 3D printer in a garage, you don’t have to be concerned about its noise annoying your family.

If you are printing regularly having good hands-on with less supervision, then Garage would be the right place to do 3D printing. Keep all the windows and doors open while 3D printing for proper ventilation. If you still sense fumes, install an air filter or exhaust fans.

Office Room at Home

This is another way of securing the home atmosphere free from 3D fumes. If you have a dedicated office room at your house, put a 3D printer there. Keep all windows open for proper ventilation. Avoid printing while you are working in that room. Prefer printing during nighttime when you are not present. In case of urgency, place the printer close to the window, ventilate well and install air purifiers. 

Living Room / Family Room

If your family members are curious and interested in 3D printing, then put the 3D printer in the Living Room. Ensure free air circulates around the printer by removing any objects present. Place the printer near the window or door and keep them open. 

Get the ventilation fans and air purifiers installed to save your family members from inhaling the harmful 3D printing Fumes.

Bedroom

The bedroom should be your least preferred place for putting a 3D printer as you spend a lot of time there. Having a 3D printer in your bedroom poses serious health risks if not ventilated properly. 

If you still want to choose a bedroom ensure to install air purifiers, filters, and ventilation fans to absorb plastic nanoparticles and toxic fumes. 

Why is Good Ventilation crucial in 3D printing?

3D printing is always associated with heat and high temperatures. Once, filaments are heated to their melting points they release 

  • Dangerous toxic fumes 
  • Plastic Nanoparticles

Thus, 3D space always highlights the importance of good ventilation in industries as well as at home. Let us discuss the above 2 in detail and how to be safe from them.

Toxic fumes

Toxic Fumes are released by a plastic filament when it is heated to a high temperature. These toxic fumes contain Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs) and Chemicals. The chemical compositions of the fumes vary by filament types and materials they are made of. 

ABS is considered to be the most widely used thermoplastic filament in 3D printing space, while it is known for dangerous chemical emissions when heated. ABS filament when heated to high temperature releases STYRENE gas which has carcinogenic effects in long-term inhalation. When inhaled for a short duration causes Headache, Fatigue, Drowsiness..etc

On the other hand, Nylon and PETG are also a topic of discussion in regard to chemical fumes. They produce a gas called caprolactam which are less dangerous than Styrene. It has not shown any carcinogenic effects but irritates Skin, eyes, throat, nose.etc. A prolonged exposure to this caprolactam compound can cause confusion, Skin peeling, and malaise. 

As a general rule, any smell, odor or chemical fumes produced by a 3D printer inside the room should not be taken lightly. So it also applies even if there is no smell present. Care should be taken for both Smell/No Smell fumes. There could be high chemical concentrations in fumes with no smell. 

Plastic Nanoparticles

3D printing is always associated with harmful fumes with a varying degree of plastic nanoparticles based on the filament type being used. Due to the very high temperature and pressure, the filament releases the nanoparticles(plastic) into the surrounding air. This is true even in case of a few PLA’s 

When exposed to nanoparticles, our body absorbs them via skin or air inhalation. This causes the growth of certain cancers in the long term and triggers respiratory issues such as asthma and bronchitis. Studies say that it takes 30 minutes to get rid of nanoparticles from the air within the room after stopping the 3D printer operations. 

The Higher the heating/melting temperature, the higher the release of plastic nanoparticles. When ABS and PLA are compared, the nanoparticles released by ABS are 3 to 30 times higher than PLA. Other filaments are known for their high temperatures also release very high concentrations of nanoparticles when heated.  

In Spite of printing at home or in commercial space, 3D printing fumes are always dangerous and pose respiratory hazards. This is proven and conclusive. Be mindful of this and ensure proper ventilation to your 3D printer before printing. 

3D Printer Ventilation : How to do it?

The best way of ventilating a 3D printer is to seal it with an airtight 3D Printer chamber and with a hole in it. Connect a pipe from this hole and place the other end outside for the fumes to escape. 

Some users install a blowing fan to the window and place the 3d printer close to it. This blows out all the fumes and smells emitted by the 3D printer especially when printing with ABS filament. 

Use Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are useful if you are living in a small room or an apartment and have no extra dedicated room to place a 3D printer separately. This is very common in cities with congested spaces and tightly built areas. 

Get an air purifier from Amazon and place it close to the 3D printer. For better filtration, place the air purifier and 3d printer in an enclosed chamber so that it absorbs fumes and pungent scent emitted by ABS and makes the odor negligible. 

Before purchasing an air purifier check if it has the below features 

– HEPA air filter

Charcoal-activated air purifier. 

These 2 filters suck all the nanoparticles in the air such as VOCs and other chemical compounds and reduce the risk.

Pro-tip: Air purifier’s capacity vary based on their sizes, choose them as per your room size. You can switch off and on the air purifier as you use the 3D printer. It can also help to remove pet smells and stinky eggs. 

Air Extraction / Air Extractors

Air Extraction is another proven method of ventilating a room. Air Extractors suck the hot air emitted by the 3D printer out and bring in the fresh air from outside as an exchange. The mechanism contains Blowing Fan and suction pipes. 

There are 2 types of air extractors as below: 

– Reversible Airflow extractors without thermostats.

– Twin Reversible Airflow extractors with thermostats

When compared to Air Purifiers, Air Extractors are affordable and can be easily purchased as an upsell accessory while buying a 3D printer. 

Use 3D Printer Enclosure

3D Printer enclosure is an efficient way of keeping the 3d printer’s harmful fumes away from your internal environment. It usually accommodates the whole printer unit and holds all the fumes within. Unfortunately, there are not many types of 3d enclosures as it is newly invented and is yet in an evolving stage. 

Many 3D users said that BuzzBox is the best 3D printer enclosure on Amazon with good reviews. You can also make a custom 3D printer enclosure yourself.

Things needed to build a 3d printer enclosure are an airtight enclosure, carbon filters, hose pipe, and a blowing fan.  

Within the enclosure, the carbon will suck Styrene, small particles, and VOCs. At the same time, a fan blows out the hot air through the hose pipe. This could be an effective DIY 3D Printer ventilation system that can be done at your home. 

3D Printer with Built-in Filtration Systems

While you have a ventilation plan for the 3D printer you buy, some 3D printer manufacturers have already considered the Fumes and their associated risks by implementing the filtration systems within the printer unit. 

One such printer with built-in filtration is UP BOX+ which has a HEPA filtration feature that can filter small particles and VOCs.

These 3D printers are usually more expensive than normal ones because of their built-in filtration systems. 

Elegoo Mars Pro could be a role model incorporating internal carbon filters that can filter out VOCs and

odor before it gets into the air. 

Resin 3D Printer Ventilation: How to do it?

The best resin printer ventilation method is to build an enclosure and create a negative pressure inside. This causes the hot air and fumes to come out and escape. Some resins don’t smell, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pose any health risk. 

Looking to build a simple ventilation system for your resin 3d printer? Follow the video below

Similar to ABS, Nylon, Resins are also toxic and pose serious health hazards. Handle them carefully. 

3D Printer Fumes: Are they Dangerous?

Most of the 3D filament fumes are dangerous, except for a few with less impact on health. Some filaments when burnt, emit UFP which is highly dangerous and these get absorbed via the lungs and circulate into the bloodstream posing serious issues. 

Georgia Institute of Technology says that 3d printer fumes affect the internal air quality leading to respiratory issues. 

OSHA has set regulations to educate people on the dangers of 3d printer fumes on health and the environment. 

ABS filament is more toxic than PLA as per the research. PLA is made of naturally fermented starches and its fumes are safer than ABS due to their non-smelling properties.

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