These days, it seems as if anything and everything can be printed on a 3-D printer. The applications of this technology are indeed mind-boggling. 3D printing seems to be the future of making things, from artificial organs to guns to miniature versions of famous sculptures. 3-D printing is poised to change the way we look at the world, medicine, art, and ourselves, and it’s becoming increasingly affordable. You can now print things at home in your spare time with a couple hundred dollars and a little bit of computer programming know-how. But what are the potential risks involved? Read on to find out.
3D printers work by melting plastic “beads” or “threads” and then compounding tiny layers of material to form whatever object is to be created. The two main components used today are acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA).
Experiments conducted with these materials have found:
- Some 3-D printers can create high levels of known carcinogens
- ABS filaments produce possibly dangerous particulate emissions
- Possibly dangerous emissions have been found in both ABS and PLA devices
- Over time, emissions increase with both materials, as the printing devices age
These finding could be enough to cause you to worry about continued usage of your 3D printer. But a few possible precautions may be helpful in avoiding harmful consequences:
- Place 3D printers in a well-ventilated space to reduce exposure to particle emissions
- Select 3D printers with built-in ventilation systems.
This is a new and developing technology. If you are interested or currently using 3-D printers, make sure you stay updated on new research as it develops to make sure you use this powerful technology in the safest way possible.