3D printing or additive manufacturing allows users to “print” a variety of items, from airplane parts to prosthetic limbs. 3D printing is still a relatively new technology and there are many gaps in the information available about health and safety implications. As with many innovations, workers are the first groups exposed to potential hazards. Based on prior knowledge from air pollution research and industrial processes (e.g., welding) there are concerns over 3D printing emissions and their potential impact on workers’ health.
During 3D printing, respirable particulate concentrations were non-detectable (below 0.03 micrograms per cubic meter, µg/m3) and VOC concentrations were well below applicable occupational exposure limits (OELs). Particulate and VOC concentrations measured in the conference room during 3D printing with 20 printers were much lower than those measured in the test chamber. This was likely due to general dilution as a result of the conference room’s larger ventilated space compared to the enclosed test chamber. However, local exhaust ventilation could reduce or eliminate the concentrations of ultrafine particle emissions that were measured in the conference room.
Our recommendations are based on an approach known as the hierarchy of controls, and would be applicable for all brands of 3D printers and filaments. This approach groups actions by their likely effectiveness in reducing or removing hazards. In most cases, the preferred approach is to eliminate hazardous materials or processes and install engineering controls to reduce exposure or shield employees.
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