John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Emissions related to the operation of 3D printers Volume 17, issue 5, September-October 2018

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The great advances in 3D printing since its appearance in the 1970s has revolutionized many sectors, including the aeronautics industry, medicine, and research. A few recently published articles, nonetheless, have warned users against emissions of substances related to the use of certain types of 3D printers.

The aim of this review is to summarize all the reliable data on substances emitted during printing, in terms of either emission rates or air concentrations. The review has been extended to manufactured nanomaterials because of their increasing use in various fields including printing. We therefore investigated whether the emitted nanometric particles could be linked to the incorporation of the nanostructures in the materials used in 3D printing and intended to confer specific properties on the manufactured objects.

Overall, this synthesis revealed that during printing these devices emit ultrafine particles, nanoscale particles, and volatile organic compounds in proportions that sometimes exceed the limit values for population protection. The “Fused Deposition Modeling” process (widely used in 3D printing), which employs thermoplastics as material, appears to emit more nanoparticles than the “Binder Jetting” process, which uses powder. A comparison with 2D printers showed that the latter also emit ultrafine particles in non-trivial proportions. None of the articles mentioned the presence or absence of manufactured nano-objects initially incorporated in the printing material, and the measurement methods used in the studies do not enable any conclusions about the initial nanometric nature of the materials. Finally, it is important to note that comparisons were difficult because the methods for estimating emission rates or measuring concentrations in air varied across studies. Common protocols for measurements should be developed in subsequent studies.

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