Do 3D Printers Smell?

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3D printing is an incredible invention that allows you to explore your creativity to make different objects, even those that typically aren’t available at the local store.

However, after using your 3D printer for a while, one possible concern you might have is the smell produced during printing. Therefore, if you still haven’t explored this exciting technology and wondered if it smells, you’ve come to the right place.

But do 3D printers produce a smell? Yes, they do produce a perceptible sell caused by the heating technology incorporated into mold ink. Usually, the filament is made from various materials that give off different scents upon heating.

Different Types of 3D Printing Smells 

There are different types of smells produced by the 3D printer, and here’s an overview of some of the scents to expect:

  • ABS plastic: The toxic fumes produced by this thermoplastic during printing is very strong, so it’s best to keep away from it. This smell smells plasticy, and its vapor sticks on your mouth and nose.  
  • PLA: This organic material produced from corn starch produces sweet honey similar to honey when being printed. Its pungent smell is very unappealing to most people.
  • ZCorp/Projet: The inkjet technology is incorporated in the power-based line of 3D printers to continually solidify the mystery powder layers into solid items. As you do this, a sharp vinegar-like aroma is produced.

Fortunately, newer commercial 3D printers come installed with high-quality filters that eliminate tiny particulates inside the build chamber before draining the local environment. This makes the fumes aroma-less, but this doesn’t mean it won’t cause you any harm if exposed to it for an extended duration.

Thus, it’s recommended you avoid inhaling these fumes as much as possible and search for an ideal ventilation solution to safeguard yourself from any potential health issues.

Can 3D Printer Fumes Affect Your Health? 

During printing, 3D printers produce vast quantities of Ultrafine Particles (UFPs), which can harm your health. This happens because the 3D printer usually heats up the thermoplastic filament and then extrudes it via the nozzle. It subsequently lands on the heated bed, and at this point, it begins to materialize.

These are the exact practices that produce toxic emissions in commercial surroundings. However, the difference is that machine operators in factories wear appropriate safety gear and observe the proper safety protocols. Furthermore, these areas are well-ventilated, thereby guaranteeing excellent dispersal of the toxic fumes. When using your 3D printer in your home environment, this isn’t something you can achieve.

According to research, PLA, which is the most environment-friendly filament, emits around 20 particles when making a small object at a fairly lower temperature. This number further rises to over 20 billion particles each minute when using any other type of filament or at higher temperatures. As a result, your body is exposed to adverse health effects similar to using a gas stove in a sealed-off space or smoking a cigarette.

The produced Ultrafine Particles start accumulating in your lungs, specifically in the pulmonary and alveolar areas. These particles also might be deposited in your brain and headways via the olfactory nerve. 

Since the UFPs have a higher surface area, they usually soak other toxic compounds, making it even more harmful. This leads to conditions such as heart attack, asthma, and in extreme cases, death.

These side-effects will come about after extended exposure in 3D printing areas. This happens, you most likely won’t wear any biohazard safety suit when working in such spaces, so it’s best always to be cautious.

If you’re using the 3D printer at home, it’s advisable to wear suitable safety gear and in a room with excellent ventilation.

How To Ventilate Rooms With A 3D Printer 

Now that it’s evident that 3D printers do produce toxic and pungent fumes, you need to think of ways to ventilate your surroundings. By doing this, the smell will not become overpowering when doing the printing. 

Some of the viable methods you can implement to assist remove the toxic smell produced include:

Using Edible Filaments

There have been advancements that have seen the development of edible filaments by some manufacturers which produce a sweet smell. These edible filaments come in a broad variety of options, from coffee-flavored to chocolate-flavored filaments.

Only Use PLA Filament

Another great solution would be using PLA instead of other toxic substances. For instance, you should avoid using carbon nanotubes, which are very dangerous to humans. It would instead be better if you used PLA if you don’t need any specific carbon nanotubes attributes. PLA is a much better option because it’s eco-friendlier, unlike other kinds.

However, you should still lower the amount of time you spend in an enclosed room with your 3D printer working.

Use Administrative Tools

The other solution to consider is using administrative tools. A great way of implementing admin controls is by restricting employees’ access to any room where 3D printing is carried out. Therefore, the threat of exposure is reduced by limiting employee access, but this method is the least favored.

Use Air Purifiers

You can find different air purifiers on the market to make the air safer for human breathing. Suitable solutions would be using engineering controls such as a hood, filter, or exhaust fan to ventilate the air and drive away these toxic fumes. It would be best if you did thorough research before deciding the right purifier to use.

Buy an Enclosure

Getting a dedicated enclosure to place your 3D printer is also a great solution to protect yourself from the toxic fumes. These enclosures come with features such as a dry-hose, fans, and carbon filters to make the air safer for breathing and less smelly. The role of carbon filter traps is to styrene alongside the harmful fumes while the hose provides fresh air inlet or outlet.

Conclusion

Whereas 3D printers are handy, you still need to look after your wellbeing due to the smell they produce. If you didn’t know where to start to safeguard yourself from these toxic compounds, reading through this comprehensive guide has been of help. Now you know that 3D printers produce sharp and damaging smell, plus the steps you should take to safeguard yourself.

About the Author Dan

Just a random guy who likes to build things. Providing tool knowledge, appliance/device testing tips, and DIY project info in an easy-to read & non-intimidating style.