back to article 'Maker' couple asphyxiated, probably by laser cutter fumes

About that “3D laser printer killed Berkeley couple” story? It's more likely to have been a laser cutter. The sad story is that 35-year-old Roger Morash and 32-year-old Valerie Morash were found dead in their Berkeley apartment, along with their two cats. Broadcaster CBS first reported the couple showed symptoms consistent …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Coat

    Inhaling CO2 laser beams, of course.

    1. MrDamage

      FTFY

      Do not inhale CO2 laser beams with remaining lung.

  2. Number6

    3D Laser Printer

    I think there is such a thing - the type with which most people are familiar is the type that melts a filament and deposits plastic. There is another type, which uses a resin that is cured by a laser beam to make a solid form. Search Google for "resin 3d printer".

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: 3D Laser Printer

      Well... there is the Glowforge which has been advertising itself as a "3D Laser Printer"... but it's a cutter not a printer. They don't require an outside vent as they have a "filter"... which I doubt would filter the gases generated by cutting. Some plastics and materials do produce toxic substances that need to be vented lest they build up. MDF comes to mind as formaldehyde (IRRC) is generated.

      I have a laser cutter and use it regularly and it's vented outside even though I don't cut plastics or MDF. The smoke alone from some woods is reason enough.

      1. Spoonguard
        Boffin

        Re: 3D Laser Printer

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_metal_laser_sintering

    2. woofwoof

      Re: 3D Laser Printer

      You're right, there are several types of "3D printer" that use lasers as part of their process. Curing resin is one method and another one uses powder, either sintering or melting to form the geometry.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: 3D Laser Printer

        Yeah but there are no home 3D Printers that use laser sintering. Considering our one at work here set us back upwards of €3million (admittedly about half of that went to the Ventilation System (Aluminum powder tends to go boom if its not done properly)), it's not exactly the sort of thing you will find someone "knocking about with" at home...

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: 3D Laser Printer

          > (Aluminum powder tends to go boom if its not done properly)

          Aluminium powder, rubber tube (to blow into), piece of glass tube (to hold power), bunsen burner, my what fun we had in chemistry class.

    3. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: 3D Laser Printer

      Place I used to work had one around the mid-90's - I remember someone made a ball about the size of a table tennis ball inside one about 6" diameter and it would take people ages to figure out how they got it in there when there were no seams...

      I always wanted to have a play with it but it was in a part of the building we didn't go in very often and it was normally shut away in a store-room unless the designers were using it...

    4. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: @ Number6

      "Search Google for 'resin 3d printer'."

      You might also search this very site for the construction details of the sadly long-delayed LOHAN project. Like this, for example...

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: @ Number6

        Think htat was one of the irst sorts I saw years ago, they were talking about using it to make artificial hip joints that fitted properly. Quite cool.

  3. WatAWorld

    no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

    "dust, debris and smell" no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

      It really depends on what you're trying to cut with that laser. Some substances really should not be strongly heated in enclosed living spaces.

      1. Oengus Silver badge

        Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

        Some substances really should not be strongly heated in enclosed living spaces.

        Most Furniture for example...

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

      Dust can be very, very dangerous when inhaled. Even when it's not toxic as such. For example, some materials can simply clump together when exposed to the moisture in your lungs, clogging them up. Other possibilities include chemical reactions of the dust with the moisture. A lot of materials behave different when ground up into fine dust due to their increased surface area.

      1. Stumpy

        Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

        Like my builder says about the asbestos that's in my property - it's actually safer to eat it than inhale it.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

          Many things are safer in your stomach than your lungs, water for example.

          1. DropBear Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

            ...although if "water for ingestion purposes" were invented today it would come with a 230-page booklet full of agreements, disclaimers, notices, warnings and advisories related a plethora of relevant health issues, contraindications and possible side-effects (80 pages for those alone, including five different types of sudden death observed - although exceedingly rarely - during clinical trials), with special dosage for children and during pregnancy, twelve pages of (proprietary and branded) active ingredients, including but not limited to H2(TM), O2(TM) and even CO2(TM), and useful recommendations such as seeking medical care immediately in case of over-dosage (but not before the Doc reads all 230 pages of the booklet).

            You know what, we are hopelessly screwed...

    3. Wandering Reader

      Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

      Precisely - when the instructions said "It is mandatory that an exhaust unit or filter system..." the implication is that CO wasn't regarded as a hazard - a normal filter won't shift that.

    4. hologram

      Re: no warning of toxic gases then, just aesthetics and housekeeping issues

      Finally, someone is thinking on topic.

      Fumes from laser surgery can kill the surrounding personnel.

      Time for Makers to grow up. Whatever technology these people used, it sounds like maybe they didn't hook up the exhaust pipe. Lasers may be clean, but burning is not.

  4. SeanC4S

    Anyway the cost of industrial automation is falling all the time. You could see a renaissance of cottage industry manufacturing churning out specialized parts for drones, robots etc.

    https://youtu.be/PCsoC3i7JYc

    The alternative vision (like alternative facts) in the US is more like this:

    https://youtu.be/ZWXFhdeOjMY

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Possibly a "non-tech" story.

    It's being reported that the 3D printer and laser cutter the couple had was off.... not just the link listed but others also.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/couple-found-dead-berkeley-home-killed-carbon-monoxide-article-1.2958150

  6. MondoMan
    Unhappy

    This happened in Berkeley?

    Famously progressive American cities have in recent years been enacting requirements for home carbon monoxide alarms as required equipment in all rental dwellings. In fact, a City of Berkeley web site advises:

    "...Property owners should be aware that all dwelling units intended for human occupancy shall have carbon monoxide device(s) that are listed and approved by the State Fire Marshal. Carbon monoxide device(s) are required in each existing dwelling unit if the dwelling or building is equipped with a fossil fuel burning appliances, fireplace, or an attached garage. "

    In Seattle, CO detectors are required in ALL apartment dwelling units without exception -- sad that Berkeley had apparently not followed suit.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: This happened in Berkeley?

      England has similar rules now for rented properties - (interlinked) smoke alarm on each floor, and a CO detector in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. IIRC, Scotland requires a CO detector in any room with a fuel burning appliance except cooking appliances.

      The problem with mandating a CO detector in every property is ... where is it to be sited ? If there's no specific anticipated source of CO, then how do you know where to put it ? And if it's in the wrong place then it's pointless and worthless - in fact I'd say it's worse than worthless as it's likely to give a false sense of security. It would be quite possible for this couple to have been killed by CO from the cutter, while a CO detector in another room never got a sniff of the gas.

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: The problem with mandating a CO detector in every property is ... where is it to be sited ?

        Well, when I bought mine, I tried reading the little instruction booklet which came with it.

        IIRC, height & proximity to the likely source seemed to be the important factor.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This happened in Berkeley?

        "Scotland requires a CO detector in any room with a fuel burning appliance except cooking appliances."

        Which seems wrong. People do sometimes block up the ventilation system that is required to stop the accumulation of CO and CO2 when cooking with any fossil fuel. They think they are preventing cold draughts.

        CO is slightly lighter than air but can be distributed to upstairs rooms by thermal convection currents.

        1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: This happened in Berkeley?

          Yes, I own just such a house where I have been steadily rectifying the previous owner's attempts at DIY.

          The house was at some time fitted with a back-boiler type central heating system, using a professional work crew. As per the regulations, they cut a vent through the solid stone outer wall to allow fresh air into the property, to feed the back boiler unit (which drew the air it needed for combustion from the interior of the house).

          The moron owner plastered over this air vent, to stop the cold draft. The moron Homebuyers' Survey people completely failed to notice this little spot of potentially lethal DIY. Only after being warned by central heating service engineers of the danger I was in did I go looking for where the vent grille on the outside of the house led to, and discovered the plastered-over, wallpapered-over vent and re-opened it.

          So yes, people really are stupid enough to ignore health & safety warnings for known killers.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: This happened in Berkeley?

            "at some time fitted with a back-boiler type central heating system"

            Which haven't been fitted in UK houses since the 1970s.

            Incidentally, ~50% of the NOX in London comes from boilers and almost all of it (along with extremely high levels of detectable CO on streets) comes from back-boiler installations. It's so bad that individual sources can be identified (Like woodburners, there aren't that many of them, but there are no laws able to be used to condemn them - yet. Also like woodburners, their owners are fiercely resistant to replacing the things even when offered payment to do so)

            There are a bunch of other good reasons for replacing these ancient dangerous installations - even when correctly vented, changes in local wind conditions can result in them huffing CO back into the building without warning (one of my friends was nearly killed by this. Cause was a neighbour's extension creating an eddy right over the top of the boiler vent when the wind blew in the "wrong" direction.)

      3. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: This happened in Berkeley?

        "England has similar rules now for rented properties - (interlinked) smoke alarm on each floor, and a CO detector in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. IIRC, Scotland requires a CO detector in any room with a fuel burning appliance except cooking appliances"

        They are mandatory in new builds too, the company that built our house came round with a box of them a few years ago when the regulations came into force (They went door to door handing them out, one for the utility with the boiler, one for the kitchen for the cooker and if you had opted for a gas fire one for the front room too)

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: This happened in Berkeley?

      Yes, it is customary to live inside an alarm system nowadays. With some space for the cat.

      Why do you think CO alarm would have helped?

      (And where is the Trump angle? Come on, El Reg!)

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: This happened in Berkeley?

        Because they died of carbon monoxide poisoning (CO)? Such that if there had been a CO alarm they might have gotten a proper warning and gotten out of the house in time?

        I actually have 2 CO detectors in my house. One in the attic where the (Gas fired) central heating unit lives and another one in the stairwell to the attic, as air movement could mean any generated CO doesn't reach the one in the attic itself. Placement of the detector IS very important

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: This happened in Berkeley?

          Because they died of carbon monoxide poisoning (CO)?

          Did they? TFA says that "Police aren't confirming a cause of death until they receive autopsy results, and by January 28 (the date of the Berkeleyside report), the time of death had yet to be established." and "With cause of death still unknown, The Register will take the advice of a friend of the couple, speaking to Berkeleyside, and refrain from further speculation.".

          Do you also know who the Zodiac Killer was?

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: This happened in Berkeley?

            @Tom,

            "Did they? TFA says that "Police aren't confirming a cause of death until they receive autopsy results"

            The results are obviously not in, but as the article states the couple and the cat all died and signs currently point to CO poisoning.

            That combined with the fact that they seem to be running a commercial unit which produces CO as part of its operation really does point to the fact that it was CO poisoning.

            Obviously the autopsy will prove this either way - but regardless, having a detector is probably a good idea anyway (Especially if you happen to be running a CO generating device with no ventilation)?

    3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: This happened in Berkeley?

      It's required in all of California to have CO detectors. Unfortunately it's very common for people to knock up a sort of back yard rental unit that is kept off the books and almost never compliant. Typically it's often made by partitioning and existing structure like a garage or as a small addition done without a permit. They are frequently available only if you know somebody who knows somebody.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: This happened in Berkeley?

        "Typically it's often made by partitioning and existing structure like a garage or as a small addition done without a permit. "

        This happens in the UK too. Fines when caught can be extremely large (and the structure is invariably demolished)

  7. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    CO-opt

    Around here, carbon monoxide monitors last at best 10 years because the radioactive materials in them have half-lives. There must be a better way.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: CO-opt

      Really? Usually it is smoke detectors that use a radioisotope source. CO detectors are typically a chemical process at heart:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_monoxide_detector#Sensors

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CO-opt

      Even if they had a life of 10 years, they are so cheap as to be a non issue

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: CO-opt

        Many are sold with ~7 year life and built-in lithium battery that lasts that long so no maintenance really (beyond occasional test and replacement when due).

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: CO-opt

      A CO monitor is about £7, which in a typical month is about a fifth of our gas bill.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not speculating, just blaming ?!

    The Register "won't speculate", it will just accuse a dead couple of dying because they did not read the f£$%ing manual ?!

    You stay classy.

    1. Kernel

      Re: Not speculating, just blaming ?!

      No where does the article mention that the couple may not have read the manual - the only reference to the subject is a quote from the manual provided by one manufacturer of such devices on the subject of ventilation.

      Take a down vote.

  9. Alan Bourke

    'Maker'

    As a stupid term it's up there with 'millennial'.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: 'Maker'

      They've gone to meet their millennial?

    2. Tachikoma

      Re: 'Maker'

      Add "I'm a Creative" to the list, one of my top pet peeves when trawling photography sites.

  10. druck Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Poor Cats

    Won't somebody think of he cats.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Poor Cats

      They weren't dead until someone went into the apartment and resolved their quantum state.

      1. hologram

        Re: Poor Cats

        possibly true...

  11. DNTP

    When I was younger and stupider...

    I tried to heat-anodize titanium alloy parts in my dorm room with a torch, because it was inter-semester and the machine shop across campus was closed. Let me tell you, there is a world of difference between "well ventilated" and "adequately ventilated" and a college dorm with the window open is not good enough.

    Metal fume poisoning is no joke and I was horribly sick for a day. Fortunately I recognized the acute symptoms before I needed emergency treatment, stopped what I was doing and got the hell out of there. From that point on I always used a ventilation hood or worked outside on that stuff.

    1. Conundrum1885

      Re: When I was younger and stupider...

      It used to be called "Monday morning fever" for exactly this reason.

      The fix is to "pickle" the part in acid BEFORE welding to get the zinc off.

      Another thing to watch out for, some capacitors are well known for venting and emitting toxic fumes.

      The worst culprit are motor start and lighting units (eg fluorescent) as they can burn up internally.

      I can now identify the smell clearly having been exposed to it to many times, even to the extent of diagnosing a failing unit in my drier BEFORE the drier failed completely.

  12. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Holmes

    apartment + industrial equipment = *bad idea*

    just pointing out an obvious fact. other than neighbors complaining about noise and smell, I suppose the exhausting of toxic fumes is item #0 on the list of "why you do not do this"

  13. Bob Rocket

    I'll speculate

    That it wasn't carbon monoxide, more likely formaldehyde poisoning from the UF/PF glue in the plywood sheets they were cutting with their laser cutter (UF glue also gives off ammonia when burnt), shame about the cats.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its possible

    Actually got what could have been a mild case last year from (undisclosed_location) while (task) shortly after which they improved ventilation. Symptoms were flu-like at first but for a good 2 weeks I felt like death warmed up and was convinced it was mild CO poisoning as it resolved when not at (undisclosed_location) yet despite other people complaining nothing was done.

    Formaldehyde is used to preserve cadavers so needless to say it is *NOT* good for the living at all.

    I did wonder if ammonia could also have been the culprit as this killed a fair few people back when it was used in refigeration until replaced by CFC then HFC.

    Another often ignored danger is inert gases, which in combination with CO can be many times deadlier than either on their own, even a relatively small argon leak (say bad regulator) can exclude enough oxygen to cause dizziness and possible collapse.

    There is an argument to make CO/O2 combination meters mandatory for all laser cutters and welders, both can be deadly if misused.

    1. Wilseus

      Re: Its possible

      "I did wonder if ammonia could also have been the culprit as this killed a fair few people back when it was used in refigeration until replaced by CFC then HFC."

      There was an accident involving ammonia at the brewery near to my house recently. A number of people were hospitalised and one tragically died. Refrigeration you say? I'd been wondering what they used it for.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Its possible

        "Refrigeration you say? I'd been wondering what they used it for."

        Large sites typically still use ammonia for refrigeration. It's more efficient and much cheaper than CFCs whilst being safer than propane (which is a wonderful refrigerant - so much so that scammy car dealers will use it in AC loops after scavenging the CFCs) and you have the luxury of mandatory safety check procedures that won't happe in domestic installations.

  15. Buster

    The original reports kicked up a minor shit storm in the 3D printing community (some of whom are makers though not "The Maker" as far as I know) largely because the initial and secondary reporting media jumped on the "3d printer" angle because it generates clicks and thus traffic and not because it might be reasonable to wait and find out what actual happened using all that sexy CSI science stuff. I am surprised that CSI wherever have not included additive manufacturing processes in there storylines because surely the first question any detective worth their salt should ask is "where is the 3D printer responsible for this carnage". Maybe the makers of CSI have a firmer grip on reality as well as a huge stock of meaningful pauses.

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