back to article Another 3D printer? Oh, stop it, you're killing us. Perhaps literally: Fears over ultrafine dust

Scientists are calling for more research into the effect, negative or otherwise, of 3D printers on indoor air quality. A variety of semi-pro 3D printers – fused deposition modelling (FDM) aka fused filament fabrication (FFF) – create models by heating and depositing layer upon layers of plastic filament, gradually forming the …

  1. vtcodger Silver badge

    n before g


    How many times do we have to tell you in before g unless you're talking about gnomes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: n before g











      The i in gnomes is obviously silent - like the p in psnow.

      1. cd

        Re: n before g

        Or in Psmith.

        1. hplasm Silver badge

          Re: n before g

          But not in Pterry...

      2. 7teven 4ect

        Re: n before g

        All this could be a fignent of my inagniation.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: n before g

          All that horrible use of 'off of' instead of 'from' and you focus on a typo?

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: n before g

            Ignoble affair indeed...

          2. Hero Protagonist

            Re: n before g

            “All that horrible use of 'off of' instead of 'from'”

            You mean the single occurrence that I didn’t even notice until you mentioned it and I went looking for it? Yeah that was awful.

    2. Hero Protagonist

      Re: n before g

      Ignorance is bliss

  2. hellwig Silver badge

    Makes Sense

    If just drinking out of a cup with BPA is toxic, bringing a plastic up to the melting point must be releasing all sorts of fun stuff. The world is going to be short a whole bunch of "YouTube stars" in the not too far off future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Makes Sense

      Meh. Lots of things are dangerous if you use them incorrectly.

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

        "Lots of things are dangerous if you use them incorrectly."

        However they are usually a lot more fun used incorrectly.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: "Lots of things are dangerous if you use them incorrectly."

          Everything is dangerous when used incorrectly enough. The question is whether these devices are safe when used correctly. Many people put them in enclosed spaces, because the closet is the best place for a thing that takes up space and you don't really have to interact with very much. So if it is dangerous for it to be in there, we should probably know and deal with it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Makes Sense

      The world is going to be short a whole bunch of "YouTube stars" in the not too far off future.

      Oh no!

  3. Starace

    'Give us money'

    Let's be honest and call this what it actually is - a funding proposal.

    They've detailed an area of potential study and are looking for cash. No risk identified beyond the nominal but they'll scrape a living out of making sure.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: 'Give us money'

      probably more right than not. "scare us" into donating/supporting/funding/BANNING.

      Yeah, THAT never happens...

      "follow the money"

    2. CheesyTheClown

      Re: 'Give us money'

      I’m not certain. I’ve been looking into charcoal filtration for the printers I share an office with. I find that SLA printing is nasty to share a room with. FDM isn’t as bad, but I sometimes wonder if I’m getting headaches from it. I currently have 4 FDM printers running pretty much 24/7 and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Cheesy.

        These all deal with chemicals, heat and exposure to the air. These are not going to be nice to the human body. Use air filtration, circulation etc. While perhaps an FDM is about as safe as a BBQ, I'd probably not risk my life on the new one turning up soon.

        So this article is a nice reminder that some fan, or using it in a seperate room to me, is due. That and a proper solder station so I don't get gassed by that stuff either (flux more than the solder).

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Cheesy.

          "While perhaps an FDM is about as safe as a BBQ..."

          If it is, then there's cause for concern.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: 'Give us money'

        I is now going to build a fume cabinet for mine. Could take up chemistry as well!

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: 'Give us money'

          The good thing is that you can print a custom fume cabinet for yourself...

        2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: 'Give us money'

          Don't make your fume cabinet out of MDF unless you have extract and a suitable mask.Now that is nasty stuff to work with.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Give us money'

        I find that SLA printing is nasty to share a room with. FDM isn’t as bad, but I sometimes wonder if I’m getting headaches from it.

        I would have thought so:

  4. BugabooSue

    3D printing

    I work pretty much 7 days a week with 3D printers at my place of work. Every printer enclosure has an extraction system linked to it and there are two two-stage cyclonic separators, nano-filters and regularly changed carbon scrubbers. The whole thing is vented externally.

    I see YouTube “Stars” with rooms full of printers with no ventilation. I see printer manufacturers Josef Prusa and others, having print farms (rooms full of printers) with little or no ventilation. I see school classrooms full of printers with sod-all ventilation.

    This is just dumb.

    I see the dust and particulates that build up in our printers over the space of a week - no way do I want to breathe any of that in!

    It might turn out not to be a hazard, but if you can avoid breathing in plastic crap by fitting a little ventilation system, why wouldn’t you?

    (It won’t be safe. Nothing ever truly is)

    I was a COSHH office in the MOD back in the late ‘80s. It was then I discovered just how bad some of this stuff can be.

    A tiny bit of common-sense can go a long way. 3D printers are cool, but don’t breathe the fumes...

    Susi xx

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: 3D printing

      OK - how about an air ionizer operating near the printers? I bet that'll fix most of it. Just a regular "home unit" would probably do it. That, and filter all of the OTHER crap out of the air that just might be a whole lot worse...

      Or, for a nice comparison, how about CIGARETTE SMOKE and its effect on EVERYBODY ELSE AROUND THE SMOKER??? I'll take the 3D printer farm ANY day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 3D printing

        Worrying about second-hand cigarette smoke is so last-century, Bob, it's all diesel particulates and ultra-fine dust problems these days.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: 3D printing

          No need for any filters or ventilation, just a sign saying "These premises contain a material known to the state of Ca to cause cancer..." and you are perfectly protected

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: 3D printing

        "Or, for a nice comparison, how about CIGARETTE SMOKE"

        In what situation Bob? I thought you lived in the states, not India or China?

        You can't smoke inside any public buildings or workplaces* around these parts. Or within 5 meters of a doorway. So it'll only be in private homes or vehicles you have to put up with it. Or in the open air, which seems to not generally be a problem.

        I"m curious as to what sort of levels result from usage. As I understand it, all particulate matter is bad for you, and the smaller/tougher the fibres are, the worse. So hardwood dust is more dangerous than softwood dust etc. But if you're sanding down a small table, you can probably get away with not using a mask, but if you're in a workshop 8 hours a day, you should take proper precautions.

        It's a bit like the radiation from x-rays. The patient doesn't need screening, since they'll only get occasional exposure, but the radiologist gets nuked for 8 hours a day, hence why they hide behind the door.

        Oh, and Bob, you should be bitching about vapers. That's the acceptable target for hate :D

        *some of the coffeeshops let you smoke inside their smoking rooms, but complaing about other smokers in a smoking area is odd.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "common-sense can go a long way. 3D printers are cool, but don’t breathe the fumes..."


      The classic "Use in a well ventilated area" is put on stuff for a reason.

      People should be aware it's the size of particles from some Diesel exhausts that makes them dangerous, just as Asbestos is. In big lumps, not so much.

      Likewise a big lump of plastic may only be a hazard if it falls on you. But in particles you could snort up without realizing it?

  5. Neoc

    "Preliminary tests with in vivo, in vitro and acellular methods for particles generated by *a limited number of filaments* showed adverse responses." (my emphasis)

    So... no mention of the different types of filaments that can be used (PET / PLA / ABS / etc) and whether this has any effect of the types or amounts of particulate, and then there's this "limited number of filaments" line that (to me) makes it seem like someone cherry-picked the results to prompt further and bigger spending.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      no mention of the different types of filaments that can be used

      exactly, PLA is supposed to be biodegradable and doesn't smell when you make things with it. I bought a spool of PLA because it was relatively inexpensive to test out a 3D printer I just got. if I want to make anything more "final" I'll use ABS but the PLA does very well for testing designs, especially if you're likely to throw it away after you screw it up for the N'th time.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: no mention of the different types of filaments that can be used

        PLA allows greater detail than ABS. ABS objects can be used at slightly higher temperatures, won't biodegrade if left outside, and are easier to finish.

        In fact you can bring an ABS object to a mirror smooth finish if you expose it to acetone vapour - which is just as hazardous a process as it sounds.

        Still, in a conventional workshop there are plenty of other nasty things around, such as MDF dust.

      2. BugabooSue

        Re: no mention of the different types of filaments that can be used

        PLA is biodegradable- if you have an Industrial Composter to hand - that garden type isn’t going to cut it.

        PLA does smell - usually a bit sweet with a slight curry undertone. PLA, if overheated is not all that nice - gives off carcinogens. It also has a habit of bursting into flames if overheated as it hydrolyses around the hotend and nozzle so won’t flow away like most petrochemical-based filaments.

        I write the safety MSDS for our filaments. These are based on the raw plastic stock that we extrude from. ALL plastics suck in one area or another. If you think otherwise, you are deluded.

        The trick is to be smart when using this stuff - reduce the risks from the unknown. People thought asbestos was safe when they first starting using it - they even sprayed it out of huge firehose-like nozzles to coat enginerooms of warships and metal girders of large buildings...

        I’m not suggesting that the sky will fall in by using a 3D printer, just don’t be an idiot.

        Unless you are using an SLA resin 3D printer - uncured resin and fumes from that shit is NASTY!!

        Not only can it cause all sorts of illnesses, the effect of exposure is cumulative. I won’t have that crap anywhere around other people. I think they are awesome, just be aware of the risks.

  6. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Which filaments were tested?

    What effects were found for each filament?

    I've seen this press release doing the rounds. Sadly it's utterly content-free Daily Mail bait.

    The actual research is likely to be interesting, but it's buried under a pile of plastic poop.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Which filaments were tested?

      I'm not sure why you're getting so many downvotes for a sensible question.

      Unfortunately neither of their linked papers actually name either the printers they tested, or the brands of filament, even though as they state in their conclusion:

      "Filament brand, [...] can also have a substantial effect on emissions."

      From a quick skim, the temperature of the print head seemed to have a large effect, and PLA seemed to produce an order of magnitude less particles than nylon, and ABS was another order of magnitude more than nylon. (Viewable in a particularly fun graph, figure 6, which splits it's y-axis twice to fit dissimilar results onto the same graph).

  7. Mycho Silver badge

    Such a dark photo

    For a glorious moment I thought you'd actually used a ninja cosplayer to illustrate this article.

  8. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Toner dust?

    When I was in college I ran a copy and print shop. A big industrial Xerox machine - which cost the better part of $75k when a $ was really worth something- used these massive containers of toner. I want to say 10kg at a go.

    Screwup one: not paying attention I slipped and dropped a tub, dumping about a kilo of powder inside the machine.

    Screwup two: not thinking very clearly I grabbed the nearest vacuum instead of the proper HEPA one and touched the nozzle to the powder. The resulting pillar of black filth out the exhaust looked like the ash cloud that did in Pompeii.

    I probably should not be left unattended around 3D printers.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Toner dust?

      Meh, sounds like leaving you around a 3d printer is a problem that will solve itself quickly enough

  9. MrKrotos

    3D Printers

    As if we dont have enough plastic in the world...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3D Printers

      You do know they can be converted or even as stock, use recycled plastic? They could "hoover" up all the excess recycle stock for example.

      Or be made to run on starches and other biodegradable things, such as wood pulp or paper stock.

      1. Mycho Silver badge

        Re: 3D Printers

        Or chocolate.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: 3D Printers

          Recycled chocolate? No thanks,

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: 3D Printers

            Or milk. Or milk. Or lemonade.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 3D Printers

              "[...] Or lemonade."

              I wonder who first coined that scatalogical rhyme? It was common in children's repertoire in the 1950s. Not sure if it is in the Opie collections.

    2. Joefish

      Re: 3D Printers

      Quite. What about those of us who can't afford a decent 3D printer and have to get our RDA of microplastics from fish finger sandwiches?

  10. Jeff@Ashe

    This is not scaremongering

    Emissions from 3D printers have been seriously studied by hobbyists. See for example

  11. Chronos Silver badge

    You know what's always fatal?

    Being born.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: You know what's always fatal?

      You seem to be confusing fatal and natal.

      It isn't usually being born that kills you.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: You know what's always fatal?

        "It isn't usually being born that kills you."'s the sudden stop at the end.

  12. Joefish

    They're worried about dust from FDM?

    Sounds like they'll have a fit when they learn about SLS...

  13. J. Cook Silver badge

    Remember, life will kill you in the end.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust the dog.

    When this did the rounds last time there was a good comment that one user trusted his dog.

    I think from memory, if he printed in ABS it ran out the room, if he printed in PLA it wandered out the room for some makes and with PETG it didn't care. (I may have the last two swapped round.)

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