Analysis of 7 kinds of 3D printer operation safety hazards
As an emerging manufacturing method, the impact of 3D printing on people during the manufacturing process can often cause users to overlook the safety hazards associated with it. In fact, however, no type of 3D printer can be completely guaranteed to be free of operational hazards. Let's take a look at the main categories of hazards for 3D printers.
Whether installed in a factory or a bedroom, 3D printers can be dangerous if used carelessly, with the degree of danger varying from device to device. Therefore, NJC has synthesized the various risks that can occur and listed the following major safety hazards for you to develop a safe operating procedure.
Most 3D printers operate at very high temperatures, for example, in the most common FF systems, the hot end temperature can reach 300°C, while the temperature of metal 3D printers only goes higher. There is a high risk of burns from touching the hot end without adequate cooling. Although many FFF printers have been configured with high temperature alerts, there are still most inexpensive models that still carry this risk. Also, in addition to the hot end, the temperature conditions of the hot bed and prints are worth noting.
①Place the 3D printer in an area that is not easily accessible to children and extraneous personnel
②Wear gloves when handling the 3D printer
③Use an enclosure or various barriers for protection
Pinch or cut
3D printers are essentially mechanical devices. Their motion systems include stepper motors, tracks, and pulleys. When these devices are in operation, all of the motion increases the risk of the user being pinched by the 3D printer. The printer unconsciously follows the codes given by the software regarding the position of movement and the speed of movement. While some machines are equipped with closed-loop systems that can detect collisions and react in an appropriate manner. However, most 3D printers still use an open-loop system to create the direction of motion, and many desktop 3D printers use an open gantry structure, making it very easy to get your fingers caught in the machine while it is running.
In addition, 3D printers that use a system similar to the FFF also require the use of a squeegee to scoop the model off the hot bed, which comes with the risk of being cut by the squeegee due to excessive force. The sharpness of the squeegee edge and contaminants on the blade can lead to infection, so this should not be taken lightly. There is also a risk of cuts from removing the support from the print.
①Those with the financial means can purchase a 3D printer with a collision detection mode, and a quality removable flexible hot bed
②Wear scratch-resistant gloves or other protective equipment
③Use an enclosure or various barriers for protection
④Make sure the printer is in a safe condition before making contact
⑤Slow down when removing support structures, or use water-soluble materials and minimize support structures
Although the probability of this condition is low, cases of 3D printers catching fire do exist. In some cases, the heat from the 3D printer can cause a fire, but there are other anomalies, such as flammable materials falling into an open gantry machine, or a firmware failure that keeps heating up the hot end until it melts and catches fire.
Many products on the market today have protections against these problems, such as automatic shutdowns in the event of a malfunction. One of these protections, called thermal runaway, is designed to prevent the printer from catching fire. When the printer temperature readings and the heater are disconnected, they can reach dangerous temperatures and become a fire hazard. Thermal runaway prevents this from happening by tracking the hot end temperature and shutting down the printer in a timely manner.
①Keep the machine under constant surveillance, install smoke detectors and place fire extinguishers nearby
②Make sure the 3D printer has thermal runaway protection enabled
③Keep the 3D printer away from flammable materials such as curtains and place it on a metal surface if possible
④If inexperienced, avoid using self-assembly 3D printer kits.
Nanoparticles or hazardous fumes
Nanoparticles are very tiny 3D printing material particles that are emitted during the operation. In FFF printers, for example, the wire is heated during the extrusion process and this heat tends to release a small portion of the material into the atmosphere. These particles are so small in size that they are able to travel through the air and be inhaled and trapped in the human lungs. But the extent of this danger varies greatly, depending on the heat and material used. Typically, higher heat tends to release more nanoparticles. There are also materials that give off more nanoparticles than others at a given temperature, such as ABS.
Likewise, because of the heat emitted there are volatile organic compounds that combine with water droplets in the air to form harmful fumes. There are reports stating that prolonged exposure to fumes can cause respiratory damage.
①Enclose the equipment with a protective cover or use an air filter to remove nanoparticles
②Make sure the work area is well ventilated
③Use relatively safe materials, such as PLA and PETG, and try to avoid ABS and nylon in unventilated areas
④Use activated carbon to absorb harmful gases emitted by ABS materials, such as styrene.
Almost all 3D printer resins have some degree of toxicity, so manufacturers recommend using nitrile gloves when handling resin 3D printers and materials. Occasional contact with the resin on the skin will not have much effect and can be washed off. However, long-term exposure may cause damage to the body's immune system.
①Always wear nitrile gloves when handling resin 3D printers and prints
②Develop a "clean" workflow when using resin printers and post-processing processes to minimize exposure.
Theoretically, the probability of a 3D printer exploding is very low, but some 3D printing materials do cause explosions if not handled properly. Take the fine powders used in industrial 3D printers, for example, reactive metal powders are explosive. For example, titanium, a popular 3D printing metal material, can explode if the powder is sufficiently heated, and explosions caused by improper handling of this powder can also cause structure fires.
①Absolutely follow a safe workflow when handling metal powders
②Use inert protective gas and change the gas atmosphere during the manufacturing process
③Choose a metal 3D printer with protection devices
Electric shock, leakage and other electrical safety hazards
3D printers are, after all, electrical appliances, so electrical safety is a problem that should not be ignored. Power supply voltage or mechanical static electricity can sometimes spill out from the 3D printer to the whole metal frame. The former can happen because of: a faulty ground connection, a faulty filter capacitor in the power supply that fails to dump voltage to ground; or a lost power cord and contact with the 3D printer frame. In addition, some 3D printer manufacturers use power supply voltage bed heaters to shorten the heating time. This shortens the heating time, but increases the risk due to the potential for wires around the power cord and that the wires fatigue over time.
①Ensure that the grounded power supply is working properly or use an additional "grounding" method to reduce mechanical static
②Consult a specialist or technician when assembling 3D printer kits or performing repairs
③Connect the 2-pin plug to the 3-pin plug
④Keep the ambient humidity between 20% and 30% to reduce static electricity
⑤Purchase a 3D printer with an enclosed power supply (similar to a laptop power supply) and connect it to a regular DC power outlet
These are most of the safety issues that can occur, and as 3D printers and related technologies are updated, there will be a variety of safety hazards that will arise. Therefore, 3D printing should not be taken lightly just because it looks a bit safer than traditional mechanical processing. NJC wishes all of you who like 3D printing technology or are using 3D printing devices to avoid unnecessary injuries and enjoy the fun of technology.