3D Printing, sometimes referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’ is the process by which a solid object is created by the addition of layers of material fed to a point determined by what is effectively XYZ digital robotic software.
The material, which can be a range of plastics or metals, is fed to the deposition point usually in wire or powder form where it is heated and fused to the previously deposited material.
Extremely complex shapes can be produced in this way and since the process is ‘additive’ rather than ‘subtractive’ where material is removed from a larger piece by machining, grinding etc, very little material is wasted. The production of products previously injection molded or cast can save thousands in tooling costs.
A current report suggests a growing awareness of potential Health & Safety issues and, in particular, the harmful presence of ‘nano particles’ within fumes created by 3D printing. These particles and droplets are too small to be seen by the naked eye, but just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean the dangers for operators don’t exist!
In fact, particles in the nanosize range may be able to cross more readily into the bloodstream after inhalation, and the toxicological effects may differ from those resulting from exposure to the same material in a more conventional size or form. HSE HORIZON SCANNING INTELLIGENCE GROUP SHORT REPORT NANOTECHNOLOGY
Fumes given off by ABS have a particularly unpleasant odour, and other plastics, including Nylon, HIPS and HDPE, generate fumes that are equally toxic, but less noticeable.
Polymeric materials can release constituent materials, in the case of laser processing in particular, including carcinogens such as benzene. Polymers also frequently contain additives, such as di-octyl-phthalate, to increase flexibility or to act as mold release agents. These vaporise and condense at much lower temperatures to form oily type liquids. Plastics containing chlorides, such as PVC, can release HCL gas when lasered, which combines with airborne moisture to form hydrochloric acid droplets.
The high temperatures generated in 3D printing processes cause the air close to the source to expand and rapidly project the gases and particles rapidly into the technician’s breathing zone.
Plus, curing processes associated with using liquid resins cause potentially harmful solvent gases to be released into an operative’s breathing zone.
In addition to Health & Safety concerns, the prolonged release of sticky plastic droplets from the 3D printing process can lead to a build-up of material on the printer’s moving parts, requiring additional maintenance and potentially causing reliability issues.
Having carried out a detailed study of the 3D printing industry, BOFA has developed three fume control solutions to cover each of the main 3D printing formats.
The BOFA 3D PrintPRO range has been designed to capture and filter out harmful airborne toxic gases and particulate from open frame, table-top enclosed / partially enclosed and fully enclosed 3D printers, without causing the filament deposition to be cooled prematurely. The filter design includes Health and Safety compliant HEPA grade particulate filter media, which has an efficiency of 99.997% at 0.3?m, and deep bed activated carbon filters to remove organic gases and vapours.
"In all industry markets in which we operate, we develop close working partnerships with OEMs and distributors. Please contact us if you would like to discuss such a partnership in the 3D printing industry."
Managing Director, BOFA International Ltd.
BOFA International is acknowledged as the world leader in the design, manufacture and supply of fume extraction and filtration units and systems. BOFA products are used in a wide range of manufacturing processes, including Electronics, Mechanical Engineering, Printing, Laser, Dental, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Beauty and 3D Printing.