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According to a recent study by researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology, commercially available 3D-desktop printers can release into the air indoors potentially harmful particles of nanometer size. The study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, is the first to measure the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere by commercial 3D-printers.

Today desktop 3D-printers are widely used for rapid prototyping and manufacturing of three-dimensional physical objects on a small scale in the home or office. Many devices are printed softened thermoplastic extruded through a small nozzle. Other studies, mostly in the industrial environment using similar manufacturing processes showed significant aerosol emissions.

The research team led by Associate Professor Brent Stevens measured concentration of ultrafine particles formed as a result of the popular 3D-printers. The study involved five models of devices.

Evaluation of the emission of ultrafine particles were high – from 20 billion particles per minute for 3D-printers using polylactic acid (PLA), up to 200 billion particles per minute for devices using acrylonitrile (ABS). Intensity emissions comparable emissions during the laser printer combustion of natural gas and combustion or tobacco aroma candles.


Ultrafine particles can easily enter the human body through the respiratory tract. Some part will flow to the brain via the olfactory nerve, and some settle in the lungs. High concentrations of ultrafine particles may cause harmful development of lung cancer, stroke, and trigger asthma attacks. The study does not provide the chemical composition and emission ABS PLA, but according to previous work, ABS has a toxic effect, and PLA is a biocompatible polymer for the delivery of drugs to body tissues.

Because today, many 3D-printers are sold as stand-alone devices without the use of print exhaust ventilation or filter elements, the researchers recommend caution when dealing with them in an enclosed or poorly ventilated areas. For a more detailed assessment of emissions of ultrafine particles from the use of a wider range of printers will require further study, the authors of this work.

Meanwhile, the benefits from the use of this technology is obvious – the patient from the United States by 3D-printing regained 75 percent of the damaged skull .
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Tags: 3D-printing , 3D-printers , Health .


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