Home 3D printing - the health and safety opportunity
Juli 25, 2013
Readers may have noticed over the past day or two an epidemic of web-articles concerning a soon-to-be-published paper authored by the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon relating to emissions from desktop 3D printers.
In short, the paper states that plastic fumes are not good for one's health.
It should first of all be noted that this ultimate conclusion is not really news. Many governments have, for many years hence, issued health and safety guidelines relating to plastic fume exposure in the workplace as the latter are already known to be harmful. It was really only a matter of time before either regulation or a class action law suit was going to catch up with companies selling printer models that fill homes with noxious gases - a point already discussed in the IDTechEx report "3D Printing 2013-2025: Technologies, Markets, Players" (www.IDTechEx.com/3D).
It should also be noted that the same hazard does not apply to the professional and production grade 3D printers employing thermoplastic extrusion, as these operate in an enclosed environment and do not therefore release fumes into the atmosphere.
That said, the potential danger associated to certain, more basic, models is undeniable.
So should the hobbyist market lay down and die? I would respond with a resounding "no".
This is an opportunity, a real opportunity for a company, inventor, or otherwise entrepreneurial person to develop a solution. Filters have been employed for decades in the power industries to remove toxic components from fumes (which is why we no longer suffer from the effects of acid rain) and there are a plethora of organisations selling nanoparticle membrane technologies which trap very small particulates that could potentially be adapted for 3D printers.
A filter or membrane that could be retrofitted to personal 3D printers would have a ready-made market. Sure, this would push the price up, but at what price is health?
In the meantime, a less high tech solution is of course to open all the windows and leave the house!
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