7 3D Printer Safety Rules You Should Be Following Now


Keep Safe When 3D Printing

3D printers are a complex piece of machinery that comes with safety rules every user should follow. I’ve put together a list of these rules so follow these rules and be confident about your safety through your 3D printing journey.

Safety is your responsibility, so read these carefully before your start 3D printing. This is mainly focused around FDM printers, which differ from liquid resin-based printers.

1. Watch Out For Burn Risks

As many people know, 3D printers work with very high temperatures, from the print surface, to the hot end.

Filaments that are used with printers are melted to get hardened filament into a property which can be put down layer by layer.

The hot end is what heats the filaments up and these temperatures can run anywhere from 190 to 300 C+, depending on what material you are printing with.

Any type of contact with temperatures this high will burn you and it won’t be a pleasant experience!

Many 3D printer users have let their guard down and got burnt while reaching into a machine, doing maintenance on their printer, or even changing filaments. This is easily avoidable if you keep this safety rule in mind.

Several FDM printers have what’s called a heated bed which assists the first layer of a print with extra adhesion. These also get up to high temperatures can can exceed 100C+. As fun as printing is, you do have to keep in mind, safety is very important.

The risk of burn doesn’t only affect you, it can happen to a family member, a friend, your pets, and especially kids! Kids you have to watch out for especially because we all know how when you tell them not to touch something, the opposite tends to be the result.

How to minimise burn risks

  • Put your 3D printer in an area which isn’t easily accessible
  • Wear gloves when handling your 3D printer.
  • Protect yourself with a enclosure or barrier of sorts – many printers come with an enclosure, if not, it’s possible to make a DIY enclosure.
  • Keep a mental note in your head that your 3D printer gets very hot.

Josef Prusa made this awesome video on how to build a simple and cheap 3D printer enclosure.

2. Don’t Fall For Pinch Points Injuries

3D printers have a lot of mechanical movement from the X, Y and Z axis. All this movement gives rise to the risk of you getting pinched from your 3D printer.

3D printers mindlessly follow codes given from software on exactly where to move and how fast to move. Most 3D printers use something called Open Loop Systems to create movement directions.

Most of the time, these movements are pretty precise but one of the main flaws here is that there is no feedback system to tell the printer whether it moved to the correct location or whether it got obstructed in the process.

There are closed loop systems which are able to detect collisions and react in a proper fashion, but they are pretty uncommon with hobby 3D printers.

This presents a danger to a 3D printer user because these movements can easily pinch your fingers if they get in the way.

Some printers are more powerful than others and are differently designed in terms of the axis which assist movements, so it’s important to keep safety a top priority.

A printer on a higher power printing mode will present more risk than usual.

There are 3D printers out there that have a collision detection mode which will work to prevent this issue happening, but most printers out there do not.

These risks are more of an issue with industrial sized 3D printers, but even with consumer grade 3D printers it still presents safety issues which need to be addressed.

How to minimise print point injuries

  • Wear some good quality gloves for protection
  • Again, protect yourself with an enclosure
  • Only reach for your printer when you are certain it’s off
  • Protective equipment like gloves can be used for safe measures

Products to help with this safety rule

These Cut Resistant Gloves from Amazon do the job. Features: lightweight, durable, flexible, strong grip, comfortable. Many of the safety rules can be easily fixed with a pair of good quality gloves so I recommend you get a pair for yourself.

3. Be Extra Careful With Scraper Blades

A safety rule that several 3D printer users can attest to involves using those sharp, dangerous scraper blades which are used to remove 3D prints after they are finished.

So many people in 3D printing communities online have admitted to being the victim of scraper blade injuries after using too much force and not enough restraint.

This can so easily be avoided with the safety rule of being very careful when using a scaper blade.

Many 3D printers that people have do require a certain set of tools which have sharp edges, which can end with you getting cuts and scrapes.

Scraper blades will also be filled with contaminants from previous use, so a cut could end with a very unwanted infection.

This isn’t one to take lightly because it really can result in a trip to the hospital, and potentially permanent nerve damage! Please stay safe and don’t get complacent with your 3D printer.

How to minimise scraper blade injuries

  • Always scrape away from your body and fingers.
  • Both hands behind the blade
  • Wear good quality gloves when removing your 3D prints
  • Use a good quality print surface so prints aren’t stuck down so hard

Products to help with this safety rule

A premium, extremely useful tool to avoid injuries from blades is the BuildTak Spatula also from Amazon.

It has a durable handle with an ergonomic rubber grip, a rigid stainless steel blade, and a thin front edge which easily gets underneath finished prints. Although pricey, it is a tool that will last you years and make life a lot easier for you in your 3D printing journey.

The spatula will save your prints getting damaged from removal, as well as keeping your print surface nick-free!

A high quality print surface that has high praises is the BuildTak Surface (3 Pieces) from Amazon.

Many users have boasted of much higher quality prints and using their first sheet for several months without needing to replace it.

When you have the confidence of knowing your build surface is fit for purpose, you feel comfortable printing more complex items and printing for much longer knowing your prints aren’t likely to fail.

With a combination of the build surface and the BuildTak spatula you can easily prevent spatula cuts and scrapes, which have already gotten many users out there. It’s good to invest into your future now and reap the benefits of increased safety and less frustrations removing your 3D prints.

4. Avoid Electric Shocks From Your Printer

This is one that not many people are aware of, but it’s definitely one safety concern that you should know about.

Sometimes voltage can spill out from your 3D printer to the point where you can feel it throughout the entire frame. It’s important to know what the possible causes of this are, because it can be dangerous for your safety and others.

Possible reasons why you might get a mains voltage electric shock from your 3D printer are:

  • Faulty ground connections – the filtering capacitors in the power supply fail and can’t dump the voltage to the ground.
  • A mains wire becomes lose and makes contact with the frame of your 3D printer.

There is usually a lot of conductive metal in a 3D printer so voltage can flow through your 3D printer if you are not careful with safety.

Many 3D printer users have discussed the potential for electric shocks because they do have the potential to be a problem, especially with 3D printer kits.

This issue does affect different brands of 3D printers so you want to be able to make sure your printer is safe with the right precautions.

Some 3D printer manufacturers have begun using mains voltage bed heaters to lower heating times. It’s great for the heating times, but now you have increased your risk by having mains potential wires around and wires tend to fatigue over time.

This could leave you open to mains voltages which can be very dangerous.

Make sure you keep your DIY capabilities in mind when assembling a 3D printer kit or performing repairs. If you have doubts about what you are doing, make sure you get the advice of a trained expert.

The 3D printer itself may not be the issue, it could be to do with grounding your electrical outlets. A ground wire is the third hole in an outlet and is an important safety feature. It prevents your electrical systems getting a surge of excess electricity.

How to minimise the risk of an electric shock

  • Sometimes it’s possible to ‘ground’ your 3D printer
  • Make sure you have mains power with earth
  • Rewiring a 2 pin plug to a 3 pin plug has helped many people stop electric shocks
  • Keep humidity between 20%-30% to lower static
  • Get a 3D printer with an enclosed power supply (similar to a laptop’s power supply) attached to your normal DC outlets.

Products to help with this safety rule

When your electrical system is in good standing, you minimise the risk of electric shocks occurring so it’s a good thing to check for if you don’t know already. The Mains Power Tester from Amazon gives you the ability to check if your sockets are wired correctly, as well as testing for polarity and earth.

5. Avoid Risk of Fire By Taking Precautions

This won’t affect most 3D printers out there, but there have definitely been cases of 3D printers catching on fire.

The potential of a fire breaking out from your 3D printer is low, but one instance of it happening can spell very dire consequences for you.

You have many components on a 3D printer which run at very high temperatures, for hours on end so if you don’t have safeguards in place it a risk that can happen.

Many 3D printers on the market today do actually have many protections against these issues, such as auto-shut down when certain faults occur.

One of these protections is called the thermal runaway which is a safety feature designed to prevent your printers catching fire.

When there is a disconnect between your printers temperature reading and heater, your heater can reach dangerously high temperatures, potentially becoming a fire hazard.

The thermal runaway prevents this by keeping track of hot end temperatures and shutting down the printer when the temperature falls by more than 15C for more than 45 seconds.

Most electronics you have actually have this same safety feature, such as laptops because in the past, their CPUs were known to cause fires.

The following are a few posts on Reddit about this happening:

My fully upgraded anet a8 caught fire yesterday
House caught on fire thanks to cheap printer from China

Fortunately, most stories that involve fires are from cheap, Chinese knock off printers so get a good quality printer and the chances of this happening are extremely low.

3D printer manufacturers are well aware of this issue and have put safety at the forefront of their products, so these stories are very rare nowadays.

How to minimise fire risks

  • Make sure your 3D printer has thermal runaway protection enabled
  • Fireproof the area around your 3D printer – away from flammable material such as curtains, put on metal surface
  • Try to avoid self-assembled 3D printer kits, if you don’t have the experience
  • Use a smoke detector
  • Have fire safety equipment around your 3D printer

Below is a video to test if you have your Thermal Runaway Protection enabled on your 3D printer.

Products to help with this safety rule

Every 3D printer user should have a smoke alarm somewhere near their printer. Even though the risk is low, with safety in mind, you want to make sure you are ready if something does happen. This highly rated smoke alarm from Amazon is a great choice for you. It comes with batteries, has a 7 year working life, with a low battery reminder and a standard test button.

If an electrical fire occurs, you don’t want to use water to put it out as water and electric is a dangerous combination. Instead, you want to use a small Powder Fire Extinguisher. It has a standard pressure gauge and an easy to use mount.

I hope you never have to use it, but I hope you are prepared to if you do.

This could be the difference between adequately putting out a fire or waiting for the fire service to save what’s left of your home!

The last piece of the fire safety items I recommend is a Fire Blanket. It’s made for easy removal in the event of an emergency, certified and has a 5 year warranty.

6. Removing Support Structures From Finished Prints

This is especially a problem with PLA and has caused many injuries in the 3D printing community. When you print objects that require a support, removing them can cause issues.

The support material tends to be sharp and can cut your hands very easily. It’s also very painful when you have shards of material go under your fingernails so keep safety in mind when doing this!

People have reported getting permanent scars from removing support material. It’s a real issue that is easily preventable if you remember this safety rule.

How to minimise injuries from removing support structures

  • Find software which minimise the use of supports
  • Work slowly when removing support structures
  • Use gloves when removing support material
  • Wear a long-sleeved top for extra cut protection
  • Use a machine which dissolves support material (like PVA) – requires printer with two extruders

Products to help with this safety rule

Again, get yourself some Cut Resistant Gloves to protect your hands. These gloves are worth a lot less than the potential injuries you can get!

Many people use a needle nose plier, which is more so used to support that can be broken away rather than cut. 

A pair of Draper Redline Long-Nose Pliers (Amazon) will be your best friend for removing the extra filament on your prints. These are made of carbon steel which has been hardened and tempered and will make increase safety when used properly.

If you need to cut support with more precise control a better option would be a flash cutter, as it is a good combination of precision and strength.

These Precision Wire Cutters by Boenfu will get you the results you need. They are specially designed to tackle hard to reach areas and are made of forged steel for great durability.

7. Be Aware of Dangerous Fumes From Materials

The data on dangerous fumes from melted filament hasn’t brought us definitive conclusions on how it affects our health, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Many people have reported serious health effects of exposure to fumes from a 3D printer, as well as the effects on the lungs of people with respiratory issues.

This can get worse depending on what materials you are dealing with.

PLA is known to be one of the safest filaments on the market so if it’s not possible for you to print in a ventilated area I’d recommend PLA the most.

PETG is also a relatively safe material to print with.

ABS is a material which is well-known to give off toxic, carcinogenic fumes so you want to keep safe from these substances.

According to a 2016 study, ABS and Nylon emit high levels of styrene which has been known to cause fatigue, headaches and drowsiness.

Previous research has shown that 3D printers can emit large volumes of ultrafine particles and harmful volatile organic compounds.

When dealing with certain materials, you should definitely have caution and know the respiratory risks if you don’t minimise them.

According to Sentry Air Systems, activated carbon is rated excellent at removing the contaminants specifically from ABS (styrene) which is one of the highest polluting materials in 3D printing. If it works excellent with ABS, we know it does a pretty good job overall.

How to minimise the risk of dangerous fumes

  • 3D print in a well-ventilated area, ideally near a vent or window
  • Have some type of air filtration system such as a HEPA filter or activated carbon filter
  • Use less hazard-fume producing material such as PLA
  • Use a 3D printer with an enclosure

Products to help with this safety rule

One of the most popular portable air purifiers out there is the LEVOIT from Amazon. It has true HEPA and active carbon filtering properties.

The cool thing about this air purifier is it’s ability to filter 99.97% of pollutants and particles as small as 0.3 microns, which HEPA filters cannot do alone. It’s easy to use and is perfect for protecting you against dangerous fumes. Running it for 24 hours a day for a year can cost as little as $6.

Safe printing!

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