How to 3D Print Food Safe Objects – Basic Food Safety
3D printing can definitely be used to 3D print food safe objects such as cups, cutlery, containers, and more. Learning how to 3D print food safe objects is important if you want to use them for that purpose.
To 3D print food safe objects, use a stainless steel nozzle, print with a certified food safe filament such as natural PLA or PETG, and apply a food-grade epoxy resin to your model. Ensure your hotend is clean before printing to remove leftover filament. An all-metal direct drive extruder works best.
That was just the basic answer to get you going with this topic. Keep on reading through this article to learn how to properly make 3D printed objects safe for food.
How to Make 3D Prints Food Safe
Food safe 3D printing might seem difficult at first, given how the thought rarely occurs to makers and hobbyists, but making your prints food safe is quite easy – you just need to have the right know-how.
The following is a complete list of what you need to do in order to make your 3D prints food safe.
- Use a Certified Food Safe Filament
- Use an All-Metal Hot End With Steel Nozzle
- Clean Your Hot End
- Upgrade to Capricorn PTFE Tube or Direct Drive Extruder
- Use a Food-Safe Surface Coating (Epoxy)
- Implement Settings to Reduce Gaps – Decrease Layer Height + 100% Infill
Let’s now get into the explanation of each of these points in simple-to-understand terms so you can make your 3D prints food safe effortlessly.
Use a Certified Food Safe Filament
The first step to make your parts food safe is to use a certified food safe filament that comes with the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), specifying whether the filament is FDA-approved or not.
Not all filaments are created equally. While PLA and PETG are considered more food safe than ABS or Nylon, they still aren’t completely fit for use with food items, unless you’re buying a certified food safe variant of them.
Something like the Overture Clear PETG Filament is a pretty good choice because it doesn’t have color additives which can contaminate the filament. Do keep in mind that it is not FDA-approved, but still is generally considered food safe.
Manufacturers will often add chemical additives or pigments to their filaments to enhance their properties, such as more strength, endurance, or flexibility. PLA+ is a shining example of this process.
However, natural PLA that does not contain any chemical or color additives can also be used for food safe 3D printing.
A recommendation would be eSun Natural PLA 1KG Filament from Amazon.
There is also a wide variety of other food safe filaments out in the market now. Filaments.ca has a whole host of them that can you buy, among other marketplaces.
The Taulman Nylon 680 (Matter Hackers) is a top-quality Nylon filament for FDM 3D printers and is widely recognized as being food safe, and is also FDA approved.
You can see the specs here.
At the time of writing, the Taulman Nylon 680 enjoys a solid reputation across the 3D printing community with lots of positive reviews. It’s the filament of choice for tough, mechanical parts that require tolerance to rough use.
As an added bonus, the Nylon 680 can be used for 3D printing mugs and cups to drink hot beverages. Nylon is less prone to deform, even at higher temperatures, making this scenario easily possible.
Use an All-Metal Hot End With Stainless Steel Nozzle
Most budget-friendly 3D printers, including the Creality Ender 3, ship with a brass extruder nozzle for filament extrusion and do not have an all-metal hot end.
Brass nozzles run the risk of containing lead, which can be exceedingly dangerous for your health if consumed. To make your 3D prints food safe, I highly recommend replacing your brass nozzle with a stainless steel nozzle and use an all-metal hot end.
You can easily find high-quality all-metal hot ends on Amazon. They can be bought for anywhere around $20 to $60, depending on the quality and the manufacturer.
The MicroSwiss All-Metal Hotend Kit is a popular choice that can be installed on many 3D printers such as the Ender 3, CR-10 and other similar machines.
If you really want to prioritize making parts as food safe as possible, I suggest using the all-metal hot end with a stainless steel nozzle only when you want to print food safe models and use a separate nozzle for the rest of your prints.
Clean Your Hot End
Keeping your hot end clean should be a basic practice with all of your 3D prints, and not just when it’s about making them food safe.
It’s advised to clean the hot end with a touch brush for about 3-4 minutes until it’s all good and make sure that the area is free from any leftover pieces of filament, and visible dirt.
The OriGlam 3 Pcs Mini Wire Brush Set comes with Steel/Nylon/Brass brushes which have many applications. I’d recommend using the brass brush for cleaning up the hotend.
Make sure you heat the nozzle up to your regular 3D printing temperature so it softens up the filament. Some people even recommend using a heat gun to really get everything heated up rather than material that is close or touching the hotend.
The Seekone Hot Air Heat Gun from Amazon should work well.
There is also a product called eSUN Cleaning Filament from Amazon that you can clean out hotends with. It’s usually used for cleaning out filament between filament changes. It’s good practice to do this before printing food-safe objects.
The video below is a great visual of the cold pull technique, where you heat up the nozzle, put some cleaning filament in, let it cool down to around 100°C, then pull it out to clean the hotend.
Upgrade to Capricorn PTFE Tube or Direct Drive Extruder
Many 3D printing experts claim that it’s better to 3D print without using PTFE tubes since Teflon can get degrade when you start printing at very high temperatures, about 240°C-260°C.
You can check your 3D printer’s PTFE tube to see if it has melted or deformed from anywhere. I’d recommend changing your stock PTFE tubing for Capricorn PTFE Tubing from Amazon.
It comes with a tube cutter and new fittings for your printer.
These have a much higher temperature resistance so they don’t degrade like stock PTFE tubes do.
You should run into a lot less issues by making this upgrade, and it means less maintenance in the long-run.
You can also opt in to use a Direct Drive extrusion system that does not use a PTFE tube to do a good job at making your 3D prints food safe.
I actually wrote an article called Best Direct Drive Extruder 3D Printers, so check that out if you are interested in buying a new direct drive 3D printer.
Use a Food Safe Surface Coating (Epoxy)
Topping everything off with a food safe surface coating, such as an epoxy resin is one of the best ways of making your parts food safe.
I’ve heard a great deal about the Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast on Amazon for this purpose. At the time of writing, this top-rated product has a wealthy abundance of positive reviews and has a 4.7/5.0 overall rating.
Many people who wanted to make their 3D prints food safe report excellent results by using this product. It’s extremely easy to work and comes as a two-part clear coating and casting resin, which you can easily mix in a 1:1 ratio.
The usual process of doing that is to sand the model first to remove any strings or dirt and then you would mix the resin and cast together in equal ratio.
When you’re done mixing, simply coat your print with the resin and let it cure for 3-4 days. Make sure that the resin has completely cured before you put it to use.
I’ve seen people using a good food-safe coating to create cups and mugs out of wood that you can safely drink out of. The same can be done for 3D printed objects.
Implement Settings to Reduce Gaps
You can use settings within your slicer to help with creating food safe 3D printed objects. The main thing here is trying to decrease the presence of any gaps and crevices where bacteria could reside.
We can help do this by firstly having a larger layer height such as 0.4mm rather than the standard 0.2mm (with a larger 0.6mm nozzle). We can also use higher levels of infill where it makes sense to reduce those gaps.
Having a good wall thickness, as well as top and bottom thickness should create better food safe models so there aren’t any gaps or holes in the model. I’ve also heard recommendations of increasing the Flow Rate so there is more material extruded.
This can have the effect of overlapping layers to create even more of a watertight and solid 3D print without gaps.
The following is an example of a fairly straightforward model where you could use 100% infill with a big layer height to create a food safe object.
You’ll also want to use a good food-safe epoxy to really fill in any gaps in the model.
The following video by Prusa 3D is a descriptive tutorial on making your prints food safe. Do give it a watch if you learn visually better.
How to Make PLA Food Safe
You can make PLA food safe by coating it with FDA-certified epoxy resin, such as Polyurethane which can be easily found in a local craft store near you. It’s also recommended to print PLA using a stainless steel nozzle and make sure that the PLA you’re printing is food-grade such as Natural PLA.
Applying a coat of food-grade epoxy resin is the best method out there for making PLA food safe. While you can find one at a local store nearby you, there are great options available online as well.
Again, we can use the Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast Epoxy Resin from Amazon for this purpose.
Food-grade or not, PLA is generally known as a safe filament compared to filament like ABS or Carbon Fiber. PLA is the popular choice for people to make cookie cutters from, but you want to take the normal precautions of food safety when doing this.
3D printed cookie cutters are food safe for the most part because the cookies you cut are baked afterward which kills off the bacteria.
It’s better to use 3D printed cookie cutters for one-time use, unless you coat and seal them properly.
In order to seal 3D printed cookie cutters, you can simply apply a food-grade epoxy resin or something like the Mod Podge Dishwasher Safe Waterbased Sealer (Amazon) to reuse your cookie cutters effectively.
How to 3D Print Food Safe Resin Models
To 3D print food safe resin models, you want to create your model as usual, making sure it’s fully cured, then you want to coat it with a food safe epoxy resin to create a sealed 3D model. This covers up layer lines and prevents bacteria from getting inside. There aren’t any food-safe 3D printing UV resins that I could find.
Making resin 3D prints food safe follows the similar steps as filament 3D prints, requiring a good coat of epoxy resin that is rated food safe.
There are resins that are known to be bio-compatible, but not for objects that will have contact with food.
Such bio-compatible resins are some from Formlabs such as the Formlabs Dental LT Clear Resin 1L or some resins from 3DResyns.
The price of these resins can be expensive since each one can cost anywhere from $200-$400 for a 1L bottle, but still doesn’t classify as safe to use for food.
Since most SLA parts have a smooth surface, applying epoxy resin on them should be simple and easy. It’s worth noting that the coating can fade away after some time, leaving the part prone to bacteria, so be sure to re-coat your part when it’s needed.
Safety Precautions When Making Food Safe 3D Prints
Making food safe 3D prints is safe for the most part, but there’s one stage of the process where you have to be extremely careful. That is when you’re dealing with epoxy resin and coating it on your model.
The following is the safety equipment that you should have for printing food safe models without worries.
- Respirator mask
- Safety glasses
All epoxy resins, even food-grade ones, are toxic in liquid form, so this can pose a great health danger when you’re mixing the hardener and resin together.
Therefore, always use safety gloves when dealing with uncured resin. You can find some Disposable Nitrile Gloves on Amazon , a top-rated product that come in a pack of 100 and are high-quality.
People who bought them say that the gloves are chemical-resistant and can safely handle uncured resin. They are also comfortable to wear compared to latex gloves and cost somewhere around $20.
Next, uncured resin’s smell can often cause respiratory issues if you keep breathing in the odor for too long. I highly recommend getting the 3M Reusable Respirator on Amazon that costs about $17 only.
It uses a one-hand drop-down mechanism for putting the mask on and off effortlessly. There’s also a special cool-flow valve that’s designed for easy exhalation and to keep the wearer more comfortable.
Lastly, the fumes emitted from the uncured resin can irritate your eyes. To steer clear of this hassle, you can buy 3M Safety Glasses from Amazon, which are inexpensive at $10 and has Scotchguard anti-fog coating to keep your eyes secure from fumes.
People who actively have to work with uncured resin have been using these goggles reliably. It’s also extremely comfortable with a soft nose bridge and padded temples, so definitely worth it for making food-grade parts safely.
In addition, it also pays off to print in a well-ventilated area with an enclosure over your 3D printer, especially if you’re working with high-temperature filaments like ABS or Nylon.
Is Hatchbox PETG Food Safe
Yes, Hatchbox PETG is food safe and is also approved from the FDA. The filament is commonly used for food and beverage packaging and also has various other applications. If you’re looking to make your 3D prints truly food-grade, Hatchbox PETG is a great option to go with.
Hatchbox PETG can be easily bought on Amazon. It’s available in a wide variety of colors, such as Bronze, Baby Blue, and Chocolate, and a lot more so you can create models of your choice painlessly.
At the time of writing, Hatchbox PETG has a 4.6/5.0 overall rating with 79% of the people leaving a 5-star review for it. It’s definitely a top-rated product that a lot of people have tried and turned out to love.
The parts come out strong and beautiful, although I do recommend that you apply a coating of epoxy resin to double down on your Hatchbox PETG’s food safe properties.
Is Overture PETG Food Safe
Overture PETG is a food safe 3D printer filament, but it is not FDA-approved, so be cautious when printing food safe parts with it. You can make Overture PETG food safe by applying food-grade epoxy resin on it and leaving the part to cure until it’s completely dry.
You can purchase Overture PETG directly from Amazon. It can be bought in multiple colors, such as Orange, Space Gray, and Transparent Red. The pricing is competitive, with a single PETG spool costing about $20.
You do want to make sure that you’ve taken the appropriate measures for making PETG thoroughly food safe. This includes using a stainless steel nozzle and coating the model with a food-grade epoxy resin.
Is Prusament PETG Food Safe?
Prusament PETG is food safe and can be used for contact with food as the manufacturer itself has made it clear. However, the filament still isn’t certified by FDA, so it’s best that you print food-grade models for personal use only and not put them up for sale.
Prusament Prusa PETG Orange on Amazon is a premium-class filament that you can buy today for printing food safe models. At this moment, the product enjoys an amazing 4.7/5.0 overall rating with 86% 5-star reviews.
On the official Prusa 3D blog, the following has been said regarding Prusament PETG:
“Most of our PLA and PETG Prusaments (excluding PLA Army Green) contain inorganic non-migratory pigments that should be safe, but keep in mind that we didn’t acquire any certification. If you print food-grade objects with our filaments, you should do it only for personal use, not for sale.”
In addition to that, the following colors of Prusament PETG have been declared as food safe so you can purchase them and rest assured.
- PETG Jet Black
- PETG Prusa Orange
- PETG Signal White
- PETG Carmine Red
- PETG Yellow Gold
- PETG Urban Grey
- PETG Ultramarine Blue
- PETG Galaxy Black
- PETG Pistachio Green
- PETG Terracotta Light
Is eSun PETG Food Safe?
eSUN PETG is food safe, and can safely be used for applications where the filament can come in contact with food. However, it is not approved by the FDA, so taking precautionary measures such as applying food-grade epoxy resin to your part is a great way to make your parts truly food safe.
On a side note, many people while writing their reviews for eSUN PETG claim that the filament is FDA-compliant and is perfectly safe for handling food directly.
The strength, flexibility, and low odor of PETG all make it one of the most desirable filaments out there. If it interests you, the eSUN PETG can be bought on Amazon effortlessly.
People have been 3D printing food and drink containers along with similar items using this filament and have reported great results so far. eSUN PETG is much stronger than PLA but boasts the same ease-of-use benefit.
Can You 3D Print Food Grade Silicone?
Yes, you can 3D print food-grade silicone and make highly mechanical parts with it as well. Only a few platforms are currently selling food-grade silicone, however, since the concept is fairly new, so your options are going to be limited in this regard.
Silicone is a material that has an excellent range of applications. Now that the concept is available in 3D printing, you can make tons of objects for use at home, such as flexible non-stick bakeware for your kitchen, oven, and freezer.
The best part is that it’s food-grade as well. The folks over at 3Dprinting.com are presently offering a professional 3D printing service for printing food-grade silicone, and you can also buy silicone from them separately to 3D print yourself.
Some of the applications of 3D printer silicone include:
- Micro parts
Check out the video below for a great explanation of making chocolates from a 3D printed mold and food safe silicone.
Best 3D Print Food Safe Coating
The best 3D print food safe coating is food-grade epoxy resin that can effectively cover your part’s layer lines to prevent bacteria from growing and make it safe for direct contact with good. Another great option is to use food-grade silicone and apply it to your model to make it food safe.
If you’d like a premium epoxy resin to coat your models with, I highly recommend purchasing ArtResin Clear Non-Toxic Epoxy Resin on Amazon that has worked wonders for loads of people.
It costs about $59 and you get one bottle of resin and one bottle of hardener which are 16 oz each. It’s definitely pricier than the aforementioned Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast but boasts some really high-end features, such as high-gloss and self-levelling.
At the time of writing, this product has a 4.6/5.0 overall rating on Amazon with 81% of its customers leaving a 5-star review. It’s thoroughly non-toxic and FDA-approved for being food safe.
If you’d like a cheaper option, the Silicone RTV 4500 on Amazon is a fairly decent option to go with. It comes in the form of a 2.8 oz tube and costs just about $6 – definitely worth it if you’re on a tight budget.
Many people in their reviews for the Silicone RTV 4500 say that they were effectively able to seal their 3D prints and get rid of layer lines. In addition, they admired the easy application and crystal clear silicone liquid.
There has been mention of food safe coating spray, but I think for 3D prints you would be better off using a thicker coating of epoxy, varnish, or polyurethane that is known to be food safe.