3D printer fumes and pollutants are usually overlooked by people, but it’s important to ventilate your 3D printer properly.
There are some great ventilation systems that you can make use of to have your 3D printing environment safer and less harmful to people around it.
The best way to ventilate a 3D printer is to put your 3D printer in an enclosure and have a ventilation system that properly tackles the small particulates that 3D printers emit. Make sure you have carbon filters to get rid of the smaller particles that a HEPA filter won’t get rid of.
The rest of this article will answer some key questions on 3D printer ventilation, as well as detail some nice ventilation systems that you can implement yourself.
Do You Need Ventilation for a 3D Printer?
During the printing process, you might have smelled the odor that is produced by the printer. To expel this odor out of the machine and workspace, you can use good ventilation.
However, the quality and smell of odor depends on the type of material that is used for printing purposes. For example, PLA is much safer when it comes to the smell than other filaments such as ABS.
Other than the smell, we also have small particles that are emitted from heating thermoplastics at such high temperatures, the higher the temperature, the worse the particles usually.
It also depends on the chemical makeup of the thermoplastic in the first place. If you are printing with ABS, Nylon or resin material in SLA 3D printers, proper ventilation is highly recommended, along with a mask.
A good enough ventilation system can work very well for ensuring that the surrounding air is clean and not contaminated.
It is said that the average running time for a 3D print can be around 3-7 hours, which is almost a quarter of the whole day when it is producing fumes.
To avoid any kind of harmful effect on your health or body, you seriously need to set up a ventilation system.
Ventilation while using PLA
PLA is made up of eco-friendly material that produces sweet-smelling fumes that are laced with ultra-fine particles (UFPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Technically, these both materials are not harmful to your health according to the research, but exposure to them daily may cause issues, especially to those with respiratory issues.
An open window or air purification system should work well enough for ventilating PLA.
Although many studies and research mention that PLA is safe, it is hard to measure the marginal health risks over time, and they take many years to properly test for. The risk may be similar to other ‘hobby-type’ activities such as woodworking, painting or soldering.
One study did test PLA for its emissions, and they found that it mostly emits Lactide which is known to be quite harmless. You should keep in mind that different types of PLA are created differently.
One brand and color of PLA could be harmless, while another brand and color of PLA isn’t as safe as you may think.
Many of the studies on emissions from 3D printers are in proper workplaces with many things going on, rather than your standard desktop home 3D printer, so its hard to generalize the findings.
Although it may not be completely safe, the studies show that PLA isn’t very risky, especially compared to other activities that we do on a regular basis.
Even going into a big city with all the pollution from vehicles and factories are said to be a lot worse than 3D printers.
Ventilation for ABS
According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, materials commonly used for 3D printing such as PLA, ABS, and nylon can be a source of potentially dangerous VOCs.
ABS has been shown to result in high VOC emissions when heated at those higher temperatures, the main one being a compound called Styrene. It isn’t harmful in small portions, but breathing in a concentrated amount on a daily basis can be harmful to your body.
The concentration of the VOCs however, aren’t as dangerously high as it requires to have serious negative health effects, so printing in a well-ventilated, large room should be good enough to 3D print safely.
I would recommend not 3D printing ABS in a space where you are occupying for long periods of time. If you are 3D printing in a small room with poor ventilation, the rise of VOC concentration in the air can be troublesome.
The UFPs and VOCs produced by ABS during the 3D printing process contains Styrene. This material is not harmful in small portions; however, breathing in it on a daily basis can harm your body.
This is the reason why ventilation is needed during the printing process with ABS.
I would ensure that you are at least using an enclosure with some type of ventilation, ideally in a larger room.
How to Ventilate a 3D Printer
The best thing you can do to ventilate a 3D printer is to make sure your 3D printer chamber or enclosure is sealed/air tight, then to connect a vent from your chamber to the outside.
Some people use a window fan and put it near a window where your 3D printer is to then blow air out of the house. When printing with ABS, many users do this and it works well to eliminate noticeable smells.
Installing Air Purifiers
Air purifiers have become common in major cities to keep the air clean. Similarly, you can use these air purifiers for your places where 3D printing is being performed.
Purchase a small air purifier and install it next to your 3D printer. Ideally you can put an air purifier within an enclosed system that contains your 3D printer so that the contaminated air passes through the purifier.
Look for the enlisted features in an air purifier:
- Have high efficient particulate air (HEPA) filters.
- A charcoal air purifier
- Calculate the size of your room and select the purifier according to it.
Air Extractors are considered to be one of the best solutions to improve the ventilation of an enclosed room. Its working is explained below for you:
- It sucks in the heated air.
- Exchange the heated air with the cool air from outside.
- It uses a fan and suction pipes.
There are two main types of extractors that you can easily purchase from the market, i.e., Twin Reversible Airflow Extractors with and without Thermostats.
Building a 3D Printer Enclosure
You can consider building an enclosure for your printer. It basically involves creating an air-tight enclosure equipped with carbon filters, a fan, and a dry-hose that runs outside your home.
In the enclosure, the carbon filter will trap styrene and other VOCs, while the hose will let the air pass through. This is an effective ventilation process which you can make at home.
3D Printer with Built-in Filtration
There are very few printers that come with a built-in HEPA filtration. Even the manufacturers are aware of the fumes, but nobody bothers installing a filtration.
For example, UP BOX+ is one of the printers that come with HEPA filtration solutions that filter out tiny particles.
You can choose to get a 3D printer with built-in filtration, but these are usually more expensive so be prepared to pay extra for this feature.
The Elegoo Mars Pro is a good example of this which has a built-in carbon air filter to remove some VOCs and resin odor from the air.
How to Ventilate a Resin 3D Printer?
The best way to ventilate a resin 3D printer is to create a negative pressure enclosure which directs air away the enclosure to a space outside. Long term exposure to resin fumes are unhealthy, even if they don’t smell.
Most people don’t have a dedicated ventilation system and are looking for a simple fix to help ventilate their resin 3D printers.
Following the video above should improve your ventilation for a resin 3D printer.
Remember, resins are toxic and can become allergic to your skin, be careful while using them.
Are 3D Printer Fumes Dangerous?
Not all, but some 3D printer fumes are dangerous and can cause serious damage to the health. As previously described, those UFPs are the more dangerous kind of emissions, where they can be absorbed into the lungs, then into the bloodstream.
According to the research done by the Georgia Institute of Technology, 3D printer fumes can negatively impact the quality of indoor air leading to potential respiratory health issues.
The regulations provided by OSHA actually throw light on the fact that 3D printer fumes are dangerous for health and the environment.
According to the research done on 3D printing filament, ABS is considered more toxic than PLA.
PLA is made up of eco-friendly substance, thus it is less harmful. This is one of the reasons why PLA is so commonly used, especially over ABS, because of its safety and non-smelling properties.