Anna Norte

Project title: 3D Printing: Particle Emissions from Fused Filament Fabrication

Degree: MS | Program: Applied Occupational Hygiene (App OH) | Project type: Project
Completed in: 2015 | Faculty advisor: Martin A. Cohen


Even though the technology behind 3D printing has been around for several decades, it has only recently become commercially available. The ability to create customized objects in home and office environments has revolutionized small-scale manufacturing. Small fused filament fabrication printers are even being used on the International Space Station. The Zero-G printer now gives astronauts the ability to print tools or replacement parts from computer aided design (CAD) files received via email. The ubiquitous nature of material extrusion printers has led to an examination of the hazards of having these printers in homes, offices, and workplaces. Material extrusion printers use a variety of thermoplastic print materials each requiring different printing durations and temperatures. There is evidence indicating that fused filament fabrication/ material extrusion emits ultrafine particles (<100 nm). The goal of this experiment was to compare the particle emissions from printing with acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA) and plasticized copolyamide thermoplastic elastomer (PCTPE) materials using three different desktop printers. The total particle emissions were highest for the ABS filament and lowest for the PCTPE. The majority of size distribution data were bimodal at maximum emission times indicating the presence of both a nuclei mode and an accumulation mode.