The subject of potential health risks in relation to 3D printing has been mostly overlooked. However, this is beginning to change thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of 3DPrintClean, a USA-based manufacturer of safety enclosures for fused deposition modeling (FDM)/fused filament fabrication (FFF) and stereolithography (SLA) desktop 3D printers.
Founded in mid-2015 by the inventor of said enclosures, James Nordstrom, 3DPrintClean has since been on a mission to educate those industry sectors utilizing these printers on their potentially harmful emissions, namely ultrafine particles (UFPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
A lot of 3D printers incorporate a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, although it needs to be borne in mind that these are only capable of capturing particles of 0.1µm or 300 nanometers and above in size and therefore not the UFPs that are 0.1µm or 100 nanometers and below.
3DPrintClean expects to begin shipping the latest models of its enclosures—the Model 660 and Model 870—in August, 2017. The only real difference between the two is size. The Model 660 is designed to house smaller, desktop-sized printers, affording internal dimensions of 600 (w) x 810 (h) x 600 (d) millimeters, and the Model 870 is for printers that have larger build platforms, measuring 810 (w) x 810 (h) x 810 (d) millimeters.
The Model 660 and Model 870 incorporate many new features requested by the owners of their predecessors. The most important of these are a significantly larger filter, more powerful blower motor and customized rubber gasket seals.
The filter on the new models is 19 x 19 inches, whereas on the previous models it was just 5 x 7 inches. Recommended usage of the 19 x 19-inch filter is one year, so considerably longer than the 90 days given for the 5 x 7-inch filter (these timescales are based on the printer being used on a daily basis, so c. 10-12 hours). It also goes without saying that a 19 x 19-inch filter is going to be considerably more effective at capturing UFPs and VOCs.
The filter comprises two filters, one for UFPs and the other for VOCs, that are custom produced one on top of the other. The enclosure performs a calendar year countdown from the date that the original filter is first used and notifies the user 30 days prior to its advised replacement.
A 150 CFM (cubic feet per minute) blower motor complements the larger filter, being three times as strong as the blower motor on the old enclosures and therefore capable of circulating the contaminated air more quickly. Together, the new filter and blower motor are said to reduce filtration times considerably.