The Ordeal of the 3D Printing Industry

3D printing can be one of the best and worst revolutions in design. In the field of architecture, drawings ad renderings are important, and for the concept to come to life, 3D scale models help translate the vision. Architecture cannot do without scale models. The way scale models are done has changed over time.

3D printing changed the game in scale model making. Architects and architecture students rely on 3D printing to concretize their ideas. 3D printers are now a permanent fixture in every university, institute and studio. These printers are of different sizes and capacities. It is safe to assume that 3D printers run 24/7. One challenge, albeit minor, that a 3D printer poses is its size. They take up space. Another challenge is the tedious process of 3D printing. So, aside from taking up space, it also eats time.

The biggest trial 3D printing faces is the type of stress if gives to those who uses it daily. There are discussions on the dangers 3D printers do to the body. Years of research are done in the hope of understanding and creating a standardized way to measure filaments that are released into the air while a 3D printer is running. The research hopes to learn how to make the printers “healthier” and friendlier to the users. One thing is sure though. Studies have confirmed that when 3D printers melt plastic filaments in order to create objects, toxic chemicals are released in the air. These particles are impossible to see. They are about 1/10th of the diameter of a single bacteria. These particles are made up of different types of chemicals that can be hard to identify. These chemicals vary depending on the properties of the object being printed.

Another factor that makes the plastic filaments dangerous is heat. When a certain temperature is reached, heat turns some chemicals into aerosols. The research found that the cooler a printer runs, the air quality around it is not as hazardous. Heat can be inevitable though especially when printing hard objects like metals.

The emission of particles cannot be avoided. There is no 3D printer in existence that does not emit microparticles in the air. There are industrial models that appear sealed. Some even have fans and filters, but still, they release measurable particulates.

What should we do then? If the emission is unavoidable and we all know they pose health risks, should we abandon 3D printing? Until the research is complete and they have come up with appropriate controls that will address the danger, the safest thing to do is to avoid exposure to emissions. Ventilation is important. 3D printing should be done in a well-ventilated area. Pick the lowest possible temperature setting. Stand far from a 3D printer that is in use. Make sure children are not exposed to a 3D printing operation because their young body is especially vulnerable.

At the end of the day though, our environment is ripe with hazardous materials that are more dangerous than 3D printers. The pragmatic way to deal with this issue is to increase the awareness on the hazards and work towards decreasing said hazards.

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