If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Buyer Beware Of 3-D Printer Emissions

Indoor Air Pollution: Particulates and volatile organic compounds could reach harmful levels in office-sized spaces

by Jyllian Kemsley
January 25, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 4

A photo of a 3-D printer test part.
Credit: Akram Ali/Illinois Institute of Technology
Researchers printed this 100-cm2 generic test part, which is designed to evaluate printer quality, in order to study 3-D printer emissions.

As costs of three-dimensional printers drop and the devices increasingly make their way into offices, schools, and homes, users should consider how to limit exposure to emissions of particles and gases in the space where the printer is located. This caution stems from research by a team led by Brent Stephens of Illinois Institute of Technology and Neil E. Crain of the University of Texas, Austin (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04983). The researchers tested the emissions of five commercially available desktop 3-D polymer-extrusion printers for ultrafine particles, which have a diameter less than 100 nm, and volatile organic compounds, including caprolactam and styrene. They used the printers to make a standard part from nine different polymer filament starting materials. The emissions varied more by the type of material than they did by the type of printer. Modeling the emissions in a 45 m3 air-conditioned office, the team predicts that caprolactam and styrene would reach concentrations that could be harmful to health.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.