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Facts:

  1. Breaking down (or melting) plastic creates nanoparticles.1
  2. 3D printers melt plastic.2
  3. Therefore, 3D printers make nanoparticles.3
  4. Nanoparticles are evil.[citation needed]

Wait, What?


1. Plastic waste disintegrates into nanoparticles
2. How do 3D printers work?
3. Characterization of particle emissions from consumer fused deposition modeling 3D printers


I know that 3D printers make nanoparticles. But is that actually a safety concern? There are multiple products on the market today that will suck up your nanoparticles for you. However, I can't see an obvious danger in the particles themselves. Who decided that these nanoparticles are bad for your health? 3D printers put out plenty of heat too, but nobody thinks that's dangerous.

So my question: Does anyone know of sources/research articles of the possible harmful effects of nanoparticles created by 3D printing? I'm looking for real scientific research. Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ Your fact three isn't really a "therefore" in the deductive sense. The paper you link to is about measuring the emissions empirically. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hulme
    Mar 22, 2019 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DanHulme, you can read it as: Therefore, 3D printers make nanoparticles-(proof 3D printers make nanoparticles) $\endgroup$
    – Rafael
    Mar 22, 2019 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ After answering, re-reading, editing, re-reading again, and re-editing, I wonder if this is relevant to this SE group? Perhaps the red herring of 3D printing could be removed, and the question moved to a more appropriate SE site? $\endgroup$
    – cmm
    Mar 22, 2019 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ The dose makes the poison. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2019 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this belongs on some health or hazmat site. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2019 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

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At the time of this writing (March 2019), I don't think theres any study on the health effects of nanoparticles emmitted by 3D Printers. The general consensus seems to be right now that those particles are potentially harmful, as they build up in the lungs, and therefore precautions should be taken.

The reason why nobody has yet determined if and how harmful they are, might be that those adverse health effects are probably long term, and hard to isolate. Plastic is everywhere today - it's not that easy to just study harmful health effects caused by 3D printers.

But we can say for sure that plastic in our bodies isn't ideal and can cause damage, so we should avoid it.

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Perhaps FDM 3D printing does emit nanoparticles during the process of printing, but the syllogism does not prove it or even suggest it.

Parenthetically, your headline is not actually addressed by the body of your question. As an answerer, I have been misled by other questions which seemed clear enough from the headline, but where the question body actually posed a completely different question.

Double parenthetically, your final question does align with your headline. The discussion of 3D printing and the assertion that it is dangerous is not actually relevant to the question at all. It might be better to remove the references to 3D printing and post this in another SE group focused on human health.

The first point, that breaking down or melting plastic produces nano-particles is not supported by your reference. The reference refers to the mechanical breakdown of particles in a simulated oceanic environment and does not mention melting. The reference is silent on the possibility of melting producing and emitting nanoparticles.

In an FDM 3D printer, the melting takes place in an enclosed capsule, the hot-end. The plastic is heated to the point where the viscosity is low enough that the pressure of the unsoftened plastic filament pushes the softened material out of the hot-end through the nozzle. Upon exiting the nozzle the temperature falls, and the plastic begins to recrystallize.

I have seen no evidence of outgassing during printing with dry filament, other than an odor. Usually melting joins separated objects, pellets, and larger particles in a unified liquid state.

Without specific testing, one can not say there is no risk of nanoparticles emitted by FDM 3D printing. Ventilation remains a useful method of reducing local exposure to nanoparticles and odors. Airborne risks are one of the many risks to be considered, but I have no evidence that they are more serious than the burn risk, the fire risk, or the risk of a stroke from high blood pressure induced by failed prints.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not really sure how this attempts to answer the question? The first part of your "answer" is a rant against the question. I'm not sure how that is useful to the reader in general? $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2019 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ Not intended as a rant, the parenthetical bits were added after re-reading the question. Pointing out that the syllogism contains a fallacy seems appropriate, but perhaps it is not. Discussing the mechanism through which nanoparticles may or may not be emitted is responsive to the teaching of the question, although I understand (and later commented) that everything about 3D printing was not relevant to the question which was actually asked. Feel free to delete as you find appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – cmm
    Mar 22, 2019 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Just look at the definition of the 'health' tag on this site. 'For questions about the long-term effects of 3D printing.' My question seems to fall into that category. As for migrating the question to another site, my question refers specifically to nanoparticles created through 3D printing. I'm sorry if that's not clear, I'll edit my question. $\endgroup$
    – Rafael
    Mar 22, 2019 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I like the point made in the fourth paragraph, that the article does not mention melting at all... While the answer starts off as a bit ranty, I think that it is actually (justifiably) dismissing (some of) the arguments made in the question, and in doing so, make the question itself a bit of a non-starter. If the question had better references, then the question might be more "acceptable" or, to put it better, "unassailable" as a 3DP question. But as it stands the question does seem to be based upon a few false premises... even though the points raised by it are valid... $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Mar 22, 2019 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Rafael ... i.e. "Are there nano-particles?" and "Are they dangerous?" would seem to me to be valid health related questions to ask w.r.t. 3D printing, as a lot of people (especially students) have them set up in their bedrooms, and have prints going all night long... $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Mar 22, 2019 at 15:58

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