Help support TMP

"Dangers of 3d Printing?" Topic

11 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the 3D Printing Message Board

Areas of Interest


880 hits since 5 Jun 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Diglettt06 Jun 2018 11:31 a.m. PST

Hello all. I was thinking about getting some terrain that is 3d printed, but was wondering about the health hazards of the material that is used for 3d printing. From what I have read, it seems to mainly be the dust that is created during the making of the pieces, but was wondering if after that it is essentially safe to handle and such (bar eating it of course :)


Mutant Q06 Jun 2018 11:54 a.m. PST

It depends on what material you're using. PLA is a plant based plastic which is entirely nontoxic and biodegradable. ABS is a more traditional plastic that will create some fumes when heated, but nothing too dangerous. UV Resins can be quite toxic, but they are manageable with proper equipment (i.e. rubber gloves, IPA, a surgical mask).

Black Hat Miniatures06 Jun 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

ABS is the same plastic that is used to make lego bricks….


UshCha06 Jun 2018 1:28 p.m. PST

FDM Printers which are what most home users use, involve no dust. If it did SWIMBO would not have let it in the house. ABS is by all accounts smelly and not really as good for high accuracy prints but is tougher. I am informed there are PLA type materials now that are nearly as tough as ABS and less smelly. However for all my modelling PLA has been adequate and is Very Cheap. £20.00 GBP or so for a kg delivers and that does a LOT of printing.

Sinterd Nylon machines do use nylon "dust" but they are very expensive so not really for your average punter. We use some from commercial printers and by the time they get to us they are really dust free, nothing a quick wash does not remove.

Black Hat Miniatures06 Jun 2018 1:37 p.m. PST

I use abs but have an enclosed printer with a hepa filter so no smell.

Also I put a lot of my prints into moulds for metal casting so pla is too low a melt point for that…


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2018 7:51 p.m. PST

Don't eat it.

thehawk07 Jun 2018 5:22 a.m. PST

All 3d printing is potentially hazardous. The hazard may be direct (gases, vapors, particles) or indirect (e.g. in the products used for cleaning).

Two example risks = ABS produces a gas which is suspected to be a carcinogen. Lactide dissolves in the lungs to form lactic acid which damages the lining of the lungs and the pulmonary system. In cocaine the effect is considered toxic to the organs of the body. Obviously the risk and amount of damage depends on exposure levels and frequency of exposure. But speaking as a chemical engineer, I wouldn't print anything inside the house.

See section 3.5 and read just the titles in the references section of this report -


Decades ago a wargamer friend was chronically ill. The medical advice was to stop using a hobby paint that came in small tins.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2018 8:58 a.m. PST

Based on my experiences over the last couple months and everything I have read and learned from YouTube, the chief risks are:

#1 stabbing yourself with the scraper while trying to remove your print from the print bed (hasn't happened to me, but apparently common).

#2 electrocuting your self while performing maintenance with the device plugged in (has only happened to a couple people but has the greatest potential harm, easily avoided)

#3 burning your fingers by sticking them near hot nozzles (has happened to me, but utterly trivial)

#4 hurting yourself with the pliers while removing rafts/support material (has happened to me, mostly trivial)

#5 getting smacked by one of your friends who is sick of hearing about how great 3D printing is (seems inevitable)

#6 performing aerobic exercise for extended periods in a small, unventilated space while printing with particularly bad ABS or one of the less-healthy exotic materials.

As mentioned with PLA there is no dust, no smell, no toxins. I'm pretty sure you can eat as much PLA as you want without much risk.

Thank you for the link to that report! I don't think I would have seen that, and I'm happy to have seen it.

The report on UFPs will take some reading, since their substantiated warnings only real concern ABS and nylon. I admire their care in qualifying a lot of their statements, and they point out a lot of unknowns. As a result, if/when I start experimenting with filaments besides PLA I may move the machine to the garage. Also, as I build an enclosure I'm going to put a filter on it, that's easy enough.

imrael09 Jun 2018 6:59 a.m. PST

Some people use an acetone vapour bath for smoothing layer lines ABS models, which could have some risks. I did see one truly scary article by someone doing an equivalent process on PLA. I forget the chemical involved but my son was studying chemistry at the time and said they would not be allowed to use it in a main lab fume cupboard, so home use was a bit of a stretch.

I've never done this and I think its pretty rare nowadays, so not really a concern.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2018 12:01 p.m. PST

Vapor-based smoothing techniques are probably not going to be used with wargaming miniatures. They can produce a glass-like surface, I've seen it in person and it's amazing. But they destroy fine detail and take away crispness. On larger items and round shapes, they're great, but on a 25mm humanoid or a small space ship or tank they would ruin it *and* make it more difficult to paint.

Rick181314 Jun 2018 9:33 a.m. PST

To the danger of the finally produced piece, I'd say very negligible. Resins from an SLA printer can be as dangerous as any 2 part casting resin in terms of dust. In addition I would recommend washing them with soap and water as soon as possible as instead of having mould release agent they may have tiny amounts of uncured or partially cured resin on them. That stuff generally is quite toxic, but should be present in such small amounts that it should not cause alarm. I'm also not sure it can cross into skin or anything like that. But still, you'll want to make sure it's gone anyway as you don't want anything that might cause paint or primer to not be as good as possible.

I've been involved in 3d printers for educational environments and we found enough evidence that FDM 3d printers release micro particles into the air. The amount and nature of the particles are easily dealt with. The computer labs the printers went into simply had an additional fan and filter added to their existing duct work for the room. With 20+ 3d printers running every day they had to replace the filter every 4 or 5 months.

For a home system, a 20 inch box fan and a 20x20 furnace filter rated to 1500 (MERV 12 or higher if that's how filters are rated in your location) or more should be more than sufficient. I'd recommend taping the filter to the back side of the fine with something like sheathing tape or packaging tape. Pay attention to any information about airflow direction on the filter. If you use duct tape, make sure it's the completely plasticized kind that actually is airtight. Traditional duct tape is not.

Just start that up 10 minutes before you start printing and have it run for a bit after the print is done. You don't have to put it that close to the printer. There's no need and you may cause problems if you add in large amounts of airflow right near the printer. Within 10 feet or so will be fine.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.