UCR study finds some 3D-printed materials to be toxic
Anew study from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) hasfound that some 3D-printed materials are toxic. The tests wereconducted on fish embryos, and the results could lead to a rethink of regulations surrounding 3D printed-materials.
3Dprinters are more popular than ever, with the technology being usedto create everything from running shoes to supercars. Given theincreasingly widespread use, a team of researchers believes thatgreater attention should be paid to how potentially harmful common 3Dprinting materials may be.
Forthe UCR study, the researchers looked at two different types ofprinter – one that uses light to turn liquid into solids, and amore cost-effective type that melts plastic to create structures.Specifically, they worked with a Stratasys Dimension Elite – whichuses the melted plastic method – and a Form 1+ from Formlabs – aliquid resin model.
Theproject started somewhat by accident, when UCRassistant professor William Grover purchased a 3Dprinter to help with his lab research, working with zebrafish embryos. Things didn't go very well, with a graduate student in thelab noticing that the embryos were actually dying after being exposedto 3D-printed parts.
Thisdiscovery, quite naturally, led to a full study on the toxicity of 3D-printed materials, with the two test printers being used to create1-in (2.5 cm)-diameter plastic disks. These were then placed in petridishes containing zebrafish embryos, the survival rates and hatchrates of which were then monitored.
Theparts made from both types of printer had negative effects on therates, though it was much more pronounced with the liquid resinprinted materials, with more than half the embryos dead within threedays, and all having perished by the time a full week had passed. Notonly did it kill off the existing embryos, but 100 percent of thosethat hatched exhibited developmental abnormalities.
Thestudy didn't just look at the negatives here though, but alsoexamined possible solutions. Attempting to reduce the toxicity of theliquid resin-produced parts, the researchers exposed them toultraviolet light for an hour. Once that was complete, they found theparts to be significantly less toxic, so much so in fact that UCRhas filed a patent for the work.
Thepopularity of 3D printers is at an all-time high, with the marketpredicted to be worth some $16.8 billion by 2018. In light of that,the researchers believe that their study highlights the need forbetter regulation of the 3D printing industry. Currently, the precisematerials used to create 3D-printed parts aren't always disclosed bymanufacturers, so it's difficult to accurately assess the risk theypose.
"Manypeople, including myself, are excited about 3D printing," says Grover. "But, we really need to take a step back and ask how safeare these materials?".
Theresearchers published their findings in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. For more on the study, you can check out the video below.