3D Printing

UCR study finds some 3D-printed materials to be toxic

UCR study finds some 3D-printed materials to be toxic
The researchers found that liquid resin printed materials were particularly toxic
The researchers found that liquid resin printed materials were particularly toxic
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The researchers found that liquid resin printed materials were particularly toxic
The researchers found that liquid resin printed materials were particularly 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.


How Toxic Are 3D-Printed Objects?

Sean Reynolds
I know that that resin is toxic, but I want to know more about the ABS from he Stratasys printer. ABS is the same material found in Lego Blocks. I'm curious if it is related to the color dyes in the plastic. I'm also very interested in knowing if the UV light affected the ABS since the resin actually cures with light. I'd like to know more about these effects especially with PLA and Non colored ABS.
It strikes me that while the study may well be true, the inclusion of 3D printing in the description is essentially clickbait. If they had found that the act of 3D printing had made the materials toxic, they might have a point, but there is no mention of that. We can conclude that some plastics are toxic, but that's not much of a surprise; that some happen to be commonly used in 3D printers is incidental. I mean you can use chocolate in some 3D printers - it doesn't make it toxic!
Don't eat LEGO.
Old LEGO contains cadmium, styrene in ABS and epoxy resins, is toxic (to zebra fish apparently, until it all evaporates)
At least it should be phthalate free, unlike many PVC products.
Just watch out for the BPA.
Would be interesting to know what resin was being used, as stratasys ULTEM 1010 claims to be food-safe.
I'd have to look at complete paper to make a full judgement, but this sounds like nonsense.
YES SLA resin is toxic, but when I was using that back in 2000/2001 we always used to print the part and then place in a UV chamber to fully cure. We also left parts in direct sunlight for a few hours to further help the UV curing process FOC.
#So this is known to be toxic, and known to be improved by UV Light already!#
Further: Did they put other materials into the perti dish, e.g. Machined Aluminium, PolyProp (machined?), Nylon, Pyrex Glass Cube, to rule out any physical effect of having the cube in there?
Further: (TO POSTER WHO SUGGESTED BPA Free is desirable): Evidence of PC / BPA having harmful effects is (or certainly was) very dodgey. Last time I read up on it it was a successful unscientific scare started in a Canadian Newspaper. Tests within animals and adults had no conclusive link between direct BPA ingesting (i.e. taking in the chemical in monomer form at safe levels) and any detrimental effects in the subjects. Investigators were unable to cause levels above the "safe level" to be released by the PolyCarbonate bottles through damage, and no investigation into child ingestation cuold be morally justified.
In short, don't fear "BPA"/"PC"/Polycarbonate. I'd welcome one scientific report that does show a causal link between BPA and a ill health situation. (n.b. SCIENTIFIC, not scaremongering)
@Sean Reynolds:
ABS is damaged by UV, so UV is more likely to release monomers or parts of the monomer into the environment.
It can be made better with UV by adding UV inhibitors, but this adds more potentially nasty chemicals to the ABS, which adds the risks involved with those additives.
I'd suggest protecting the ABS from UV light.
Try to use Natural coloured ABS if the additives and environmental effects are of a concern to you.
Hi Sean,
If you want more information about ABS plastics the Wikipedia page looks pretty unbiased
It is made up of polymers which do not react with humans or the environment. Which is why you can bury a Lego brick in the ground and use it many years later.
ABS is not cured by light and if it were used in a 3d printing process it would have to be melted in some way.
Millions of Children have chewed on Lego bricks, and Millions of Americans have driven in cars with ABS dash and trim (a big favourite of US auto designers for many years). The people are still around... so just how toxic is it?
If there were phthalates in ABS it would be soft and wouldn't work very well as building blocks. There's no epoxy resin, its too brittle.
BPA-- why would that be used to make ABS. Its like saying look out for the ice they used to build the fabric of the space shuttle!
ABS may be produced using styrene but to say there is unreacted styrene in it is like saying that there are raw eggs in a baked cake!
Timothy Rohde
News flash!!! 3D printing does nothing to change the properties of recently melted plastics and resins and methods used to reduce the toxicity of these materials work on 3D printed materials the same way they work on those materials after any other fabrication process!
Excellency Neckbeard
Yeah, what about pla? And is it just if you inhale/eat some, or even just skin exposure?