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Additive Manufacturing – Creating the future one print at a time

From medical visors to components for SpaceX spacecraft, additive manufacturing (AM) is transforming our understanding of how things are made.

It’s a production method that notably entered public consciousness at the onset of the pandemic, when advanced manufacturers, along with 3D printing hobbyists, answered the call to create protective equipment for frontline health and care workers.

In fact, AM has been a key enabler for innovation for many years in advanced manufacturing sectors such as automotive, defence, aerospace, medical devices and electronics, thanks to its ability to shorten production cycles, lower tooling costs and reduce waste material.

There’s also no doubt that the adoption of AM technologies is accelerating and its sector penetration widening – it’s even possible to print food. However, whatever the method or application, there is one common operational requirement – for effective fume extraction that removes potentially harmful airborne contaminants from the workplace while safeguarding productivity.

BOFA is at the forefront of extraction system design for AM, with a range of dedicated portable technologies that filter and capture particulate and fume – including nanoparticles – and return clean air into the environment. This is key in ensuring that no potentially harmful emissions enter the breathing zone of employees and that no debris builds-up on expensive machinery that can degrade high-value components and products.

Of course, additive manufacturing is not one single method. It is a synonym for a wide range of layer-based production techniques, including powder bed fusion, binder jetting, fused filament fabrication, stereolithography, material jetting, sheet lamination and directed energy deposition. These systems employ different techniques and use materials such as liquid photopolymer resin and metal powders.

AM was once the preserve of the prototype shop, with relatively slow and intermittent operations limiting the emission of fume. Now, though, the widespread adoption of faster and higher-temperature AM systems for round-the-clock production lines, creates the conditions for greater potential health risks for operatives if emissions are not controlled.

Indeed, studies confirm the presence of fume, gases and particulate in AM technologies, including in fused filament fabrication (layered thermoplastics), in stereolithography (cured liquid resin) and in selective laser sintering (laser curing of a liquid resin or powdered material). These risks are associated with the inhalation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), of particulate and of gases such as styrene and ethylbenzene, while exposure to resins and solvents can lead to skin conditions. AM processes are also shown to emit nanoparticles, which have the ability to pass through membranes into the human body.

And, from a productivity perspective, uncontrolled particulate can also negatively impact AM printer efficiency and increase the risk of product contamination, with any prolonged release of sticky plastic droplets leading to a build-up of material on the machine’s moving parts, potentially causing reliability issues.

BOFA addresses both these areas of concern, through an AM range that incorporates its patented DeepPleat DUO filter technology, with large capacity drop-out chamber and impressive surface area, to capture harmful contaminants, including nanoparticles, and return clean air into the workplace.

BOFA filter technology includes grades matched to specific applications, while a sealed filter exchange design removes the risk of thermal events in pyrophoric material operations.

All these units are driven by BOFA’s unique Intelligent (iQ) Operating System, which maintains optimal air flow rates even as filter fill, keeping components clean and print quality high. In addition, a cache of analytical data enables users to download performance and operating parameters for evaluation purposes, performance optimisation and technical support.

To find out more about BOFA’s dedicated additive manufacturing range of portable fume extraction systems contact us.