Creating a Safe Atmosphere for the Meteoric Rise of 3D Printing

From spacecraft components to trainers, the range of products being 3D printed continues to grow.

Technology that was once the preserve of sectors such as defence is now being applied deeper and broader across multiple markets, thanks to evolving print systems, faster speeds, and consumer demand for customisation.

Just a few years ago, who could have imagined additive manufacturing (AM) processes printing food, artificial bone, sports equipment, clothing and even skin cells, in addition to components in established 3D print sectors, such as automotive and aerospace?! Today, even 3D print machines can be 3D printed!

It’s a process that has certainly come a long way since its development as a tool for rapid prototyping. And it’s easy to see why. Using 3D printing, it’s possible to create highly complex, ultra-strong parts in low volumes, while at the same time satisfying consumer demand for customised branded clothing, sports equipment, toys, footwear etc. that attract premium prices.

Yet, for a market estimated to be worth around 12.6 billion U.S. dollars, it’s surprising how little industry insight exists into the by-products of additive manufacturing, particularly when it comes to the effect of airborne particulate and gases on human health.

For example, from BOFA’s own research we now know that temperature in fused filament fabrication (FFF) processes is directly proportional to the volume of emissions and the consequential risk to health. In general, the hotter the process, the higher the risk. This is because an increase in 3D printer nozzle temperature decreases the average particle size generated by FFF processes – which means particles can penetrate more easily into the human body, potentially impacting negatively on health.

We also know that any insoluble or low-solubility nanoparticles emitted can pass through human defence mechanisms and locate in the bloodstream, with potential distribution to organs in the body. And gases emitted by FFF printers include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can potentially cause conditions such as headaches, eye irritation, skin problems and occupational asthma.

Using this knowledge, BOFA has harnessed its own powers of innovation to help manufacturers create a safe working environment using pro-active filtration and atmosphere management. The company has developed a range of portable extraction systems tailored to specific processes that offer multi-stage filtration to capture and retain nanoparticles, particulate, fume, and gases. This prevents airborne contaminants from being breathed in by operatives and helps stop the build-up of debris on expensive equipment that could impact product quality.

Importantly, the BOFA line-up includes the new 3D PrintPRO HT, which marks a true innovation in 3D print filtration and atmosphere management through an ability to capture particulate and gases emitted by additive manufacturing processes where chamber air temperatures reach over 100degC. This is an industry first.

3D PrintPRO 4In addition, BOFA’s 3D PrintPRO 4 has been enhanced to support FFF, stereolithography, digital light processing, and material jetting. Although a single unit, it has the capacity to manage multiple 3D print stations.

There’s also the new stand-alone AM 400 system, which includes patented technology for the in-situ exchange of filters in metal additive manufacturing processes, without risking a pyrophoric event.

To find out more about BOFA’s full 3D print extraction range, go to our additive manufacturing industry page. 

3D PrintPRO