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Particle emission levels in the user operating environment of powder, ink and filament-based 3D printers

Shirun Ding (School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Singapore Centre for 3D Printing, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Bing Feng Ng (School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Singapore Centre for 3D Printing, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 16 June 2021

Issue publication date: 15 July 2021

143

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine on-site particle concentration levels due to emissions from a wide spectrum of additive manufacturing techniques, including polymer-based material extrusion, metal and polymer-based powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition and ink-based material jetting.

Design/methodology/approach

Particle concentrations in the operating environments of users were measured using a combination of particle sizers including the TSI 3910 Nano SMPS (10–420 nm) and the TSI 3330 optical particle sizer (0.3–10 µm). Also, fumes from a MEX printer during printing were directly captured using laser imaging method.

Findings

The number and mass concentration of submicron particles emitted from a desktop open-type MEX printer for acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene and polyvinyl alcohol approached and significantly exceeded the nanoparticle reference limits, respectively. Through laser imaging, fumes were observed to originate from the printer nozzle and from newly deposited layers of the desktop MEX printer. On the other hand, caution should be taken in the pre-processing of metal and polymer powder. Specifically, one to ten micrometers of particles were observed during the sieving, loading and cleaning of powder, with transient mass concentrations ranging between 150 and 9,000 µg/m3 that significantly exceeded the threshold level suggested for indoor air quality.

Originality/value

Preliminary investigation into possible exposures to particle emissions from different 3D printing processes was done, which is useful for the sustainable development of the 3D printing industry. In addition, automatic processes that enable “closed powder cycle” or “powder free handling” should be adopted to prevent users from unnecessary particle exposure.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Supplementary materials: http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5039605

This study was funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education MOE2016-T2-1–063, supported by the National Additive Manufacturing – Innovation Cluster @ NTU (NAMIC@NTU) through Grant No. 2020024 and partially supported by the Start-up Grant by NTU M4082022. The authors are grateful to the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) and NAMIC@NTU for the provision of the printers used in this study and also express their thanks to Wan Man Pun, Shang Xiaopeng and Shmitha d/o Arikrishnan.

Citation

Ding, S. and Ng, B.F. (2021), "Particle emission levels in the user operating environment of powder, ink and filament-based 3D printers", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 1124-1132. https://doi.org/10.1108/RPJ-02-2020-0039

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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