3D Printering: Wherein ABS Is Dangerous


A lot of the ‘prosumer’ – for as much as I hate that word – 3D printers out there like the Makerbot Replicator and countless other Kickstarter projects only officially support PLA filament. This has a few advantages from a product development standpoint, namely not necessitating the use of a heated build plate. There are other reasons for not supporting ABS and other filaments, as one of the Kickstarter updates for the Buccaneer printer elucidates (update available to backers only, here’s a mirror from somebody on reddit).

The main crux of the Buccaneer team’s decision not to support ABS is as follows:

We spoke to our legal counsel about it and they told us that if we officially support a certain “material” type then our printer has to go through massive certification to prove that it is totally safe to use or we will/can get sued badly.

Despite the Buccaneer team’s best efforts, we’re sure, their lawyers were actually able to find some studies that showed ABS could affect a person’s health. The issue isn’t with the ABS itself – LEGO are made of ABS and kids chew on blocks all the time. The issue comes from the decomposition of ABS when it is heated.

Oh wow actual studies.

There are a few studies referenced by the Buccaneer team’s update, so we’re going to go over these one by one. A few of them are behind a pay wall, so “don’t post a link to them in the comments.” See those quotes? Yeah. If you’re able to download them, “Don’t” host them and post a link in the comments.

Olfactory loss in poly (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic injection-moulding workers

This study looked at 140 male subjects at ABS processing plants in Taiwan. Subjects were placed into two groups, those dealing with the big, heavy molding machines, and those who did not work in the same area of these machines. Subjects were tested for olfactory (sense of smell) function using three tests before and after clocking in for one day of work. The results showed a significant (but small) decrease in olfactory function in the exposed group. The TL;DR for this study is, “Being around molten ABS decreases your sense of smell”

Effects of single and repeated exposures to thermo-oxidative degradation products of poly(acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) (ABS) on rat lung, liver, kidney, and brain.

This study put rats in a cage and exposed them to heated ABS for six hours a night for several nights. Even the shortest exposures for all groups displayed a decrease in an antioxidant (that’s bad) in the rats’ liver and kidney and an increase in 0-deethylation (also bad) in the lung and kidney. These effects disappeared after two weeks. TL;DR for this study is, “ABS will do things to your lungs, liver, and kidney, but it’s not permanent.” The good news about this study is they have some information on what decomposing ABS actually produces. They saw, “styrene, various nitriles, aldehydes, and acids” coming from hot ABS.

Ultrafine particle emissions from desktop 3D printers

Oh cool, something actually applicable to 3D printers. These researchers went into an “office space belonging to a company who specializes in 3D printer education, training, and sales.” We’re betting someone from this company is reading this right now, so drop a note in the comments. Our curiosity is killing us.

After getting a baseline measurement of nanoparticles with this very expensive piece of kit, the researchers printed small PLA baubles on two printers for 20 minutes. After again measuring the amount of nanoparticles in the room, the researchers used 2 printers for PLA and three for ABS to print a plastic frog for 20 minutes. The room was measured again. After that, they used measured nanoparticle concentrations for 40 minutes to get an idea of the decay time.

There are a ton of data points in this study, but here’s the crappy ‘journalist reading a journal’ interpretation: With the printers off, there were about 2000 particles per unit measured. With PLA printers, there were about 7000 particles per unit measured. With ABS, there were about 25000 particles per unit measured. Note the ABS condition used five printers (three printing ABS, two PLA), while the PLA condition only used two printers). We would question the researcher’s methodology here, but they only had about two hours to design and construct this experiment.

The TL;DR for this study is ABS produces a lot more ultrafine particles than PLA.

There might not be an engineering solution to this

For RepRappers concerned about these ultrafine particle emissions, the obvious solution would be to simply put a printer in a plastic box and run an exhaust vent outside. That’s the cheapest and easiest means of effectively ridding your workspace of ultrafine particles, but for any commercial printer it’s a non-starter. Would you really buy a normal, 2D inkjet printer that required you to run an exhaust line outdoors?

The other obvious solution to this problem of ultrafine particles would be to simply put an air filter on a printer. The Ultimaker 2 already has a door (and the Makerbot works best with a full enclosure). All you would need to do is slap a fan onto the chassis, get some negative pressure in the build volume, and put a HEPA filter somewhere in there. Right?

Well, no. In one of the studies investigating the ultrafine particle emissions of 3D printers, the researchers found squirting ABS generates a whole lot of these particles down to about 15 nanometers. That’s tiny. To put that in perspective, the human HIV virus is about 90 nanometers. HEPA filters are only guaranteed to filter out particles larger than 0.3 micrometers, or 300 nanometers. It’s like shooting a bullet through a chain-link fence.

I wouldn’t worry too much about this

Concerning the olfactory study, the careful reader must note this was not the experimental group’s first encounter with molten ABS. They worked on ABS injection molding machines every day, and when comparing the pre-exposure conditions between the experimental and control groups there was not a significant difference. If you’re around smelly stuff all day, you lose a little bit of your sense of smell. Interesting, huh?

As for the ultrafine particles produced by 3D printers, the authors are very careful to put their results into context. The closest these researchers get to making a proper comparison between exposure, particle size, and other factors, is a study measuring the ultrafine particle emissions of cooking. Comparing the two, printing with a PLA-based printer is similar to cooking with an electric frying pan, and printing with ABS is similar to grilling with a gas or electric stove.

Finally, considering the biological effects of printing with ABS, there simply isn’t enough data. Biology and OChem is hard, yo, and I’m not going to make the mistake of claiming knowledge when I have none.

So there you go

At least one 3D printer manufacturer isn’t supporting out-of-the-box ABS printing because of some studies. If you’re just a home-bound tinkerer, you probably shouldn’t worry about printing with ABS until some more studies are done and rats are decapitated. If you’re a lawyer providing council for a bunch of people starting a 3D printing business, tell them not to support ABS printing. It’s just a CYA maneuver so you don’t get sued.


  1. sparhawk817 says:

    melting plastic is bad for you? WHO KNEW!?! Someone’s gotta go find out about RADIATION now, is that bad too? seriously though… just use common sense guys. if you’re coughing, or see smoke, leave. and turn it off. come back in five minutes and fix it. open a window when you print etc. etc. i feel like there’s more danger of burning yourself on the hotend or cutting yourself with a knife when you pry off your piece(because who has the money for a heated bed anyways) or something ridiculous. don’t hurt yourselves.

    • F says:

      “common sense” says that reliance on physical symptoms and “I feel like” is a poor substitute for actual knowledge.

      “come back in five minutes” how many accidents did it take you to arrive at this interval?

      • colecoman1982 says:

        Yea, the irony of him combining his reference to radiation with his “come back in five minutes” advice is hilarious when you consider the radiation related manner of Marie Currie’s death or this little tidbit from Wikipedia:

        “Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle.[66] Even her cookbook is highly radioactive.[66] Her papers are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.[66]”

        These fumes aren’t, necessarily, a reason to not work with/hack ABS but only an idiot would just assume that a lack of acute symptoms means an absence of chronic consequences. This isn’t radiation and we aren’t living in Curries time. She ended up the way she was because no-one, back then, really knew that there was that kind of threat from radiation. Not knowing about the known dangers of ABS fumes and how to actually mitigate that threat (hint, it’s not “come back in five minutes”) is just laziness.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Who said anything about burning, coughing or visible smoke? I cannot think any scenario where you want to burn the plastic to 3d print it, so they are not referring to that.

      Melting it releases gases by itself, which may or may not be visible. Even then, they may or may not cause coughing while still having other effects, such as the ones they caused on the rat’s livers. It *might (I say might as I know nothing, but the possibility is there)* be a possibility that the gases released affects the liver on long term exposures without causing coughing or other instantaneous symptoms.

      No need to berate people, especially when the issue itself may not be visible. And “melting plastic is bad for you? WHO KNEW” . Well, some plastics can be melted without much danger. Key word is melting, not burning. Two different things.

    • matt says:

      Or just instruct people to wear respirators.

  2. Max says:

    I love the smell of ABs in the morning.

  3. ADIDAIllini says:

    The 300nm guarantee isn’t entirely accurate. If you read the article, 300nm is chosen because it is the most penetrating particle size. HEPA filters do a wonderful job stopping particles smaller than .3um.

    “Diffusion predominates below the 0.1 μm diameter particle size. Impaction and interception predominate above 0.4 μm. In between, near the most penetrating particle size (MPPS) 0.3 μm, both diffusion and interception are comparatively inefficient. Because this is the weakest point in the filter’s performance, the HEPA specifications use the retention of these particles to classify the filter.”

  4. will says:

    The problem with the world we live in is Lawyers!

  5. Eirinn says:

    Extrusion temperature has a lot to say. If i print ABS at 240C the entire room I’m printing in will stink of molten ABS. If i print at 230C there’s nary a smell at all. At 235C It smells, but it’s not as bad. My point is, if I am to trust my noisicles, if you can adhere ABS at 230C or lower, DO IT.

  6. Charlie Kilian says:

    Whoa, Hackaday, not cool. Encouraging people to download and post links to copyrighted work in the comment thread is not okay. You guys are better than this.

    I don’t like paywalls either. You know what else I don’t like? Patents (especially software patents). But I’m not free to violate those patents without paying the license fees. And if I were unwilling to pay for the license myself, but still encouraged other people to break the law on my behalf, that would at the very least be rather shitty of me.

    • Dax says:

      Copyrights are not only inconvenient, they’re downright unethical.

      Here again, public safety is being put to ransom because a publisher wants to make money off of other people’s work. I think a bit of civil disobedience is justfied.

      • willrandship says:

        I don’t think copyrights are unethical. It’s the sale or trade of copyrights that I find disturbing. The fact that someone can sell the basic ownership of something they created to a corporation is what allows the copyright mess we’re currently in.

        • Dax says:

          It doesn’t matter whether copyrights are transferrable of not. They’re still artifical monopolies on information.

          A corporation may simply require an author to sign a contract that bars the author from granting any other party a lisence to duplicate the information, and it’s the same difference.

    • John says:

      I could not disagree more. They are encouraging people to share data which is used to determine the health and safety of ABS, something many visitors to their site work with. If you think people should have to pay to find out how to work with ABS safely, you have very different ethics than most people.

      • gabriel says:

        people work to make that research. you have enough to pay for one magazine/journal. pay it.

        people also work for producing food, which prevent others from starving. let’s all take it from them.

        • edonovan says:

          “People” receive federal grants to make that research. I have already paid for this research, it is unethical to make me pay again.

          What if you go to a restaurant and pay for a meal, then are charged again for it to be brought out to you?

  7. Joshua D. Johnson says:

    It’ll burn you if you touch the hot part and probably mess you up if you eat it…. Yes, if you are heating plastic it offs a little gas. So slap a warning sticker on it and make ventilating suggestions, Don’t panic or call it evil.

  8. echodelta says:

    We engineer for CYA. Legal underwear clogs the the machines of the world.

  9. Rob says:

    OK, I admit I am awaiting my first printer, but from youtube vids, I will not be in the same room for 8 hours a day (effect of 3D printers on hearing anyone? Anyone?). Seconds is fine particulates: (a) is there a link to anything; (b) if we need to filter, this being plastic, what about electrostatic filters rather than physical (size related) ones?

  10. Bluewind says:

    I always got a headache when printing ABS, even if I only printed for 10-20 minutes. I even made a test outside and maintained some safety distance all the time, but still got a headache afterwards. Switched to PLA after that and never had a headache since. Not even when doing 4h prints indoors.

    Granted, I don’t have proper ventilation/fume extraction, but then most people probably don’t have that when printing at home.

    I don’t print much and my ABS time has been like 2 years ago so take this with a grain of salt, but I thought someone might find it useful anyway.

  11. Steven says:

    Rule #1. If you live long enough, something will kill you.

  12. bubba gump says:

    God…this has me so bummed, I think I am becoming suicidal. I feel like…yes…I am going to 3d PRINT A GUN AND BLOW MY BRAINS OUT! LOL.

    You know what else is hazardous to your health? Life. Last time I checked nobody gets out alive.

  13. JD says:

    I’m curious to hear why you dislike the term “prosumer”. Care to elaborate on that?

    • NewCommentor1283 says:

      because most of the time when people make compound words that
      name, characterize, or categorize,
      the item in question is usually either;
      neither, (of the words)
      fake, counterfit, undersized (or never existed and your about to get scammed)
      or JUST DOES NOT WORK, as advertised on the front of the box.

      EG: Supermop! the super mop you can reeeally use,… and it breaks on the first try
      EG: S.U.V. (SportUtilityVehicle) … is neither a sport (the transmission will NOT allow racing, overheat and catch fire in 10-30 minutes of pedal-punching) or a utility (does NOT fit a tractor or carry a load of dirt) … and its only 175HP.
      a 600HP dump-truck … now THATS utility!

      • Drew says:

        Be fair, the earlierst SUVs, before they became a luxury item, could actually do proper offroading, hauling, and towing.

        some still can, actually. look for the ones built on a truck chassis.

        • David says:

          Only a few, then or now, from the factory, were/are capable of reasonable offroading, and none have reasonable carrying capability. I tow with a large truck-based SUV, but a large RWD car with strong transmission, chassis, suspension, and brakes would do the job better (handle better) and more comfortably. Unfortunately, those haven’t been produced at any reasonable price since the mid-90s.

  14. WBailey says:

    I would certainly buy a printer that required an exhaust system. Plenty of appliances/machines do. Ovens, dryers, blast cabinets, fume extractors… This is additive MANUFACTURING we’re talking about here. If its required for safety it seems like a perfectly acceptable solution to me.

  15. DougR says:

    I am all for understanding health risks and educating myself to make better choices. Thanks for the info on ABS.

    What I really wish the author had gotten into was the health risks due to exposure to lawyers. I know from experience that after about 15 minutes of exposure to lawyers in a closed room I can get a splitting headache. Long term exposure to lawyers can result in everything from extreme depression to financial hardship, possibly even suicide and death.

    Does anyone know if there are some kind of toxic particles given off by these lawyers? There needs to be some extensive testing done. Perhaps we should heat some lawyers up to 230c or 240c and see if they give off some noxious fumes similar to ABS.

    There must be some kind of cover up. I can’t even find a material safety sheet on lawyers. Given the impact that lawyers have had on the health of so many people it must be a crime that there is no safety information. You would think that some lawyer someplace would have sued someone about this issue. I think I should call my lawyer.

    • NewCommentor1283 says:

      your honor i’d like to represent myself in this case against myself…
      defendant could not find a lawyer at this time, but wishes to take the stand,
      should my lawyer question him or should i?

    • Stoneshop says:

      It appears to be a proprietary mixture of sub-atomic particles: bogons, borons, nondisclosons and suons. Bogons are comparatively well-studied, being abundantly present in pointy-haired managers, borons tend to be emitted by bad comedians and most public speakers and are equally-well studied, but CERN has not yet been able to determine the properties of the other two particles, due to being threatened with lawsuits as well as the UN Human Rights Commission still being under the mistaken impression that lawyers are human too, and should thus be protected from being hurled through vacuum at TeV energy levels.

  16. Rob says:

    I am surprised to see some didn’t know this. Most plastics are not just polymers, they have lots of nasties added for different reasons. Some for stiffness or flexibility and some for evenness of colour etc.

    These additives all have different melting / vaporising temperatures to the actual polymer. Some have very low vaporising temps.

    One notable additive that is commonly used is BPA (at least here in Australia). BPA has been banned an many countries for the use as food / drink containers (but not in Australia) as it causes cancers and birth defects.

    And if you smoke around these vapours then you will be giving them added energy to bond even better to the cells in your lungs.

    I don’t think this is in any way limited to ABS. I have seen a number of plastic crushers / extruders for making fillement and these could be used for any plastic.

    As a general rule, most plastic has a recycle number on it that indicates how many times it has been recycled. The more it has been recycled the more additives that have been used.

    The clearer it looks, the more BPA that is in it. That is why milk containers look cloudy.

    So yeah, you really should be using an exhaust vent!

    More on BPA – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A#Australia_and_New_Zealand

    But remember this is just one additive.

    • gyro john says:

      No, the number molded into the bottom of recyclable plastic parts is NOT how many times its been recycled; it’s an identification of what kind of plastic it is. Google ‘recyclable plastic numbers’ and you’ll see.

    • Andrew says:

      “The clearer it looks, the more BPA that is in it. That is why milk containers look cloudy.”

      Wait, what? Please educate yourself before you even /pretend/ to educate others.

      And yes, those numbers, tricky for some people it would seem.

    • David says:

      So, like if I throw a used #2 and a used #3 container into the mix and make something new, do I get a (2+3=) 5? Cool.

  17. static says:

    Unless it’s a fact that needs to be corrected, and I could support the correction it never dawned on me to take issue with what any of the Hackaday have written, I don’t believe I ever had. Now where the articles contain opinion pieces the nature of the articles is changing. Not that I’m saying that’s bad, but I can’t say it’d good either.

    Brian Benchoff; “Finally, considering the biological effects of printing with ABS, there simply isn’t enough data. Biology and OChem is hard, yo, and I’m not going to make the mistake of claiming knowledge when I have none.” A great policy Brian, but however earlier in the article you stated “I wouldn’t worry too much about this”, later in the article you stated “If you’re just a home-bound tinkerer, you probably shouldn’t worry about printing with ABS until some more studies are done and rats are decapitated.” Respectfully what knowledge did you base those statement on? On lawyers. Surely yourself and fellow Hackaday staffers consult a lawyer when considering the purchase making or would have made decisions based on what your lawyer recommend, no doubt the current owners did so as well. Yes it’s CYA, most reasonable people do so. [shrug]

  18. Galane says:

    “No safe level of exposure.” and “Precautionary principle.” First, postulate that *any* exposure to something *may* cause some problem – often “supported” by slapdash experiments such as the one noted in the article where two PLA printers and three ABS printers were used.

    BZZZZT! Penalty for an extra man on the field! They rigged the test from the start by using unequal group sizes. It makes it look like they had a goal to “prove” that printing ABS is far worse than printing PLA.

    And using rats exposed to massive doses relative to their body size. That’s the junkiest bad science thing there is. It’s how it was “proven” that sodium saccharine causes cancer and that too much salt is bad for you. Google CDC salt study. Not at all surprising that a test conducted using proper scientific method showed not only that the vast majority of people are quite insensitive to “excess” salt, but that having too little salt in your diet contributes to heart disease. Still hasn’t stopped the anti-salt drum beaters. They’ve only become more shrill about “Salt is bad. Mkay?” because they’ve over 40 years invested in their ignorance of biochemistry.

    Looks to me like a position is being set up to go for a Proposition 65 type of bill targeting ABS. Prop. 65 is a California law requiring anything with any amount of lead in it, no matter if the thing would have to be pulverized to get at the lead, to carry a warning label about the lead content. In the USA, whatever California enacts on environmental law, the rest of the country kowtows to.

    So what’s the precautionary principle? After the bogus “scientific” studies have been done and purportedly show even the slightest possible potential for even super long term harm (ie, you might only live to be 94 instead of 95), well then the thing MUST BE BANNED, just in case.

    Some years ago I read a short article about some environmentalists and politicians demanding that the levels of certain chemicals in the Columbia river should be measured in parts per quadrillion. On the list was dioxins. Um, hello? Seen a forest fire? Those spew off tons upon tons of dioxins and who knows what all else. The wood and sap of trees is as complex a stew of chemicals as crude oil*, and lighting it on fire leads to all kinds of uncontrolled chemical reactions. What’s rather common in the forests in the Columbia River drainage? Forest fires.

    If you’re having to look at parts per quadrillion to find something, it’s not polluted, it’s likely cleaner than your tap water.

    At parts per hundred you have thin mud. Parts per thousand you can see. Parts per million you may be able to smell or taste, depending on what the ‘extra’ in the water is. By parts per billion there are very few things (aside from some bacteria or viruses) that will do so much as make a person sick, let alone be quickly lethal. Parts per trillion? A spit in an olympic sized pool. By the time you get water clean enough that “pollutants” have to be measured in parts per quadrillion, the water’s too clean for fish to live in.

    Apparently someone sane intervened in that one because that one article was all I ever saw about it.

    *There’s a whole family of plastics that have been made from wood, often called cellulosics. Until petrochemistry got going so well, wood derived plastics were the big deal. You’ve probably heard of celluloid. How about Rayon? Until polyester and nylon were invented, rayon was a commonly used synthetic fiber. Before there were clear oil based plastics like acrylic and polycarbonate, there was tenite. The Eastman company (no connection to Eastman Kodak) still makes tenite. Cellulosic plastics aren’t dead, they’re just in the shadow of oil based plastics. “Bioplastic” is nothing new, it’s older than oil based plastic. By applying the same processes to vegetable oils that have long been used for crude oil, plastics like polyurethane have been made, with the same properties as the crude oil versions. Before that idea was hit on, there were experiments attempting to genetically engineer plants (such as corn) to grow particles of plastic. Turned out to be far easier to do fractional distillation on corn oil. The “extra crunchy” corn experiments did work and some items were made, but the plastic quality was poor which made the test items brittle.

    • dan says:

      Size of cold water header tank in your attic,
      100 Litres,
      size of sewing thimble, about 2.5ml (a guess)

      1 thimble of shit in your drinking water tank. = 25 parts per million…

      still want to drink it?

      • Joe says:

        I am not sure your local water plant gets better results. Pass me a beer…

      • Isotope says:

        100 Litres = 100,000 ml. Your thimble would have to be 0.25 ml. That’s what, 3 or 4 drops of water in a 100 litre tank?

        • Dan says:

          It’s true that I was out by some order of magnitude,

          Kind of masks the point though.

          The point of was more we put up with different things in different quantities.

          I’m quite happy with a 4:1 mix squash and water. Faeces, I require considerably less before I’d consider consuming it.

          How about if I changed it about, you’re having a blood transfusion 1 part per quadrillion is HIV still happy?

          My post was in direct reply to the post questioning the point of measuring things in very small parts. The simple fact is sometimes it matters.

          • Isotope says:

            It doesn’t mask the point. An order of magnitude IS the point. If I needed a blood transfusion and the doctor told me 1 part per quadrillion of the blood cells are HIV infected – that means one blood cell is infected out of 200 liters of blood. (5 trillion cells per liter roughly). I think a body has 5 liters of blood so that means there’s a 1/40 chance I even get that infected blood cell. Now, what are the chances of contracting aids with only 1 virus? I don’t know the answer to that, but let’s assume it’s as good as 1/1000. Already your probability is 1/40,000. If I need a transfusion I’ll probably die if I don’t get it. I think I’ll take my 1/40,000 chance of getting AIDS.

            By the way, the CDC reports that the risk of getting HIV from a blood transfusion is “estimated conservatively to be one in 1.5 million, based on 2007–2008 data.” If you really wanted I suppose you could translate this to an average parts-per-quadrillion of HIV in the entire US supply of blood. So knowing this number, are you saying you’d never get a blood transfusion?

          • Dan says:

            The cdc estimated that because blood donors are screened. And those that have HIV that is not detected are those that have caught it from a statistically insignificant place (one that wouldn’t have rendered them I eligible to give blood) and where the donor has caught the virus not long previous such that it can’t be detected in their system.

            I wasn’t suggesting science should be decided by gross out factor. -more trying to make examples simple and easy to relate to.
            Parts per million or billion etc can matter. The example given wasn’t about chance.
            Would you knowingly recieve an HIV infected blood transfusion because there was an insignificant amount of a virus in it? No, because the amount is not important, that fact that it is dangerous is important.
            It’s not the amount, it’s that it is there!
            How much ecoli in terms of parts ecoli to parts beef in the burger before you get sick, by weight it’s parts per billion or even quadrillion. -again pretty obvious proof that sometime on part per huge number may seem statistically insignificant, but actually is not!

            Would you knowingly breath in carcinogens? How many parts per million or billion matter then?

            For my part a can do and will continue to print both abs and nylon, even with the nasty stuffs in them. Because I use my printer in a wide open area. With plenty of ventilation.
            If I kept the printer under the stairs in a cupboard allowing fumes to build up I’d be more worried.

          • Isotope says:

            Measuring in very small amounts only matters if the probability associated with such a high level of precision is significant. You need to know why you are measuring such a small amount in the first place. Gross-out factor is not a scientific reason.

          • Isotope says:

            I live in a city, I knowingly breathe in carcinogens every day.

            You show me any doctor who will guarantee there are zero hiv infected cells in a liter of blood. Do you think the technology exists to screen every single cell?

          • Dan says:

            I think that you don’t understand how biology works, and that might be why you are finding the concept so difficult to understand…

          • Isotope says:

            Honestly I don’t know anything about biology. I know a lot about probability, statistics, and metrology.

  19. jpa says:

    Normal laser printers are also somewhat bad sources of nanoparticles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_printing#Respiratory_health_risks

    Not that surprising, considering that toner itself is plastic mixed with carbon, so 3D printers are not the only thing that melts plastic for printing..

  20. dan says:

    am I the only one to think *cough* *cough* *bull shit* on the idea that printer manufactures don’t *officially* support ABS because lawyers won’t let them?

    I can buy all kinds of dangerous stuff over the counter with no special licence that will make you high or eventually kill you. (think solvents used in lots of things) all the manufacturer does is write use in a well ventilated area.

    There is no reason that the manufacturers cannot say that the printers should be used in a well ventilated area.

    stratsys offer lots of ABS in lots of colours, and by the judge of their sales pitch are quite happy to stand by it.

    and last but clearly by no means least, it’s the ABS manufacturer and supplier that would need to certify their product as safe. (since there is no one uniform and standard ABS recipe).

    it’s like saying that a casting furnace manufacturer has to have data sheets on anything that they say can be melted inside it. -given that a furnace capable of melting aluminium is capable of melting lead there are clear safety implications.

    the same can be said about soldering irons.
    no tool company has ever decided not to make a soldering iron because solder contains lead. or because flux contains some nasties.
    tool manufacturers just make the tools and let the solder making companies worry about datasheets and COSH.

    at a guess, the real reason that printer suppliers don’t want to support ABS.
    the printing temperature is high, it’s working temperature is pretty close to the temperature at which the peek insulators that are widely used soften. it’s notoriously easy to heat a bit too much and breakdown the ABS and clog the barrel.

    Basically, it can be a bit of a pain.
    most printer manufacturers are working on a race to the bottom cost model, this means that supporting ABS, and dealing with the hundreds of extra support calls becomes financially infeasible at the standard sale prices.

    It’s financially impractical to support ABS on a commercial printer with the standard parts used today. it’s much easier to take a material that is difficult to work with (because it requires higher temperature, -in fact requires a temperature that will melt and ABS machine parts, and is very close to the temperature at which the peek insulator softens and the barrel falls out) so rather than improve the printer product, most people just say, “Yeah we don’t officially support ABS.”, but at the same time say that their printer is ABS “capable”

    In this way people will buy your printer (because you claim it can do ABS), but at the same time you don’t need to worry about replacing hot ends etc that get clogged with ABS, or that fall apart because they get too hot. (because you say that you don’t support the use of ABS.)

    Now that all metal hot ends are coming more and more standard, with lots of open source hardware designs being released it’s only a matter of time before manufacturers will pick up all metal designs, and suddenly we’ll start seeing official support for all kind of new “higher temperature” plastics, regardless of the research that has been done.

  21. GlassHalfFull says:

    Thank you for the update on this topic. Please keep us posted on this topic as I rely on HAD and other sources to continue to cover the topic so that I may make my own safety vs risk choices. –Keep it coming.

    Poking Fun – I wonder if anyone was smoking a cigarette while reading this or writing a reply. The irony in that would be wonderful. Same goes for other things like; drinking pure water while eating highly processed food containing billions of ingredients — I love it.

  22. Rob says:

    Sure, melting ABS is not a thing you should do 24/7 in your living room. all kinds of strange gasses come free of the ABS and some of them are toxic. But I am more worried about loosing some precious blood while trying to remove my prints from the bed with a palette knife :)

    By the way: smoke from the BBQ contains a huge load of (ultra)fine particles and the burnt bits of meat are dangerous too (and yet we love those slight burns on our grilled steak).
    Plain kitchen salt is toxic too, as is water and a lot of those cleaning agents we have at home that carry the label “environmental safe” or “pure natural”.

    So let’s all stop printing ABS, stop BBQing our meat and for heavens sake: stop cleaning your house !!!!

    • thesinned says:

      OK, now I gotta say this… under no circumstances, whatsoever is it ever OK to so much as even JOKE about not BBQing. This is heresy in its highest form and I just won’t stand for it. If it was bad for you I would eat it anyway. Actually told my doctor when she said to stop eating red meat that she should just go ahead and Kevorkian me if that was her attitude.

      Never disrespect the bbq. Think muslim extremests are bad??? wait till you see what we can do to your steak… (think salty charcoal).

      (Note to the NSA who is probably reading this post because I have mentioned muslim extremists, oops twice now, I was referring to burning his steak, not burning him at the stake or any other form of person on person violence or threat… person on steak violence is ok, unless you’re vegan, but i’m not so I’ve done nothing wrong here. thank you and enjoy your day agent 006 1/3).

  23. anon person says:

    Some of those research papers are actually free, but here you go:

    Olfactory loss in poly (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic injection-moulding workers

    Ultrafine particle emissions from desktop 3D printers

    Effects of single and repeated exposures to thermo-oxidative degradation products of poly(acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) (ABS) on rat lung, liver, kidney, and brain

  24. john smith says:

    I work with a few companies that do proper ABS moulding, and it’s been done for years. The issues around it are pretty well known. The big problem is oxidation (that study specifically mentions thermo-oxidative products.)

    There is an engineering solution, and it’s simple. Put 3D printer in box. Pump in CO2.

    Not only will that eliminate a ton of potential health problems, but it’ll almost completely eliminate the problem of clogs in an extruding nozzle, as that’s also caused by thermal oxidation.

  25. Kaspky says:

    For those doing the math, the PLA printer churns out 3500 particles per printer per 20 minutes while the ABS churns out 6000 particles. With a base level of 2000 particles I am not impressed by the results. The experiment needs to be carried out for a longer period of time. How fast do those particles settle or otherwise dissapear?

  26. Oren Beck says:

    To me, all these false drama games are “Conduct Unbecoming” of rational people.

    The simplest handling that produces a practical handling appears to be absent here.

    Run an exhaust air stream from fume hood or box around device into “whatever it takes” process for reasonable safety in a real world risk assessment, and you’re done.

    Good Enough-Is.

  27. scharkalvin says:

    No one has said anything about the fumes from soldering, the use of leaded solder, the proper disposal of spent PC etching solutions, etc. There are LOTS of things we electronic hobbiests use that have the potential to poison us, we take the risk in stride. PLA may be slightly safer, but it is a bit easier to print with. Only when the less brittle and higher temperature handling abilities of ABS are required (such as make certain parts for 3D printers(!) do we need to use it.

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