Does 3D Printing Smell? (PLA, ABS, PETG)

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Since its invention, the popularity and usage of 3D printing technology have been skyrocketed. People worldwide are using this technology to create and develop things that are not available on the market. 3D printing gives you new freedom. With this technology by your side, you are not bound by the things that aren’t available on the shelf. If you need a part for your automobile, print it yourself. You have designed a costume but could not find all the parts; you can make it yourself. With all these freedoms by your side, most people forget about the potential smells and fumes that may generate when the machine is working. So, does the 3D printer smell?

Yes. You can notice a strong smell while 3D printing. The 3D printed material or the machine itself does not generate the scent. But, it is the printed material that you use, creates toxic fumes which smell. In addition, the machine uses heating technology to mould “ink”. When heated, all of those elements generate a cocktail of chemicals, which results in a strong smell.

One of the factors that you need to know about the smell you can detect during 3D printing is that it is very harmful to your health. If you inhale the fume in large amounts, it can harm your health significantly. If you are interested in knowing more about the smell generated during 3D printing, keep on reading this article.

Does 3D Printer Filament Smell?

Yes, it is normal for your 3D printer machine to imitate a pungent smell while working. However, the emission of the fume depends on the usage of certain materials. But first, you need to understand why these toxic fumes are generated during 3D printing.

Why?

The 3D printer uses heating technology to melt the plastic filament into liquid. It then uses the melted plastic to create the element you want. The higher temperature of the machine is, the more the 3D element will smell. 

That is one of the reasons why different filaments generate different types of smell. For example, while the ABS filament produces pungent fumes, the PLA filaments do not. The emission of toxic fumes also depends on the manufacturing process and the makeup of the material. For example, PLA filaments are made of renewable elements, like sugarcane and corn starch. That is why these elements do not emit such smelly and harmful chemicals that generate that pungent smell.

ABS filaments, on the other hand, are created through a process that polymerizes acrylonitrile and styrene. This process also creates elements like polybutadiene. Even though these materials are safe when the 3D printing process is complete, it is not safe when these elements get heated and melted down. 

The printing process only starts to smell when the filament begins to get heated. However, if your printer gets overheated, it can also generate a burnt smell. If you use a filament that does not require a high temperature, you can avoid the strong smell. For example, PETG filament does not emit much smell either.

Is 3D Printer Fume Bad For Your Health?

Yes, the fumes generated during 3D printing can be very harmful to your health. Studies have shown that during 3D printing, these machines emit a vast amount of ultra-fine elements. Generally, the 3D printer heats the filament and extrudes the melted plastic through a nozzle on the already heated bed. It is where the item starts to materialize.

In industrial settings, similar practices also generate harmful fumes. But the difference between 3D printing and an industrial environment is that the machine operator in the factory follows all the required safety protocols. In addition, these factories are treated to disperse the harmful fumes in a better and far more efficient way. Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate the harmful ultrafine particles emitted by your 3D printing machine that easily in the home environment.

Researchers have shown that 3D printing machines using PLA filament generate about 20 billion ultrafine particles. That is the most environmentally friendly filament available out there. Unfortunately, most of the other 3D printing machines generate about 200 billion ultrafine particles per minute, which require a higher temperature. The effect of this toxic fume that 3D printing machines generate is similar to smoking a cigarette inside of your home.

The researchers have also indicated that the ultrafine elements generated during 3D printing get stored in the pulmonary and alveolar areas of the lungs. These elements can also be deposited in the brain and the airways through the olfactory nerve. As a result, the ultrafine particles can soak other harmful compounds and create more harmful effects. You can also develop respiratory troubles and heart-related problems, which can lead to even death.

Different 3D printing smells

Let’s check up on some smells you will encounter while using your 3D printer.

PLA: It emits a nice and sweet smell during the printing process. PLAs are made of organic substances like sugarcane and corn starch. Most people find this smell appealing and irresistible.

ABS: this thermoplastic filament emits one of the most harmful smells during the 3D printing process. While using ABS filament, you can experience an intense plastic burning smell which is very difficult to withstand.

PETG: This pretty printing filament does not create any smell when in use. It is also one of the most recyclable filaments that are available on the market.

Ventilation And Safety Solutions

3D printing procedure generates harmful emissions, so you need to make sure that your home has enough ventilation. Always choose an open space to install your 3D printer machine. It will help you to disperse the toxic fume more easily. Also, consider using an air purifier at your home. The best way to avoid harmful fumes is to use only PLA or other non-toxic filaments. You can also build an enclosure for your 3D printer. The enclosures available in the market generally come with carbon filters, dry hoses, and a fan.

All in all, you shouldn’t stay in the same room where your 3D printer machine is working. However, if you have to stay in the same area, make sure that your room has the highest possible ventilation.

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