3-D Printer Safety


3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is becoming more common to UW campuses in maker spaces, research labs and classrooms. New users may not realize that 3D printers, the materials they use, or their products and waste could present health or safety hazards. Contact with hot internal parts or hot plastic resin could result in burns or other hand injuries. Respiratory irritation can be caused by ultra-fine particles released during printing, or by particles released during sanding and grinding to finish the object. Dusts can be combustible and make floors slippery. Some printers use lasers or ultraviolet light, and direct exposure could cause damage to your vision.

Here are some ways to reduce exposure to hazards and prevent injuries:

  • Get trained on the safe and efficient use of the printer.
  • Read operating instructions and maintain the printer to keep in good condition.
  • Never try to defeat the safety features.
  • Procure printers that are enclosed and have an interlock system that prevents the machine from running while moving parts are exposed. Ensure that printers with lasers or UV light are properly shielded to prevent eye exposure.
  • Use only manufacturer recommended materials, less hazardous or “green” resins, plastics, or other materials.
  • Ensure the room has an adequate ventilation. Promptly clean up and dispose of dust, scraps, and waste properly.
  • Turn off, unplug, and cool down the unit prior to cleaning or repairing.
  • Obtain a Class D fire extinguisher if working with combustible metals.

Have a design and would like to try out a 3-D printer? There are designated maker spaces that will provide you with training and safety orientation, such as the Co-Motion space at Fluke Hall. Visit the CMU site for more detailed information about 3-D printer safety, or contact EH&S at ehsdept@uw.edu.