Do You Need a Smoke Alarm for your 3D Printer?

By on June 14th, 2015 in Ideas

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There’s another accessory you might consider for your 3D printer: a smoke alarm. 

With the availability of personal 3D printers, many people choose to purchase and install them in their homes. 

There’s several issues with this, including the need for ventilation or filtering to eliminate any nanoparticles emitted by hot extruders touching plastic of questionable origin. 

There’s also the issue of mechanical safety, where open-style 3D printers with no case can be dangerous to inquisitive children and pets. 

But beyond that, there’s yet another potential danger: fire. 

Plastic extrusion 3D printers have some very hot parts. The aptly-named “hot end” can reach temperatures of up to 300C in some situations, and that’s as hot as your oven. But your kitchen oven is designed a bit differently. It has a thermo-proof metal cover and door, and even lockouts when high-temperature self cleaning operations take place. 

This is not the case on many personal 3D printers, which could be made from flammable materials like wood and plastic, which could have no metal covers to protect against heat. 

Several scenarios could provide ignition for a major fire. A breeze could blow flammable material (perhaps paper or nearby drapes) into the hot end where they could ignite. 

Another scenario is a machine fault in which the temperature sensor malfunctions, causing the printer to continue applying energy to the hot end in hopes of raising the temperature. In these rare cases the hot end can get fantastically hot and a fire could result. 

Another scenario involves a print failure, where a large blob of plastic has come loose and is pushed around by the hot print head, damaging the machine – and possibly the temperature sensor. 

All this means there is a requirement for another 3D printing accessory: a smoke detector. We recommend installation of a smoke detector nearby your 3D printing location to provide earlier warning of disasters in the making. 

You might also consider getting a fire extinguisher, too.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!