UK Teen Killed By 3D Printer

By on November 12th, 2016 in Event

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 Tom Taylor, 3D printer operator and magician
Tom Taylor, 3D printer operator and magician

An article in The Telegraph describes a horrifying scenario in which a 17-year old died in a fiery explosion on his 3D printer. 

Student Tom Taylor operated a typical desktop 3D printer in an office room in his home. Apparently he was attempting to ensure a print properly stuck to the heated print surface with hairspray. According to The Telegraph, Taylor used “three canister of hairspray” in an attempt to hold the print down. 

[Aside: I find it rather unbelievable that someone would use THREE CANISTERS of hairspray for such a thing. In my experience a couple of squirts is all that is normally required. Regardless, it appears a large quantity was used, as you will see.]

This vast amount of spraying resulted not only in plenty of chemical on the print surface, but also much became airborne with the closed office. 

Somehow, a spark appeared, perhaps from an electrical outlet, the heated print surface or even from a wonky stepper motor and ignited the cloud of hairspray. 

To make matters worse, it seems that Taylor was a magician, and had apparently stored a quantity of flash paper nearby the 3D printer setup. Flash paper is actually nitrocellulose, also known as guncotton, a highly flammable substance commonly used in magic tricks as it burns instantly and leaves no ashes. 

The flash paper ignited by the burning hairspray turned the room into a large inferno. The Telegraph explains what happened next: 

Tom tried to walk out of the back office, which his family called the “smoke room”, but he inhaled fumes and collapsed, a coroner was told. He died from smoke inhalation.

An inquest heard Tom’s mother, Helen Taylor, heard the “loud bang”, but his step-father Max Clark was unable to enter the room after being confronted by a wall of flames. Attempts to smash a window also failed.

I cannot say how terrible I feel about this situation. 

But nevertheless, we should consider what happened here and ensure such a thing doesn’t happen to others. What went wrong? I can think of multiple problems:

  • Using a non-filtered 3D printer in an insufficiently ventilated space
  • Storing highly flammable material near the 3D printer
  • Using excessive amounts of hairspray for print adhesion
  • Using a printer that did not have a proper adhesion system – some of this is on the manufacturers who expect flammable materials to be used for adhesion

That last point is what is important here, I think. I believe manufacturers should – and many are – taking 3D printing safety more important than in previous years. 

That said, there are still a great number of extremely inexpensive devices that may or may not offer proper safety features. 

Via The Telegraph

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!