The Significance Of UL GREENGUARD 2904 Certification In 3D Printing

By on October 1st, 2019 in Usage

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 UL GREENGUARD 2904 certification: look for this sticker on 3D printers as safety standards become more common. [Image: Rize] UL GREENGUARD 2904 certification: look for this sticker on 3D printers as safety standards become more common. [Image: Rize]

Today Rize announces the first UL GREENGUARD 2904 Certified 3D printer and materials; what does this mean for the 3D printing industry?

I spoke with Rize President and CEO Andy Kalambi for his take on the milestone and what it means for the company and for 3D printing; our conversation begins in part one, here.

Certification Significance

The first significant aspect of this certification isn’t the achieving of it, but its initial establishment.

That UL took a deep dive — in the form of a two-year study conducted with Georgia Tech — into examining the emissions of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and nanoparticles from desktop extrusion-based 3D printers is in itself significant. UL is known around the world for its examination of health-related industry happenings and for establishing well-regarded, if not mission-critical, standards around them. Including 3D printing under the UL umbrella of topics is a strong testament to the viability of the technology and its rising place among regulated processes.

Establishing 2904 is a big step. The next step, of course, comes in awarding that certification to qualified technologies — and that’s why today’s announcement is a big deal, as well as hopefully the first of many such announcements.

“People have realized safety is an issue with certain materials,” Kalambi told me. “The last time I thought about this was when it was discovered that asbestos was not good for health, and in terms of what’s happened since that, we’ve seen the measures taken. Health has to be of primary concern. We want to bring that to bear for the 3D printing industry.”

The comparison of 3D printer emissions to asbestos may seem somewhat dire, but is ultimately on point. Asbestos was all but ubiquitous in years past, regarded well for its significant flame resistance — but the material itself is problematic, as we know now. Standards addressing this are taken very seriously indeed, and it’s with that seriousness we need to approach other materials with which humans may come into contact.

“I think the usage of 3D printing technology will expand. Being safe reassures people that you can use it without worry. In the building industry, everything is certified to use the materials you do in a building: the lighting, the construction materials, everything is certified. Certifications are now going one step forward. Safety is a must-have; a nice-to-have is also increasing that level, like with the LEED certification, creating less waste of landfill, and those kind of things,” Kalambi continued.

Looking to such building codes and certifications, the team at Rize is very much on board with forward progress in ensuring that safety becomes likewise standardized for 3D printing.

“Our belief is that while we are the first to announce this certification, we will certainly not be the last, that it will catch on and more will realize the need to certify to what I would call a code. Buildings have codes — printers and printing systems should have a code,” Kalambi said.

Focus On Safety

In its UL GREENGUARD 2904 certification, the Rize One 3D printer and Rizium One materials, inks, and supports are covered, creating what Kalambi called an end-to-end certification.

That should not only create peace of mind for Rize ecosystem users, but is a call to others to broadly look at and consider the exact workflow they have in place. With so many desktop 3D printers operating in non-industrial areas like offices or even classrooms, ensuring that everything about the setup is safe for those around the systems should be a top-of-mind concern when it comes to selecting and installing new equipment.

“I think a lot of focus in this industry has been on how to create the part — and rightfully so: at the end of the day, what people want is the part,” Kalambi said. “In consumer 3D printing — which could be engineers, design technicians, or any of those who consume the parts they make and drive 3D printing — we want to highlight the point that it’s also the user experience that matters, because the safety, the ease of use we’ve been talking about, are as important as the part. Otherwise the printer will sit in a cage somewhere, unused. Or, as standards come out and people realize their printer is not safe, it will be put back in a cage and unused. We want to be sure 3D printers can move upstream and downstream, and to be able to do that, the user experience innovation is as important as the part-level innovation.”

User Experience Innovation

We do often talk about — and hear about — innovation in 3D printing. But as Kalambi astutely notes, much of this is in terms of what can be created, and the attention to how it is created is often a technical explanation rather than an experience-based one.

Kalambi turned to the concept of a smart space, in which “we want the user’s workspace to be empowered with 3D printing and connected to all the tools the user uses in their daily working day.” A 3D printer is, of course, ultimately just that — a tool. It is only as smart as its user, and is part of a toolbox of other tools.

Advances are smartening this workflow up, with a smarter toolbox more often containing augmented tools that are themselves “smart.” And that includes not only AI in the workflow, but a general workflow designed to integrate smart work.

“A design space is increasingly connected with the supply chain, the back end system, with design innovation. We want smart spaces to do two things: create better parts and smarter workflows. All of this is possible only if that smart space is safe; it that smart space is not safe, it is not smart,” Kalambi said.

This, ultimately, is how Rize sees user innovation evolving, with these smart spaces.

Rize VP of Product Kishore Boyalakuntla joined our conversation then as well, speaking to his own experience in needing a smart — safe — space.

Boyalakuntla previously worked at SOLIDWORKS, where he had a 3D printer in his office.

“Lines are blurred between the consumer and the industrial; people have all kinds of 3D printers in their offices, priced at $3,000 or $30,000, or $70,000…There were days I would feel sick and work outside my office and didn’t know why,” he said of the time. “It’s important for people to know what they are working with. This is key to expansion and at the heart of the user experience. And this applies to any center that prints polymers.”

He does not report feeling any ill effects since joining the team at Rize and working with their (now-certified) end-to-end 3D printing workflow.

The first GREENGUARD-certified Rize One 3D printer has been installed with automation technology and technical education compa
ny Festo, bringing the assurance of that green sticker.

“At AMUG, a customer told us ‘The reason I prefer to go to Rize is because I know I don’t have a risk of getting cancer 30 years from now.’ Of course this is a bit of a dramatic statement, but then I look at the report and see what’s in the report, and it is quite telling in terms of impact here,” Kalambi said as we wrapped up our conversation.

“Many of the times we are exposed unknowingly to risks and it’s only when we come to know it that corrective actions start taking place.”

His last thought sums this topic up quite nicely — now that more risks are known, we can hope to see more GREENGUARD-certified 3D printing workflows making their way into more safely operating installations. Soon.

Via Rize

By Sarah Goehrke

Sarah Goehrke is a Special Correspondent for Fabbaloo, via a partnership with Additive Integrity LLC. Focused on the 3D printing industry since 2014, she strives to bring grounded and on-the-ground insights to the 3D printing industry. Sarah served as Fabbaloo's Managing Editor from 2018-2021 and remains active in the industry through Women in 3D Printing and other work.