New Dangers For 3D Printer Operators

 Long hair caught in an open-format 3D printer [Source: Fabbaloo]
Long hair caught in an open-format 3D printer [Source: Fabbaloo]

As you can see in this image, there’s another danger you can encounter when using 3D printers.

[UPDATE] A number of commenters believe this story has been staged. It has not. This event actually happened to a real person who was unfamiliar with machine operations and very new to 3D printing. We have posted this story in hopes that the few of our readers who are in a similar position do not make the same mistake.

In the past I’ve described several types of dangerous 3D printing situations, including:

None of these are good, and some are incredibly bad. But today we’d like to introduce another possible disaster scenario: getting hair caught in the machine. 

As exhibited above, the 3D printer operator happened to be looking too close to the print activity and somehow managed to get her long hair entangled in the 3D printer’s Z-axis motion system. In this case, no serious damage occurred, as the operator was able to reach the power switch and quickly turned it off. Fortunately, no hair was lost during the extrication process. 

Extrication required the assistance of a second person, who was fortunately present during the incident. A slow rotation of the Z-axis proved sufficient to release the victim’s hair. I suspect it would have been a lot more difficult if the operator was alone. 

What can we learn from this incident? 

The obvious lesson is that long hair can easily be entangled in openly exposed moving parts. Whenever operating exposed machinery, you must always secure long hair. This at least means tying it back, but even then a long ponytail could swing around and encounter the machine. 

Long hair — including beards — should be kept far away from any moving parts on not only 3D printers, but any other motion equipment present in your workshop. 

It should also be easily possible to call for help. If working with someone else, that’s pretty straightforward. But if alone, be certain you know where the emergency power off switch is located, and keep a mobile phone handy in case you must summon assistance. 

This type of danger is a bit different from typical workshop equipment, however. Many subtractive machines involve continuously rotating spindles, bits, blades or other sharp items. Because they are continuously rotating, catching hair is much more dangerous, as the hair – and attached human – would effectively be sucked into the machine by the rotation. 

In a 3D printer as seen here, the Z-axis is not usually rotating quickly, and in fact usually will simply oscillate back and forth as it slowly raises the platform. Somehow, even with this slight movement, the hair was permanently caught. 

Thus the lesson here is that even though the movements are slight, there is still a danger present when operating a 3D printer. 

Before operating an exposed 3D printer, be absolutely certain your long hair is secure!

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