New Dangers For 3D Printer Operators

By on December 23rd, 2019 in learning

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 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!

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!


  1. Not going to comment on real or not, I think it pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever seen a cartesian 3D printer work. I’ll just say that I can have a lot of respect for someone who had the patience required to let that happen. I estimate it took a few hours of holding her head so close to the printer.

  2. If this is a "danger", think of all the people who drown in the rain while staring at clouds with their mouths hanging open.
    We need more headlines like this…
    "You won’t believe the incredible video of someone closing the door on their own foot!!!"

  3. This is all such a BS. The fact of the matter is that some people are smart enough and have enough common sense operate machines with moving parts and some aren’t. Stop telling people not to stick their hair into lead screws, because if you need to tell them that, they are so dumb that they are more than likely to some other dumb thing with their printer anyways. Tell them to stop using stuff they are too dumb to operate safely for crying out loud

  4. I would suppose she must have been moving the Z axis up and down to look at the hotend using the movement controls, otherwise how it could become so tangled at such a slow speed seems impossible.

  5. The only way this could have happened was if the print head was in the top position and when she started a new print or homed the printer her hair was too close to the printer. Though most printers go really slow, even when homing, so I’m extremely sceptical about this whole situation. She should have realised she could just turn the damn thing off.

  6. As to if an accident actually happened or not I will not argue. However the scene described in the article and the accompanying photo would be impossible. I have a great deal of experience with 3D printing and a setup the same as the machine in photo. The Z axis moves very slowly and small amount of turns at a time. In order to tangle hair as in photo person would have to stand there with hair in path for a long time. You would end up turning off machine long before this would happen. The author of this article and the site that reported this should do some better fact checking before posting such puff sensationalism .

  7. I was likewise just about to comment on the rediculousness of this story based on the stepper being too weak. However a stepper with 0.4 Nm of torque assuming an M5 rod F*D=Nm there for 0.4/0.0025 = 160N or 16 kg of force pulling on the hair.
    Still the ease of pulling out the power cord and as previously mentioned time taken to get that tangled….
    However yes there’s a reason the marketed kids 3d printers are fully enclosed with interlocks.

  8. First off, as an outside source I would like to personally verify that yes this did actually happen and I know the person whose hair is in that photo. The level of skepticism and judgement in these comments is disheartening. With any type of machinery and any level of experience accidents can and do happen when you’re not paying attention to the risks. It’s not always about the level of intelligence of the operator.
    Personally speaking, I don’t 3d print so I have no idea about axis speeds, but I do know about long hair and until it gets to the point where it tugs on your head (which is after it’s already been firmly entangled) it’s easy to not notice.
    I, o’n the other hand, am a professional seamstress and, even though I may not want to admit it, I can say with absolute certainty that even after years of seeing I’ve actually sewn something to my sleeve or stabbed my finger with the needle or had a piece of broken needle come flying at my face.
    And they happen most often to those who are unaware or rushing or not paying attention. They happen most often to those who don’t believe that they will.
    So everyone, no matter what you’re making, no matter what machine you’re using, just be careful.

  9. Either this was staged or the person is a complete idiot and shouldn’t be operating ANY machinery. I wouldn’t advise that person working on their car either. My hair is down to my knees and I’ve NEVER had a problem like this. As I said..only an idiot.

  10. We will attempt to obtain direct quotes from the victim and witnesses to provide additional verification. To be very clear: this actually happened. We do not publish fake news (except possibly on April 1st…..)

  11. Yeah I’m pretty skeptical of this… I mean you say she was watching it for a long time time, but to get that much movement on the z axis she would have to be leaning over for literally hours…. Sorry there’s just no way.

  12. We can assure you this is absolutely NOT fake news; this actually happened. The individual involved was a very new maker and in fact this was among the very first 3D print jobs undertaken by her after taking a brief training course on how to slice and print 3D models. The machine in question is a bit notorious for prints not sticking, so the operator likely was looking closely at the bed, leaning over the machine for some time observing the plastic deposition.

    After being entangled, she managed to turn off the machine, but had to call for help to have someone untangle her, which eventually succeeded by slowly rotating the z-axis. Fortunately someone happened to be nearby to assist. Were she alone, I’m not sure what would have happened.

    Yes, the z-axis moves slowly. It also has a light coating of grease that likely would be terrific for sticking to hair.

    Those familiar with workshops (and short hair) can’t imagine how someone could do this, as it is truly a rookie mistake. But that is actually the case here: the victim was a rookie, unfamiliar with the obvious dangers of a workshop with moving equipment. There are people like that. Many of them.

    In spite of all that, this actually happened. And if it happened to one person, it could happen to others. That’s why we published this story: somewhere in our tens of thousands of users there are other rookies who could do just the same thing.

    We hope to give them a reason to be careful.

  13. Thank God I read this story and found out the extreme dangers that long hair expose an individual to! I’ve now taken appropriate actions and shaved everyone’s head that comes near my 3d printer… This is such a garbage story, as slow as a printer goes especially z and it’s not like the power switch is in another room, if this has ever happened to anyone they were trying to make it happen. Maybe your next story will be about the danger of licking wall sockets? Just saying FAKE NEWS!

  14. I mean z-axis speeds are super slow and if she was watching a print it would move very little rotation at a time, not even a full rotation is per layer. This to me seems like a hoax or an attempt at lawsuit. I mean geez. Look at that, how many rotations doe that look like to you and at what speed could hair even possibly get caught in the lead like that. I’m very skeptical.

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