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