The Rize One 3D printer [Image: Rize]
3D printer emissions are in focus again today, but with a progress update: the first GREENGUARD-certified 3D printer has been announced.
VOC Emissions in 3D Printing
Emissions of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are a significant concern when it comes to 3D printing, particularly at the desktop and in non-industrial environments (think classrooms, offices) where users aren’t accustomed to major safety precautions or significant filtering / ventilation efforts.
A recent two-year study from UL and Georgia Tech examined FFF (extrusion-based) 3D printers for their release of VOCs and ultrafine particles, and just what this might mean. The study makes for interesting reading; you can find it in full here.
A key finding from the research is that a large majority (>90%) of emitted particles are in the nanoparticle range. That is, easily inhaled — and potentially leading to health issues in cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. VOCs also numbered upwards of 200. Altogether, the results point to one major consideration: desktop 3D printing isn’t as user-friendly (in terms of being friendly to the users’ bodies, at least) as we’d like to think.
Next question: what do we do about it?
Everyone’s favorite term in industry comes in to play here: standards!
UL developed emissions standard 2904, outlining particle and VOC emissions limits. 3D printers that meet the requirements laid out will achieve UL 2904 GREENGUARD Certification.
The Rize One 3D printer, from Boston-based Rize, first made the headlines for its minimal post-processing needs. As the company has grown, so too has its technology — and its messaging.
Earlier this year, we spoke with the team at Rize about their “zero-emissions” 3D printer. And we were impressed, as the science seemed sound.
The first UL 2904 GREENGUARD Certification has just been awarded to Rize, encompassing the Rize One Industrial 3D Printer and Rizium One filament, release, and marking inks.
I caught up with Andy Kalambi, President and CEO of Rize, for an update on the company’s commitment to safety and sustainability — and what the GREENGUARD Certification means for the 3D printing industry at large.
“I think it’s not so much about Rize and why it’s important to us, it’s a milestone for the industry,” Kalambi said in opening. “3D printing today is becoming more cohesive: you see it in schools, offices, even hospitals. That’s good news for this industry because of the pervasiveness of options and what you could call consumption-level 3D printing, which means people who consume the part are making it themselves. I would call this a consumer approach to 3D printing, not just producer.”
This definition of “consumption 3D printing” is important to distinguish from other applications, where the part to be used is made by a third party (e.g., contract manufacturer, spare parts supplier) rather than the person who will be using it. Going way back to Rize’s earliest days, the vision remains consistent: wouldn’t it be great to have an industrial-capable 3D printer right in the office, right behind the user? Rize certainly isn’t the only company to hope for that level of accessibility for its 3D printers, and so this certification marks a milestone that is indeed not theirs alone.
Desktop 3D Printing VOCs
Speaking of the UL and Georgia Tech study, Kalambi pointed out that:
“There’s a lot we take for granted right now in 3D printing, like ABS, nylon, and PLA: these are commonplace materials we see all the time. Because we use plastic all the time in daily life, we may assume there is no risk associated with it. When it comes to 3D printing it yourself, though, this is not the case…there’s a rate of decomposition that happens in the extrusion process and particles that get released; this is something that consumers are otherwise never exposed to. In a traditional manufacturing environment, this is all done in a controlled plant that is well certified to manage this practice.”
The simple science-backed fact is that 3D printing these common materials isn’t safe, long-term, for 3D printer operators.
“One of the things that we want to bring forth is that when you bring 3D printers closer to conventional printing, there are special measures to be taken to ensure you don’t end up impacting the health and safety of individuals who are exposed to that,” Kalambi continued.
“The second thing to bring forth is the common perception that putting a filter onto the 3D printer will catch most of the particles that come out, and it is now risk-free. That’s another thing this report kind of debunks, in terms of a myth. It talks about how a HEPA filter attached to some of these printers actually increased the VOCs.”
Indeed, the report indicates:
“Use of a HEPA filter did not decrease VOC ERs [emission rates] but in fact, increased ERs of styrene, hydrocarbons, xylenes, and benzaldehyde, which may have been due to the filter material itself.”
The Rize Difference
So what’s different at Rize? It’s still a desktop polymer 3D printer.
As we discussed in February, a major factor comes down to having configured their entire system for safety — for zero emissions. The materials used in the Rize One do not decompose upon extrusion: they can’t emit these particles because they’re not breaking down to such constituent parts.
“We chose the material very consciously, working with this printer, making sure there is no toxicity in any form, but there was no standard available,” Kalambi noted of the development of the Rize One. “The first standard that has come out by UL is this 2904 standard. Pretty much now we have put a stake in the ground, and say that any printer for consumer 3D printing should be safe. I think this standard will define the way people choose the process they print with.”
In part two, we delve more into the broader significance of what this now-met standard means for 3D printing.