Austrian House Fire Sparks Debate: Did a 3D Printer Cause the Blaze?

By on February 13th, 2024 in Event, news

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Firefighters battling a blaze possibly caused by a 3D printer incident [Source: Tyrolean Daily News]

A house fire in Austria is rumored to be caused by a 3D printer fire.

However, it seems that this might not be the case.

The Tyrolean Daily News explains in a story entitled “Large-scale Operation in Fire in St. Johann: Residents Rescued, Cat Died” (translated):

“The printer was in use for several hours. A technical defect is said to have led to the fire. Two residents sounded the alarm and evacuated all residents.”

And:

“There were several electronic devices in the study, including a 3D printer, which was very badly damaged. When interviewing the residents, it turned out that the printer had been in operation since the morning. ‘On the basis of the trace image, according to current findings, a technical defect can be assumed to be the cause of the fire,’ the police said.”

This is concerning, as there have been several fires caused by home desktop 3D printers in the past. Typically they were caused by improper firmware that allowed hot ends to keep heating well beyond their normal range, resulting in ignition. Perhaps the worst incident involved a faulty 3D printer that was placed next to a large storage of (explosive) “magician’s paper”.

However, all of these incidents are now quite old. The manufacturers that produced the machines causing the fires have all changed their firmware, included more safety features or have gone out of business. I haven’t heard of a 3D printer-caused fire in quite a while. The story does not reveal the type of 3D printer.

What’s really going on here?

In a fascinating thread on Reddit the incident is discussed. Amazing, the person owning the 3D printer, Reddit user Stablebullet, responded:

“Its an Stock Ender 6.. I know it because it was my Printer, my Flat and my Cat..”

The Creality Ender-6 is a three-year old desktop 3D printer design that is CoreXY-based with optional enclosure. It has a rather large build volume of 250 x 250 x 400 mm and a glass build plate.

However, even three years ago Creality had long since implemented the normal safety features. I am certain they will be extremely interested in this case.

What could have caused the fire, then? Perhaps there was a faulty component, or maybe an error in assembly?

But then there was this message posted by Stablebullet:

“But it’s not sure if it was the printer or my charging laptop. The neighbours heard 3 explosions, i dont think Printers explode like that.”

They most certainly do not. However, laptop batteries can and do explode: if the lithium-ion batteries are pierced or damaged, they can explode and start fires. Remember those exploding “hoverboards” from a few years ago? That was actually their batteries lighting up. Swollen batteries are extremely dangerous.

On the other hand, if the printer triggered the fire, then perhaps the batteries could have exploded in the ensuing blaze anyway.

It may be that we’ll never know the true cause of this fire, but my suspicion is focused on the laptop, which would have a far more likelihood of igniting.

Via Tyrolean Daily News (German) and Reddit

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!

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