Characterization of Emissions from a Desktop 3D Printer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research units

  • University of Helsinki
  • Demokritos National Centre for Scientific Research
  • University of the Aegean
  • Finnish Institute of Occupational Health


3D printers are currently widely available and very popular among the general public. However, the use of these devices may pose health risks to users, attributable to air-quality issues arising from gaseous and particulate emissions in particular. We characterized emissions from a low-end 3D printer based on material extrusion, using the most common polymers: acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA). Measurements were carried out in an emission chamber and a conventional room. Particle emission rates were obtained by direct measurement and modeling, whereas the influence of extrusion temperature was also evaluated. ABS was the material with the highest aerosol emission rate. The nanoparticle emission ranged from 3.7·108 to 1.4·109 particles per second (# s−1) in chamber measurements and from 2.0·109 to 4.0·109 # s−1in room measurements, when the recommended extruder temperature was used. Printing with PLA emitted nanoparticles at the rate of 1.0·107 # s−1 inside the chamber and negligible emissions in room experiments. Emission rates were observed to depend strongly on extruder temperature. The particles’ mean size ranged from 7.8 to 10.5 nanometers (nm). We also detected a significant emission rate of particles of 1 to 3 nm in size during all printing events. The amounts of volatile organic and other gaseous compounds were only traceable and are not expected to pose health risks. Our study suggests that measures preventing human exposure to high nanoparticle concentrations should be adopted when using low-end 3D printers.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S94-S106
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • 3D printing, gas phase compounds, industrial ecology, material extrusion, nanoparticles, occupational health

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